Think you can boost your chance of securing an internship on match day if you apply to more sites than anyone you know? Not likely, say match experts. You're more apt to match if you follow the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers' advice and apply to 11 to 15 sites that fit your skills and career goals. Students who apply mass-mail style don't take the time to research sites that complement their training goals, personality styles and other fit-factors, which is the real secret to increasing your match chances, says former APPIC Chair Steve McCutcheon, PhD.
"When you apply to programs that aren't a good fit, it's noticeable to the training director and makes it less likely you'll match there," he says.
Here are five more common myths about the match:
Myth:Applying online—new this year—will cost more.
Truth: APPIC's new e-application system will cost most students less than applying by mail. Students spend an average of $218 on mailed applications—costs that include postage, printing and transcripts. With the new electronic system, students will pay $35 for the first application and $10 for each additional application, which adds up to $175 for 15 applications, the maximum APPIC recommends.
Myth: 'A' students have an advantage.
Truth: Not always. Each year, outstanding students end up unmatched because their strong clinical and research skills didn't translate into writing good applications or interviewing well, according to Greg Keilin, PhD, APPIC's match coordinator. "These are very different skills, and students need to realize that." In recent years, APPIC has encouraged faculty to teach interviewing skills and application-writing skills. "Students also really need to have their applications reviewed by faculty," Keilin adds.
Myth: The match computer system aims to maximize the number of matches, not to give each person the best match.
Truth: In fact, the match algorithm does try to give you your top choice and moves down to your second choice if your first choice didn't rank you. This myth prompts some students to reduce the number of sites they rank, thinking the computer will match them if they rank a single internship site. On the contrary, students who do that hurt their chances by eliminating sites they might have matched with or betting on a single site choosing them, says Keilin.
Myth: More practicum makes perfect.
Truth: While many students believe the more practicum hours they have, the better candidate they are, APPIC survey data show that practicum hours take a backseat to interviewing skills and research interests. "Hours get you in the door, but what impresses training directors beyond that point is a well-rounded background and students who are able to demonstrate an interest and ability in a range of competencies," says McCutcheon. Once you meet the minimum requirement—400 hours for most sites—additional practicum hours don't make you a more attractive candidate, he says.
Myth: I can stay in my hometown if I want.
Truth: It's never wise to limit yourself geographically and expect to match, says McCutcheon. Students who use this strategy invariably apply to programs that aren't a good fit for their strengths and skills, which means it's unlikely they'll match with any of those sites. "You are applying to programs because they are nearby, not because they are the 10 best programs for you."
According to the 2008 APPIC Applicant Survey, the match rate dropped 13 percent for respondents who limited their site choices geographically due to family, financial or health reasons. A better idea: Cast a wide net and be willing to move to that perfect site not so near you.
By Jamie Chamberlin
For more information on preparing for the internship match, visit the APPIC Web site and "Match mysteries solved" online.