This month is often full of mixed emotions for students applying for their predoctoral internship. I remember the January a few years back when I was searching for an internship: It was exhausting traveling the country for interviews, reviewing my evaluations of internship sites and preparing my rank order of sites. Having gone through the process, I can appreciate how emotionally laden this time can be for many students.
Many mistakenly believe that their "future" solely depends on their match with an internship site. Some students worry about how to rank sites, some worry about matching with their No. 1 choice and many students simply worry about getting a site.
Here are some tips that have helped many applicants deal with the different emotions associated with the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) match process. For other tips, "You've been matched! What's next?".
Many students agonize over how they should rank their sites because they believe that the site with which they match will play a significant role in determining their future. While your internship may have some role in the direction you take in the future, it is important to remember that the internship is only part of your predoctoral training. Internships often focus more on broad, general training than specific specialties. Many in the field view specialty training as a postdoctoral issue rather than for the internship year. The best piece of advice I have heard about ranking: Simply rank the sites in the order in which you prefer them and avoid playing the "match game" (i.e., that site really seemed to like me and I have a good chance of matching there, so I'll rank it higher even though it's not my favorite).
FACING THE CLEARINGHOUSE
Nobody can deny that not matching with an internship on Match Day is a major blow to one's ego and even frightening. Negative thoughts such as "I'm not good enough" or "I'm a horrible student" can fill one's mind.
The good news, however, is that just as good students do not match on Match Day, good internship sites do not fill positions. I've known many students who have found great internship experiences through the APPIC Clearinghouse. Similarly, I've talked with many internship directors who suggest that some of their best interns have come through the APPIC Clearinghouse.
Further, APPIC has worked diligently to streamline and make the Clearinghouse more student-friendly as well as provide a weekend for those who didn't match to decompress and plan.
In addition to the APPIC Clearinghouse, the Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies hosts a clearinghouse of unmatched university counseling center sites each year.
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER
Just as students who didn't match can feel down about their situation, other students can feel guilty about matching and be unsure about how to approach their unmatched colleagues. One method to help this situation and to assist unmatched colleagues: Have everyone who applied from your program plan to meet as a group that weekend. This meeting can serve two purposes. First, if there are unmatched students, those who matched can provide emotional support, problem solve and help their colleagues prepare for the sometimes fast and frenzied Clearinghouse. Fellow students can help the unmatched students feel less critical of themselves. Second, if everyone matches to a site, you all can celebrate your accomplishments!
Although January can be an emotionally laden and exhausting month, it is also filled with hope for the future and a time to reflect on your accomplishments. Thus, I encourage each of you going through the internship application process to take a moment to reflect on the accomplishments you have made thus far in your career as budding psychologists. Best wishes for a successful Match!