Overview of the Internship Application Process
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
Resources for Internship Applicants
Preparing During Early Years of Grad School:
- Talk to older graduate students in your program about what rotations, classes, and extracurricular activities made them competitive for internships in health psychology.
- Attend SfHP’s Student Council’s Health Psychology Internship Q&A Panel at the annual APA Convention to get all of your burning questions answered by current and recent interns.
- During your first and second years, start thinking about which practicum experiences will help you develop a breadth of experiences in health psychology. Creating a plan early will allow you to cover a wider range of training opportunities.
- Track your assessment/intervention/support/supervision hours and patient demographics (age, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and any disabilities) in a secure Excel spreadsheet or use a service like Time2Track. Most health psychology sites list ~350 as the minimum number of intervention hours and ~100 as the minimum number of assessment hours, but it varies greatly. Many health psychology students aim for 450-650 intervention hours (not all need to be health psychology experiences) and 50-100 assessment hours by the time they are applying.
- Keep a running list of interesting cases and save your favorite integrated reports since they may be useful during your internship applications and interviews.
- Keep your CV updated each semester so that you don’t have to rack your brain about the prior 4 – 5 years when it’s finally time to apply for internship.
- Start building leadership experiences in your graduate program, SfHP, or other professional organizations to help you stand out from the crowd. Not sure where to start? Apply to become a Campus Representative!
Preparing for Applications:
- Check out the SfHP Education and Training Council’s broad overview of internship applications, Considerations When Applying for Internship, which includes YouTube videos with advice from health psychology experts and graduate students on applying for internship.
- Get connected to regular internship application updates by joining the APPIC INTERN-NETWORK listserv. Instructions for signing up can be found at www.appic.org.
- Read through Internships in Psychology: The APAGS Workbook for Writing Successful Applications and Finding the Right Fit written by some heavy-hitters in the internship world.
- Use your graduate institution’s online access to the free APAGS Portable Mentor and read Chapter 12: Navigating the Internship Application Process.
- Read through The Health Psychologist: Advice on Applying for Internship Q&A with the coordinator of the Health/Behavioral Medicine track at Brown University’s Clinical Psychology Training Consortium, discussing how one program approaches the application review process.
- Prepare yourself by checking out the APA Division 18 Student Newsletter’s article, What is the most common mistake you see in internship applications?
- Watch APA Division 53’s webinar, Applying to Clinical Internships: Insider Tips for Maximizing your Success!
- Read Digital Commons @ University of Nebraska’s article, The Internship Application Process: Advice You Might Not Have Heard, written by directors of clinical training (DCTs) with contributions from applicants.
- Read this article from The Health Psychologist, Advice on Applying for Internship, which includes an interview with Karen Oliver, PhD, who is the coordinator of the Health/Behavioral Medicine Track at Brown University’s Clinical Psychology Training Consortium.
Preparing for Interviewing:
- Look through this PowerPoint from the University of Hartford, Preparing for Internship Interviews, which goes into detail about interviews, including what to do before you get there, how to make a good first impression, what kinds of questions to expect (including ones you can prepare for and how to handle ones you can’t prepare for!).
- Read this lengthy blog post from Draycen D. DeCator, PhD, Internship Application and Interview Summary/Tips, which walks you through the nitty gritty from registering for the match all the way through interviews. The details about scheduling interviews, booking travel, and interviewing are particularly helpful!
- Want to know 5 key questions to be prepared for in the internship interview process? Read gradPSYCH Magazine’s article, Answer These 5. (Note that this article is from 2011 and the match statistics it presents are a little outdated. However, the questions are still key ones!)
- Watch APAGS’ YouTube video, A Quick Primer on Interviewing for Internship, which covers some of the types of interviews you might encounter, as well as FAQs (What do I wear? What do I bring? etc.).
- Read this list of “do’s and don’ts” for interviews from Monitor on Psychology, How to Avoid Interview Missteps.
Preparing for Ranking, Match Day, and Beyond:
- Learn about recent match statistics from Monitor on Psychology, More Good News for Internship Seekers.
- Read up on tips for ranking your options via the gradPSYCH blog, Are You Ready to Rank? Seven Tips from Now Until Next Week.
- For advice on rankings, read the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy’s article, Mastering the Internship Application and Selection Process: Lessons from the Trenches.
- If Match Day goes your way, read gradPSYCH Magazine’s article, You’ve Matched! Now What? Hopefully you can follow step #1 and indulge in some well-deserved downtime.
- If Match Day brings disappointment, read gradPSYCH Magazine’s article, Didn’t Match? Move On, for advice from other students who have been there, including a to-do list with steps to get back on track.