“The number of students seeking internships significantly outnumbers the availability of internship positions,” according to Sharon Berry, Ph.D, chair of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC). This imbalance crisis is a variable that’s clearly beyond a candidate’s control. However, you can focus your efforts on what you can control. Here, experts share what students can do to increase their chances of matching for internship.
1. Apply to both competitive and non-competitive sites.
Applying exclusively to competitive internships can limit your chances of matching. Why? Competitive sites have high numbers of applicants but only several slots available, according to Carol Williams-Nickelson, PsyD, former associate executive director of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students and co-editor of Internships in Psychology: The APAGS Workbook for Writing Successful Applications and Finding the Right Fit. (The APPIC website offers information on the numbers for each site.)
2. Make your fit with a site clear-cut.
Fit is a critical aspect of matching, experts agreed. Gregory T. Eells, Ph.D, director of Counseling & Psychological Services at Cornell University, regularly sees great candidates, but “the key thing we look for is how will they fit into the environment.”
How you fit into an internship is what you want to convey in your application. The goal is “to draw very direct connections between what” you’re looking for and how the site is going to train you to fill in the gaps in your training and expand on the skills you already have, Williams-Nickelson said. That is, your strengths and experiences need to fit in with the internship, Eells said.
In other words, make “sure your vita matches with your stated goals,” and “tie in [your training and experience] in a way that makes sense to the committee,” Eells said. For instance, let’s say you want to look for internships that specialize in eating disorders, and you did some counseling work at a college mental health center, where you regularly saw women with disordered eating. In your application and interview, emphasize that you’ve actually worked with this population, which tends to be a common one at on-campus counseling centers.
Another way to find a fit with a site is by looking at contextual features, Williams-Nickelson said. Look at the “faculty in the program, how long they’ve been there, what types of areas they specialize in [and] their interests in terms of research,” she said. You may find some legitimate matches between your interests and other faculty members that you’re excited about. But keep in mind that authenticity is key, so you’re “not just complimenting faculty or research for the sake of complimenting them.”