Internship Blues

29 Nov

In the grand scheme of the universe, there are many things that I should probably be more worried about than the APPIC internship application process, including but not limited to climate change, international strife, global food shortages, the terrifying implications of the Singularity should it ever come to pass, what Diet Coke is doing to my body, etc. But like most 4th or 5th-year doctoral students in counseling/clinical psych programs, lately I’ve been directing the full power of my anxiety toward the question of whether or not I’ll get an internship.

For those reading who aren’t familiar with the internship process, APPIC stands for the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers. Doctoral students in clinical or counseling psychology programs who have finished their coursework and comps are required to complete a 1-year predoctoral internship approved by the American Psychological Association in order to receive their doctorates. All approved internship sites are registered with APPIC, which facilitates the application and match process. Eligible students labor feverishly over applications and submit them to internship sites of interest (usually around 15 sites) during October, November, and early December. APPIC encourages sites to inform candidates whether or not they qualify for interviews by December 15, but every site operates on a slightly different timeline. Some students may hear back about interviews before Thanksgiving (causing dark fears to bloom in the minds of their cohort members, who will spend the next two weeks wondering why no one wants to interview them and asking themselves, Did I actually hit the send button on my applications? What if I didn’t hit the send button on my applications?). Other sites may not notify candidates about their interview status until after December 15, a date that will by that point have cemented itself in students’ minds as the Absolute Deadline for Hope and what if I hit the send button on some of my applications but not all of my applications? Interviews take place in December and January, and students rank the sites at which they interviewed in order of preference. Sites also create ranked lists of candidates, and students are informed on Match Day in late February whether or not they’ve been matched with a site. Those who aren’t matched go through a sort of clearinghouse process called Phase 2, which I don’t know much about because it makes me unhappy to think about it. There is no guarantee you’ll be matched during Phase 2.

There is currently a shortage of APA-accredited internships. Last year, almost a fourth of applicants were not matched with a site, and not matching has major implications for students. It means another year between you and your degree, another year between you and your career, and potentially nasty financial consequences (many programs, mine included, do not guarantee funding for students who stay beyond their fourth year). I guess that it’s little wonder that the message boards and listservs frequented by internship applicants exude all the cheer and calm of a fire evacuation. Dr. Greg Keilin, the psychologist and training director who sacrificially agreed to coordinate the Match and its listservs, sent out a message on the APPIC Intern Network last night that had a certain tone of parental exasperation:


Before everyone on this list has a heart attack because one person has reported hearing back from a site, let me state categorically that it is VERY EARLY FOR ANYONE TO BE HEARING BACK ON THEIR APPLICATIONS OR GETTING OFFERS FOR INTERVIEWS!  Some application deadlines haven’t even passed yet, much less have sites had the opportunity to review materials and contact applicants to set up interviews.

So, if you haven’t received any notification yet, all that means is that you are one of 4,000 other applicants who also have not yet received any communication from sites and who feel like they are the only one in North America who hasn’t heard anything… If you want to make yourself really anxious for no good reason, you can:  (a) wonder how each site notifies applicants (alphabetically?  by date the application was received?  by astrological sign?, etc.) and how you will fit in that process, (b) start worrying two weeks before the “interview notification date” in the Directory about why you haven’t heard anything and then assume it must be bad news, and (c) assume that if a classmate hears from a site before you do, it means you’re toast.  All of these are tried and true methods of generating gobs of anxiety while waiting to hear from sites.

Seriously, go by the dates in the Directory, and assume you’ll hear at 11:59pm on those dates and not a moment earlier.  Will some notify you days earlier?  Yes, but some won’t.  One year, I sent out my notifications the evening of my interview notification date, and I was surprised how many applicants told me that they had assumed they weren’t getting an interview because they hadn’t heard anything from me.

In the relatively infrequent event that you don’t hear from a site by the end of that ‘interview notification date,’ you should call or e-mail the site the next morning to inquire about your status.”

Unfortunately, graduate students are very talented in the area of making themselves really anxious for no good reason. I’ve found that the best way to address my anxiety is to develop excellent backup plans in the event that I don’t get an internship. Current frontrunners include starting an adorable pie shop like Keri Russel in Waitress or becoming a “dog enrichment coordinator” at a doggie daycare, which is apparently a real job.

I might change up the uniform a little.

I applied to 15 internship sites in North Carolina, Texas, Georgia, and Virginia. My husband Ted and I would like to move back in a southeasterly direction to be closer to family and college friends, and for some reason, Ted requested that we move somewhere where he could enjoy continued employment. I’ve gotten an invitation for one interview in Texas (instant elation!) and a regretful email from a site in North Carolina (instant desolation). Guess I’ll twiddle my thumbs, contemplate how my astrological sign might affect the manner in which I’m notified about interviews, and hope for the best.


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