So You’re Using The Post-Match Vacancy Service

As if the crushing disappointment of Phases I and II was not enough for you, sites with different fiscal calendars have been able to add more intern spots throughout the summer. I would argue that this is probably the most stressful phase of the application process, in that you are engaging in what is basically a free-for-all of openings, applications, interviews, and offers. When I did the Post-Match Vacancy Service during my first application cycle, I was also starting a job and moving forward with the next year of my life. To be honest, I was almost relieved when sites either rejected me or failed to respond to my application all together, because it meant not having to pay the $2500 fee to break my lease, leaving my roommate high and dry, and quitting my position almost immediately after starting. Not to mention the possibility of moving across the country with as little as one week’s notice (this has happened in the PMVS. Sites will sometimes get approved for more interns in mid-June but want a July 1 start date). Then again, if it weren’t going to involve an inhumane amount of stress, it would not be graduate school.

That being said, I do wish I had been more aggressive in applying to post-match openings. For one thing, I might be finishing up my internship in the next few months rather than starting. For another, the cost of relocating on such short notice is probably about equal to what I had to pay to re-apply.

If you do choose to use this service, your best bet is to be quick and thorough. Many openings are first come, first serve with applications and do not set specific deadlines, and so if you choose to take the weekend to polish your cover letter, that position could be filled by Monday morning. Also, if you happen to have a connection at a site, PMVS is the time to use it. Sites are looking to fill positions quickly, and if someone can recommend a good fit, they will jump at the opportunity to at least offer you an interview. Does a site have a history of taking students from your program? Did a former supervisor work at a particular site? Do you have a classmate who matched there and might be able to put in a good word? I have heard of at least four people getting placed in the PMVS at sites that never submitted the opening to APPIC. At this point in the game, it is more about who you know than what you know.

Finally, keep in mind that not everyone uses this service. Many people are not in a position to drop everything, even if it is for an internship, on the kind of notice they often get in this service. When I was considering sites, I assumed I would be up against the 600 or so other unmatched students. But this year, I have been privy to some inside information at a couple of sites and was surprised to see how few applications are submitted. One APA-accredited site in a popular part of the country received only four applications for their opening. (Granted, this could be an anomaly – I was not able to get information about how many applicants they have gotten in previous years when they have used this service.) Compared to the up to 500 applications some sites get in Phase I, how can you not apply with those odds? And as with Phase II, there is no application fee. You are merely submitting materials you have already compiled. Why not go for it?

I have followed the PMVS for the past three years – once for my own research, then because I needed an internship, and now in solidarity with my friends who were left unmatched. I’ve noticed that the number of post-match openings, especially APA accredited post-match openings, seems to be increasing. It is becoming more and more possible to get an internship outside of the typical match process.

Next week I will tackle the dreaded process of re-applying. Have a great weekend, everyone!

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So You’re Preparing For Interviews, Part II

To help illustrate my points about presenting yourself well in interviews, I made a video of my tips. One tip I didn’t bring up in the video is this: When you are skyping with a site, they can’t see much below your chest. When I did my skype interviews, I used this to my advantage to make myself more comfortable and wore sweatpants to every interview. (I don’t recommend wearing no pants at all, since there is always a slight chance you’ll have to stand up, and it’s easier to mistake sweatpants for slacks than to not notice that someone is naked from the waist down.) Could you tell I was wearing sweatpants when I made this video? Probably not, because I kept it classy where it counted. 🙂

PS. Sorry for the background noise – it’s the south in the summer. I couldn’t bear to have my AC off long enough to even make this video.

PPS. I am not sorry for the cat in the background. He’s fabulous.

So You’ve Decided To Teach A Class

Hello everyone and welcome to spring semester! In honor of the start of classes, I thought I would share some thoughts on teaching.

My university allows some graduate students to teach undergrad courses, which gives the undergraduate students a wider variety of elective courses and frees up tenured faculty for research projects. This semester I was given the opportunity to teach Motivation and Emotion, and on Tuesday, I presented my first lecture. Throughout the semester I will post updates on my teaching experience, starting with the first week.

If you have never taught before, taking on the role of professor can be intimidating. You are being put in charge of someone’s education. They will hear what you say and most likely assume that it is true. What if they think that I have no idea what I am doing? What if I made the syllabus too difficult? Too easy? What if the students stage an open revolt? That last one is probably not the most likely scenario.

I have found that fellow professors can be an invaluable resource for new teachers. After all, a seasoned professor already knows the ins and outs of the university, how to craft a syllabus, how much work is too much (or not enough) to expect of the students in 16 weeks. Besides, they would not be in that line of work if they did not enjoy sharing their expertise with others. A friend/classmate of mine has patiently tolerated all of my questions. I was also lucky enough to obtain the contact information of my predecessor for this course, who graciously sent me a copy of her syllabus and her exams for points of reference.

So, with syllabus in hand, I arrived to my first class early with visions of Ted Mosby in my head as inspiration (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJpDXIqRaw4). I immediately learned why most of my professors arrive either exactly on time or a few minutes late: It is somewhat awkward to sit at the front of the class watching the clock. You cannot start because most of the students have not arrived yet, and the ones who have arrived are watching you expectantly, waiting for you to begin.

Despite my consultations for becoming a successful professor, I felt uncertain about my ability to run an entire class for a full semester. After 25 students arrived for the first day, I introduced myself and asked them, “What are you expecting from this class? What do you want to get out of being here?” 25 pairs of eyes stared blankly back at me, avoiding direct eye contact for fear that I would call on one of them. I guess I will have to rely on my other resources.

I am excited to “learn by doing” as a new professor. I will do my best to be flexible and knowledgeable and help my students get their tuition dollars’ worth. But I think my favorite part about teaching will be the fact that my students have to laugh at my bad jokes because I control their grades. (I’ll try not to let it go to my head.)

So far, I do not think I am qualified to advise others about teaching, but my advice to Future Amy is the same that I have given myself for my past student presentations: TED talks are fantastic fillers if you are short on time, great shoes can never hurt a good presentation, and do not wait for the last minute to put it together. Tonight I am ignoring my own advice on that third one, so I will end this blog post and get to work. My students are counting on me to talk so that they do not have to.

So You’ve Decided To Write A Dissertation, Part 1

Last week I promised to launch a series on surviving the dissertation process. Over the next few weeks I will share the story of my dissertation: what worked for me, what did not, and how I got through the process in one piece. I would love feedback from others who have been through the process if they feel comfortable sharing what benefited them.

Dissertation: it is the project that never seems to end. It is the most daunting task of your program. It is the source of countless hours of research, writing, re-writing, head-banging-against-walls, cursing, and crying. Where do you even start on a project of this magnitude? It is unbelievably unsettling to start a project that will take one to three years to complete, if you are lucky.

At the end of my first year, my partner moved 2000 miles away. My job in the academic counseling and tutoring center ended for the summer, since there is no one to counsel or tutor when there are no undergraduate students on campus. I was fortunate to have entered graduate school with an idea of what I wanted to do, and so I spent the summer reading more than 100 articles about sexual violence on college campuses. Using templates I found online, I wrote my prospectus and began my literature review prior to the start of my dissertation seminar course. My adviser had already expressed an interest in my project, so she agreed to be my chair. My history with academic counseling provided me with a toolbox of time management skills, and I channeled my long-distance relationship frustration into productivity.

Later in this series I will talk about creating a work space that is conducive to productivity, keeping self-imposed deadlines, and staying motivated. For now, I will be discussing how I chose my dissertation and how I kept my sanity throughout the process.

My dissertation consisted of a literature review about the psychology of survivors of sexual violence, sexual violence on college campuses, and best practices for crisis intervention and response to first disclosure experiences and a manualized training for student employees of Residential Life on college campuses for how to respond to residents reporting sexual assault. I found that, although many such trainings exist, colleges prefer to use less effective manuals that are proven to be less effective in reducing rape myth acceptance and increasing crisis intervention skills, because these trainings tend to be more cost-effective to implement. My goal was to create a resource that I could make available for free that actually accomplished these goals.

Why a manual? I have always known that statistics are not my friend. There already exists a huge research base about survivors of sexual violence, and I knew that I wanted to create something that could be used directly to help survivors in their recovery. I felt that a manual would be the most effective way for me to do this. I also liked the idea of being able to make my own schedule. With data collection, you have to work around a dozen other calendars. You have to reserve the space, recruit the participants, gain Human Subjects approval, and (most likely) make time when the computer lab is open to perform statistical analyses. Yes, I spent countless hours writing my manual. No, I do not believe I took an easy way out by not having to collect data. But if you have to spend 1000 hours on a project, it does relieve stress slightly to know that those hours can occur whenever you want them to. Good luck finding participants who will work with you at 2 AM when you can’t sleep – my manual was always ready for me. It isn’t the right choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for me.

That brings me to my second point: taking care of yourself during this project. You have to remember that it is your dissertation and no one else’s. Each of your classmates is writing their own dissertation, and each project is unique and incomparable to any other project. Graduate school is competitive, so our default setting is to constantly compare everything we do to everything everyone else is doing. My school is 1300 miles away from my family, I have no children, and like I said, while I was writing the bulk of my proposal, my partner was living 2000 miles away, so it was easy to designate the weekends as “dissertation time,” and my proposal was completed by the start of my third year. Under different circumstances it would not have happened.

Also, because I chose to write a manual, my proposal encompassed about 90% of the work required for my final project. I had to compile a very detailed outline of what the manual would be, and so I defended my proposal in the same year that I proposed. Had I needed to collect data, my proposal would have taken less time, and my final dissertation would have taken much longer.

As difficult as it is, try to drown out your classmates’ dissertation work, since it is not relevant to your project. You end up wasting precious energy that could be used on your own dissertation worrying about what everyone else is doing, and to what end? Just like only you know what is right for you, only they know what is right for them. Maybe you are a parent, or maybe you are fortunate enough to be able to spend every weekend with your family. Maybe you are having trouble finding a project about which you feel passionate enough to invest the 1000 hours it takes to create a dissertation. It is better to start later than to spend all that time on a project that makes you miserable.

So you’ve decided to write a dissertation. What project speaks to you? What contribution to the field will be the culmination of your graduate work? Just remember, this journey is yours alone. Don’t let yourself be distracted by journeys unrelated to yours.