Tips for navigating the internship application process.
By Jackie Lennon
For many students, the time has come to apply for internship. While this is an exciting time, it can also be overwhelming. At the APA Annual Convention in Toronto this past August, the Student Advisory Boards of Divs. 54 and 53 (Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology) co-hosted a Q&A session on the internship application process with early career child/pediatric psychologists Dr. Chad Jensen, PhD; Elizabeth Pulgaron, PhD; and Genevieve Davis, PhD. This event was well-attended and offered students an opportunity to ask questions about all aspects of the application process. Below are highlights of the session, along with other resources for navigating this exciting yet stressful time.
Seeking Guidance and Support
Seek both guidance and support from multiple mentors, senior colleagues, peers, and family and friends. Reach out to colleagues who applied, interned or worked at sites you are considering applying to. Ask several people to read your essays. Set up mock interviews with advisors or faculty members. Take advantage of books, articles, webinars and other resources on the internship application process. Also, many conferences offer workshops, panels or social events related to internship. For example, each year at the APA convention, Divs. 53 and 54 co-host an event called “Internships and Postdocs on Parade” where prospective applicants can meet representatives from many APA-accredited internship sites.
When deciding where to apply, first spend time thinking about your career goals and what experiences you need from an internship in order to reach those goals. Similarly, focus on the fit between you and the site. Consider the opportunities the internship offers along with your past experiences. You should have experience that will prepare you to do well on the internship, while still having gaps in your training that the site can help fill.
In many ways you want to treat an internship interview just like any other type of interview. Be knowledgeable about the internship, including the rotations and the supervisors. Come prepared with questions that will really help you decide whether this site is for you. Be able to talk about your past experiences, future goals, dissertation, etc., in a succinct manner. Remember, you are in charge of your story.
Ranking and the Match
When it comes time to rank sites, focus on the fit between your training goals and the opportunities the site offers. Also think about the cultural fit between you and the work environment, including the hours interns work, the type of supervision offered and the professionals you’ll be working with. When match day arrives, remember that there is no perfect internship and focus on the positives of the site you have matched to. Also, in the unfortunate event of not matching, remember that you are not alone. There are resources available to help students who have not matched. Focus on making plans for strengthening your application in the coming months to reapply for the following year.
Other Internship Resources
- APAGS website on doctoral internships in professional psychology
- gradPSYCH articles on internship
- APPIC resources on internship
- Williams-Nickelson, C., Prinstein, M.J., & Keilin, W.G. (2013). Internships in psychology: The APAGS workbook for writing successful applications and finding the right fit (3 rd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Please contact me with questions and comments.