Psychology students preparing for the internship application process often believe the number of practicum hours they've accumulated is the most important factor in the training site match.
But in fact, practicum hours rank fourth on the list of what training directors consider most important, behind interviews, essays and letters of recommendation, says Stephen McCutcheon, PhD, chair of the Board of Directors of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC).
From the survey, 78 percent of respondents said the on-site or telephone interview rating given the student is very important; 56 percent said the five essays included in the Application for Psychology Internships (AAPI) form are very important; and 50 percent listed letters of recommendation as very important.
The number of practicum hours was rated as very important by only 40 percent, he says.
"I hear over and over again from training directors that they want students to have a sufficient number of hours, but once they've met the minimum criteria, other factors become much more important," McCutcheon says.
From his discussions with training directors, McCutcheon says students need to pay attention to practicum experience quality.
"Students should gain a range of experience that will be attractive to the type of site they want to apply to," McCutcheon says.
APPIC posted the online survey for 684 training directors in May 2006, and 55 percent responded. The survey also specifically asked for comments on the issue of supply and demand in the 2006 Match, during which 3,479 students sought matches to 2,779 internship slots.
Many of the 197 training directors who responded to the query expressed frustration over the knowledge that a certain number of students won't be able to get internships, he says. Overall, they support expanding the number of internships, but acknowledge the difficulty of finding more training money. They also expressed concern about the number of professional schools producing an increasing number of graduates, but conceded that APPIC can't tell schools how many students to enroll, McCutcheon says.
When it comes to evaluating intern progress during the internship year, 64 percent of training directors said they believed that talking to an intern's academic program about training goals and a training plan prior to the internship year could improve communication between interns' academic programs and training sites.
Training directors also want more input from academic programs on where interns need to improve, so that once the Match has occurred, specific weaknesses can be addressed, he says.