Match Day was Feb. 26, and the numbers are now in. According to the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) Match statistics, 2,588 applicants — 75 percent — were successfully matched to internship positions. The good news? Nearly half of those successful applicants received their top-ranked choice of internship sites. The bad news? An imbalance between the number of internship positions and applicants left 842 applicants unmatched. GradPSYCH talked with APPIC Match and Clearinghouse Coordinator Greg Keilin, PhD, and APPIC Board Chair Steve McCutcheon, PhD, about the APPIC Match results, trends and what's being done to address the imbalance.
Q: How did the Match go?
McCutcheon: We were able to organize a huge number of people and programs and help them find each other. It's a complex system that, year after year, goes off very well.
The fact that 45 percent of applicants landed in their number-one spot is remarkable. More than 1,000 people got the site they most wanted.
Q: What trends do you see?
Keilin: The supply and demand imbalance is getting consistently worse and got much worse this year.
Q: What's behind the imbalance?
Keilin: A number of graduate programs have opened in the past half-dozen years that are admitting a large number of students and sending them out on the internship trail. We simply don't have the internships to handle them. Another problem is that we now have an increasing backlog: Not only do we have more students coming into the system, we also have students who don't match reapplying the following year.
Q: What's APPIC doing to fix the problem?
McKutcheon: On the supply side, APPIC has an aggressive mentoring program in which we help new graduate programs initiate internship positions and become APPIC members and help established programs improve and expand their positions…. We've seen growth in the past five years. There has been a five percent increase in the number of internship positions despite an economy that has not been very favorable.
However, during that same five years, there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of applicants…. As a result, APPIC and other organizations have continued to ask graduate programs to take a serious look at restraining the growth in class sizes.
Keilin: There was a significant increase of 105 positions this year. That helped offset the increase in the number of students.
Q: Is APA helping?
McCutcheon: APA has been particularly helpful. APA has agreed to fund and carry out a very costly work force analysis, for example. APA has established an office of work force analysis to, for the first time, get hard data on the number of psychologists we're producing and the number of psychologists the society needs and can support. The outcome of that analysis is a ways off, but it's an essential component of understanding how many students we should have.
In addition, APA's Education Directorate has been very aggressive in advocating for increased funding in Congress directed at enhancing internship training. Two programs in particular that provide funds directly to internship training programs-the Graduate Psychology Education Program and the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act-were funded largely due to the directorate's efforts.
Q: What should the 842 applicants who didn't get matched on Match Day do?
McCutcheon: If a student doesn't match, the next step is to secure an internship through the APPIC Clearinghouse. Ten percent of internship positions-almost 300 positions-were unfilled on Match Day. Those positions went into the Clearinghouse, where there are many excellent internships available.
Keilin: Right now the Clearinghouse is in the middle of a frenzy of activity, and those positions are being filled as we speak. Additional positions could potentially become available later in the spring or summer. In fact, the Clearinghouse stays open through October.
(For more tips on Clearing the Clearinghouse, see "Moving Forward.")
Q: What if students still don't find a position?
McCutcheon: They should take a hard look at their preparation and applications, get feedback from advisers and faculty and decide whether they have weaknesses that can be corrected with another year of training. It could be that students have inadequate practicum experience...it could be that they have inadequate research experience. They need to make a plan to strengthen any weaknesses in order to go back to the Match.
Some students may not have matched because they erred in their strategy. The single biggest reason for students not matching is that they restricted themselves geographically and only applied to a few programs. They should think hard about whether they could do it differently next year and thereby increase their chances.
Keilin: Students can also spend the time working on their dissertations.
Q: Nine of the 20 couples who applied together had a partner unmatched. How can couples improve their chances?
Keilin: Couples did much poorer this year than in other years. Part of that is just luck of the draw. But we also saw more couples ranking fewer pairings. Couples could have hundreds of combinations of the sites that each of them applied to. If they don't submit all the possible combinations, they lower their chances of being matched.
Rebecca A. Clay is a writer in Washington, D.C.