Degree In Sight

Matched next steps

After the long and often nerve-wracking process of applying for internships, many students say they're glad when match day finally arrives.

"When I found out I'd matched, I was so happy and relieved that I really didn't care if I'd wound up with my first- or seventh-ranked site," says Arturo Corrales, PsyD, who completed an internship at Jacobi Medical Center in New York City and graduated from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, last summer. "There's an excitement to knowing that you'll be transitioning to a new city and internship," he adds. "I saw it as a new adventure."

Before you start your adventure, training directors and recent interns have this advice to help you make the most your internship year:

  • Indulge in downtime. "Your mind and body are probably so exhausted from the effort of applying for internships and the anxiety about matching, you owe it to yourself to relax for a while," says Cassandra M. Faraci, PsyD, who completed an internship last summer and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Premier Psychology Services in Mount Kisco, N.Y. Take time to celebrate with your family and friends, says David B. Mather, PhD, director of psychology training at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. "Enjoy the fact that you've made it over a big hurdle and you're that much closer to being done with your doctorate," he says.

  • Complete your dissertation. "Make as much progress as possible on your dissertation before your internship begins," says Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) match coordinator Greg Keilin, PhD. "It's difficult to work on it at the same time that you're adjusting to your internship site." Also, if you've defended your dissertation, you may have a competitive edge when you're applying for postdoctoral fellowships or faculty positions. (For more on the importance of finishing your dissertation before internship, see "Just do it")

  • Reach out to your future colleagues. Need advice on relocating or housing tips? Training directors say you should feel comfortable asking them for insights. Often, they can put you in touch with the current interns at the site and with your fellow incoming interns. Faraci connected with her future colleagues through e-mail and Facebook, and met one in person before her internship started. "This made the transition much easier," she says. "By the time the internship begins, you feel as though you're meeting up with friends, not strangers."

  • Ask about the dress code. Some students find they need to invest in work-appropriate clothes before their internship begins. And although dress codes vary, training directors say that in general you should avoid wearing jeans, T-shirts, or sneakers at your internship site.

  • Save up for your move. If you're moving to a new city for your internship, budget for such expenses as your apartment security deposit or renting a moving van, says Daniel Ferland, PhD, a psychologist at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital in Columbia, Mo., who finished an internship in 2009. And keep in mind that after you leave your graduate program or job, there may be a month or two before your internship starts when you don't have any money coming in. "Make sure you have a cushion so you can survive for one or two pay periods," he says.

  • Allow extra time to adjust to your new home. Try to arrive a week or two in advance so you can unpack, scope out a convenient bank and supermarket, and figure out your commute. "I was glad I had that time to get settled, and I used it to get my driver's license, license plate and car registration changed, and to explore the downtowns of the surrounding neighborhoods and become familiar with what they had to offer," says Faraci.

  • Stay flexible. Go into your internship with an open, flexible attitude, says Lori Crosby, PsyD, training director for the O'Grady Residency in Psychology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "Even if the internship site you end up with wasn't your first choice, stay focused on getting the training you need," she says. "Be open to new experiences and ask yourself: What can I learn here and how can I contribute?"

Jen Uscher is a writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.