Cover Story

For some internship applicants, the excitement of internship selection culminates in shock and dismay when they learn they weren't matched in the initial round of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) Match and must instead vie for their internship slot in the APPIC clearinghouse. Students learn whether they are matched three days before Match Day, the day the clearinghouse of unfilled internship positions opens and applicants scramble to secure a slot.

And while it's normal for students to feel discouraged, clearinghouse experts say approximately two-thirds of unmatched applicants find an internship position through the clearinghouse, and that approximately 25% of those have snared one by the end of the first day.

Students are most likely to have a successful clearinghouse experience if they take the three days between notification day and when the clearinghouse opens to prepare emotionally and physically for the fast-paced application process, say veterans. For example, it's wise to get high-speed Internet access and a printer that can fax, says Jo Eckler, a fourth-year clinical psychology graduate student in the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University who recently navigated the clearinghouse. "[The clearinghouse] feels like you are at the New York Stock Exchange, and the faster you apply the better."

Here are a few more ways you can prepare:

  • Read the instructions. Visit the APPIC Web site at immediately and read the clearinghouse instructions for internship applicants, says APPIC Match coordinator Greg Keilin, PhD. The instructions cover how the clearinghouse works, list Match Day do's and don'ts and offer advice on getting organized and finding support. Students should also subscribe to the APPIC clearinghouse e-mail list as soon as they learn they aren't matched, through which training directors communicate directly about unfilled positions when the clearinghouse opens. Directions for subscribing are on the first page of the clearinghouse instructions.

  • Decide where you are willing to go. In the clearinghouse, your geographic options may be limited, so consider whether your finances can handle a nonfunded position, if your career goals mesh with a nonaccredited position or where you might be willing to move. "Figure these things out beforehand, because you have to make split-second decisions on Match Day," says Keilin.

  • Pile and file. Prepare an e-mail file that includes only a cover letter and your curriculum vitae and does not exceed 10 pages--a firm APPIC clearinghouse rule. Sites don't expect a tailored cover letter, says Keilin, but consider creating two somewhat customized versions if, say, you are going to apply to mostly Veterans Administration sites and counseling center sites. Make plenty of copies of additional materials training directors may ask for, including your APPIC Application for Psychology Internship form and letters of recommendation, since fax machines can get tied up and sites may ask them to be mailed overnight.

  • Enlist help. Ask your family and friends to help you field calls, fax application materials, make coffee and track information about sites you have applied to. Eckler, who secured an internship by the end of her first day in the clearinghouse, says the administrative support of three friends was invaluable for her. It's also wise to inform your faculty advisers right away that you weren't matched, since training directors may call them about your qualifications, or to share leads.

  • Get up early on Match Day. Apply to the sites you are most interested in as soon as the clearinghouse opens, say experts. "What started as a trickle on Monday morning turned into a flood by that afternoon," says Clarissa Bush, PhD, training director of the clinical neuropsychology internship at SCO Health Service in Ottawa, of application e-mails she received from potential interns. She says she was able to look more carefully at the applications that came in the morning when things were slower, and was hitting her computer's delete button in the afternoon on messages that lacked detail about a student's training goals or expertise. Her advice: "Carefully target the programs that offer the training you want and get that across in the first few lines of the email to get noticed."

  • Be confident. Remind yourself that you didn't necessarily end up in the clearinghouse because you are a bad candidate. Students may have, in fact, limited themselves geographically or applied to too many competitive sites, says Keilin. Bush has tapped the clearinghouse three times, and says she has been impressed with the candidates. "We are quite picky about who we rank," says Bush, "and we have had some great interns through the clearinghouse." Similarly, don't assume that only sites that aren't accredited or funded will be available, says Eckler. "Some of my classmates' first choices were in the clearinghouse," she says. Funding delays also create clearinghouse slots: a site recently debuted four APA-accredited internship sites in the clearinghouse because it secured federal Graduate Psychology Education Program funding after the Match deadline, notes Keilin. "Some really good positions can be had in the clearinghouse," says Keilin.

For more information on the APPIC Match and clearinghouse, read "Match mysteries solved," in the September 2003 issue of gradPSYCH online at Match Mysteries.

2004–2005 APPIC MATCH DATES

December 1 Deadline for students to register for the Match.
February 9 Deadline for students to submit their ranked lists of preferred internship training sites.
February 25 Applicants learn if they have been matched to an internship position, but not the specific program. Unmatched applicants begin preparing for the clearinghouse—where students who aren't matched in the initial round vie for internships on or after Match Day.
February 28 APPIC Match Day. Results of the Match are released to applicants and internship training directors. The APPIC clearinghouse opens. Unmatched applicants cannot contact programs about possible vacancies until 11 a.m. EST on Match Day.

For more information on the APPIC Match, visit www.appic.org.