Cover Story

When picking your list of internship sites, rank a handful of quality picks, not a vast quantity, internship experts advise.

In essence, "Apply to places you really want to be," says Kristee Haggins, PhD, director of training at the University of California, Davis Counseling Center, "and don't apply to places that you're only vaguely considering."

The numbers back up this strategy: If students match with a selection-and in 2004, about 80% did-many get one of their top choices. For instance, 70% of students got one of their top two picks, and 82% got one of their top three, says psychologist Greg Keilin, PhD, who chairs the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers and coordinates the internship Match and clearinghouse. 

Moreover, your chances of matching don't necessarily improve if you apply to more sites, Keilin says. In 2003, students who applied to between 11 and 15 sites had a 90% chance of matching to one of their choices, he found. Submitting more than 15 applications didn't improve their chances of being matched. Furthermore, Keilin notes, submitting fewer than 11 applications increased the odds that students wouldn't get matched.

There's another excellent reason for applying in this mid-range, says Joyce Illfelder-Kaye, PhD, internship training director at Penn State University's Center for Counseling and Psychological Services.

"It takes time and energy to complete these applications, to do a good job and to go on these interviews," she says. Applying to a large number of sites means you won't have time to create a high-quality application for any of them, she notes, thus decreasing your chance of getting into any at all.