Articles & Resources

Society for Health Psychology

Overview of the Internship Application Process

Education & Training, Student Advisory Council

Your pre-doctoral internship is the final phase of your doctoral training. Internships are required to become a licensed psychologist and provide invaluable clinical experience. However, the process of applying for internship can be mysterious and intimidating. Below, the SfHP Student Advisory Council has provided a timeline of the internship application process and key milestones.

August & September: Choose Your Top Sites

Research potential internship sites, and try to narrow your list down to ~15 sites unless your program recommends otherwise. You can search the APPIC website for internships with health psychology rotations (you’ll find ~400 options nationally), and then download the search results to an editable Excel file. Some are generalist internships with options for health psychology experiences, and others are 100% health psychology-focused positions. Narrow down the list by going through each site’s website and description, speaking with your mentors, and asking older students to see what would be a good match for your interests and experiences. The SfHP graduate student listserv can also be a place for discussion and questions about specific sites. Note that most internship applications will start to be due the last week of October.

September: Speak to Your Letter Writers

​Most sites ask for 3 letters of recommendation — 1 from your primary mentor plus 2 additional letters. You’ll want to choose 3 faculty/mentors/supervisors who can speak to your clinical, research, and/or teaching skills. Many students have found it helpful to provide a list to their letter writers about what to highlight in their letter, including your training experiences together, your skills/strengths, and your goals for internship. Communicating directly with your letter writers about these things can help them be consistent with the “story” you’re telling about your experiences and interests in your applications.

September & October: Draft Your Cover Letters/Essays & Finalize Sites

Slow and steady wins the race here! Start early and give yourself plenty of time for revisions. It can be helpful to have multiple people edit (and proofread) your cover letters and essays. Cover letters will be site-specific, so create a 1-2 page template that works for you and then edit each one individually. Your essays (prompts available through the APPI applicant portal) should be applicable to all sites you’re applying to; however, some students create separate drafts for VAs, academic medical centers, and private institutions, if needed. You’ll likely also want to send these documents to your recommendation letter writers for reference.

October: Finalize Cover Letters/Essays, Choose Example Reports, & Complete the APPI

As you count down the days until the application deadline, take a deep breath! Leave yourself enough time to fill out the APPI’s hours and experience tracking sections. It always takes longer than you think, but it can be done in a few days or a few weekends. Some internship sites might ask for a de-identified clinical report, so think about what type of report will best exemplify your skills. Then, take a final critical look over your cover letters and essays before submitting to each site.

November & December: Schedule Interviews

Once applications are submitted, occupy yourself with relaxing things and enjoy the lull before starting to prepare for interviews. As interview invitations start rolling in — usually no earlier than the second week of November — you may want to keep access to your e-mail close by. Internships typically offer several dates on a first-come, first-serve basis, so being the first to reply with your date preference can help you streamline a hectic travel schedule.

December & January: Attend Interviews

Get your power suit cleaned and start practicing for your interviews. Some students find it helpful to open a travel rewards credit card to help cover expenses of interviewing, which can add up fast (with some students reporting > $2,000 in travel costs for interviewing). Interviews usually begin in December and end by the first week of February, so talk to your professors or supervisors in advance about potential absences.

February: Ranking & Match Day

Rankings will be due early in February via the APPI application portal. Match Day is usually the third or fourth week of February, and you can expect an automated e-mail from APPIC around 7am – 9am informing you of your match status. For students who don’t match, there’s no need to despair! Many students find a good site during the Phase 2 match process and/or decide that the pros of another year of training outweigh the cons.