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You've spent months researching, applying and interviewing for internships, but have you thought about your plan for Match Day?

Prepare for an emotional weekend, say Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) officials and Match Day veterans. On Early Notification Day-when students learn if, but not where, they were matched-matched students report feeling a rush of relief. But that's served up with a side of anxiety about what internship they landed. Plus, they may feel uncomfortable sharing their excitement with unmatched peers, who are dealing with their own feelings of shock and dismay.

To ease this tension, matched students may want to offer to help their unmatched peers prepare for and navigate the hectic clearinghouse, say current interns. Students often need help researching sites and readying their application materials over the weekend and, once the clearinghouse opens on Match Day-Feb. 27-fielding phone calls and e-mails and sending application materials.

"The best thing is to be honest and to offer your support," says Chanelle T. Bishop, an intern at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Before the match, she and several peers crafted a clear plan: They would offer brief congratulations to whoever matched, followed by immediate aid to whoever didn't. "Remind your peer of his or her strengths and expertise," adds Bishop, who matched while her friends didn't.

"Focus them on making a decision about getting an internship through the clearinghouse or waiting a year to gain more experience." On Match Day-the day students learn which site they matched with-students experience a new set of emotions. Some students are elated to match to their first choice; others learn they snagged a third or fourth pick for which they hadn't prepared. Jennifer Rocheleau, PsyD, for example, matched to her fourth pick and felt shocked that she'd be moving from Minnesota to Iowa.

"It was difficult to find out that I had friends who were matched at my first and second choices, which were in state," says Rocheleau. That disappointment disappeared, though, when she began her internship and had a positive training experience, she says.

Matched students can expect a brief welcoming call from their training directors-at the number they listed on their application-anytime after 11 a.m. EST on Match Day, according to APPIC guidelines. Within three days of the initial greeting, training directors send a confirmation letter that includes a start date, benefits information and internship stipend, says APPIC Chair Steve McCutcheon, PhD, the training director at the Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle. That letter may also include information about special requirements, such as getting a physical to prepare for work in a hospital. Students should feel free to contact their training director in the months that follow to ask questions they might have about health insurance or relocating, notes Match Coordinator Greg Keilin, PhD, of the University of Texas at Austin. In fact, many training directors link students with current interns, who can share their insights on the best neighborhoods, coffeehouses, gyms and child-care programs. Additionally, current interns may be vacating an apartment right around a new intern's start date. Once the initial excitement is over, students have several months before their internship starts. APPIC officials and current interns say students should use that time to:

  • Finish up their coursework and dissertation. Getting these tasks behind you leads to a happier, more productive internship experience, experts say. Too often, students plan to work on their dissertation "every night" during internship but find they don't have the energy. "People often underestimate the emotional toll and time involved with starting a full-time internship," says Keilin.

  • Give yourself time to settle in. If you're moving cities, arrive early to find the closest grocery store and dry cleaners so you won't be wrinkled and hungry in your first few intense days.

  • Stay in touch with current interns. Interns can also offer a heads up on what you'll be learning and how the site functions. But keep in mind that every intern's experience is unique: One intern's staff nemesis may be your invaluable mentor, notes Keilin.

Bishop had dinner with several faculty and interns from her site when she went to Cincinnati to apartment hunt. "It really helped make the transition to a new city and site so much easier," she says.

-J. Chamberlin

The 2006 APPIC Match dates are:
 
Feb. 8    Deadline for students to submit their ranked lists of preferred internship training sites.

 
Feb. 24  Applicants learn if they have been matched to an internship position, but not the specific program. Unmatched applicants begin preparing for the clearinghouse, in which students who aren't matched in the initial round vie for internships on or after Match Day.

 
Feb. 27  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 or www.gradpsych.apags.org/sep03/match-mysteries.cfm