Psychology graduate students send out an average of 15 internship applications, according to a survey by the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. APPIC Match and Clearinghouse coordinator Greg Keilin, PhD, has some advice for students thinking about sending out even more: stop.
"Just sending out more applications isn't doing students any good. They need to be focusing on the quality of their application materials and their interviewing skills," Keilin says.
APPIC made the online survey available to all 3,825 applicants who registered for the 2009 match, and 70 percent completed some or all of the survey. The match connects psychology doctoral students who need a yearlong predoctoral training experience with programs that have internship slots.
This year, 846 applicants went unmatched, the highest number to date, as the number of applicants continued to exceed the number of internships available, and a worsening economy shrank the number of positions.
Other key survey results include:
Cost. From 2008 to 2009, the average cost of submitting an application increased 17.4 percent to $256. The total costs per applicant averaged $1,703, with the largest portion of expenses tied to travel. (Some applicants spent several thousand dollars flying to different programs around the country, while others spent less than $100 driving to local programs, or even less if they participated in telephone interviews, Keilin says.) Application costs should fall this year with the introduction of the first online application, which will let students apply to 15 programs for $175.
Debt. Applicants reported that their average debt load was $75,235; more than one in three reported debt of $100,000 or more. As in years past, students pursuing PsyDs reported more debt than students pursuing PhDs, Keilin says.
Dissatisfaction. About one in five applicants said they were not satisfied with their match result (a figure that includes students who didn't match), and 18 percent said their doctoral programs didn't provide much support during the process.
Geographic restrictions. A little over half of participants reported they had geographic restrictions that kept them from applying to sites they were interested in. Of those applicants, half said family, financial or health considerations kept them close to home, while the other half limited their search due to personal preference.
"Students who narrowly restrict their geographic options don't do as well in the match because they're either applying to fewer programs, or the programs they're applying to aren't necessarily good fits for them," Keilin says.
Returning applicants. Just 7 percent of applicants said it was their second time through the match process. Given the number of students who haven't matched in recent years, Keilin says that percentage is low.
"I think one of the things going on is that some students who don't match are going out and finding nonaccredited, non-APPIC internships. It really raises concerns about the quality of training that these students will receive."