If you are reading this article, you are most likely in the midst of building your APPIC application or  are gearing up to do so.  First, congratulations! It is a lot of work to get this far, and there is light at the end of the tunnel!  Yet, like every other aspect of grad school, there is a lot of work that goes into building your application and it can seem incredibly daunting.  During my first internship prep meeting, we were warned that preparing our APPIC application and applying for internship was essentially a “part-time job.”

As my training director began listing all the items we needed to begin working on, I remember desperately trying to take deep breaths and “stay in the moment,” trying not to give in to a full-blown panic attack. A year later, I watched the same speech be given to the next group of applicants and noted the same panicked look on their faces. As you read this, you may even have this look on your face right now.

So, before we jump into creating the application — here is the best piece of advice I got during this process: Trust yourself. To be where you are now, you have jumped hurdles, completed assignments, and gotten it all done.  It seems daunting and like a lot of work, but it is not anything you can’t handle. So, take a deep breath and let’s get started.

Get the Easy Stuff Out of the Way

Remember, during this process, it is all about the little victories. There is so much work to do and there are so many things to write, in addition to coursework, practicum, and working on your dissertation…So when you log on and see a slew of sections, including cover letters and essays,  it can be overwhelming.

I am someone who likes to do things “in order,” and luckily, the first two sections are the “easiest.” Filling out your Contact and Personal Information should (hopefully) be two sections you can complete in a matter of minutes. Once that is done, you have two sections down — Good job!

The Applicant Code Number is another “easy” section, as you do not need to get this number to apply for internships. You only need it for the match process, so it should be the last section you fill out, and for right now, it can be put to the side.

Next, go through the rest of the application and fill out what you know off the top of your head.  Getting the easy stuff done will help you feel you have accomplished some tasks, and you will feel much better when you go to work on each section and it’s no longer a sea of white, blank spaces.

Work Ahead

There are areas of the application which should be done at the start of the process, rather than waiting until the very end. Depending on when you are reading this, the previous sentence may have caused some panic. It’s ok. If you have ignored these areas until this point, now you know to get on them.

Order the transcripts

After I had my own panic attack and re-centered myself by doing the easy stuff, I focused on transcripts. You must submit a transcript for every graduate program you have attended. In a former life, I aspired to be a lawyer, and while one year of law school was more than enough for me to realize law was not the career for me, I still had to both list and send in a transcript of my one sad year of law school. I also had attended a master’s program in my home state before moving across the country for my doctoral program.

As you may know, there is a specific form you need to print or download on the APPIC site for each graduate program you attended, plus your current program. If all you need to do is go to your student services with your form, lucky you. For those of us who have other schools, you will need to find out your previous schools’ requirements for transcripts and then mail or upload your request, possibly with payment. If you haven’t done this yet, do it now. Why?

First, it can take several weeks for your request to be processed by your school, mailed, and then processed by APPIC. The second reason is human error. Things happen. Mail can get lost, requests can become shuffled accidentally into the complete file, coffee might get spilled on your request, etc. A friend of mine had to request the same transcript multiple times, even paying extensive fees to have them overnighted, and they still didn’t arrive for months. (Don’t fret, she did get them in time and is now a doctor). I will say this one more time — if you haven’t yet, stop reading and go request those transcripts. Check in frequently to see if they have arrived – you can see this on your APPIC portal – and follow up if it seems to be taking more time than you were told.

Write the essays

The essays are another time-consuming part of the application. You have 500 words to answer each of the four questions showcasing who you are as a student, clinician, potential employee, and a human being. While writing your essays can be an entire blog post of its own, here are some quick words of advice:

  • Answer the question. You would be surprised how many people simply don’t answer the question asked for each essay.
  • Make each word count — you only get 500, and they can be easily wasted on sentences which don’t necessarily fit with the overall theme.
  • Read your essays out loud. Do they flow? Can something be said more simply? Get as many people as possible to read and edit them. Like every writer everywhere, I hate having other people read my work until I deem it “perfect.” Having other people edit my essays was the most helpful thing I did.

Read, Read, Read, Read…Carefully

Every single section of the APPIC has a button called “Instructions for this Section” available for you to find out exactly what is wanted for that section. This is valuable information — click on it and read it.  For instance, in the Other Colleges Attended section, the button gives you information on what types of schools you should list in this section. Did you take college credit in the summer before your senior year of high school? List it. How about the year you spent in Europe attending culinary classes for credit? List it. In my experience, it is much better to disclose than try to explain why you didn’t. Each section has this button. Read it even if it is just to reassure yourself that you are doing everything correctly.

You also want to be careful you are putting the correct information where it needs to be. The Summary of Doctoral Training section asks for a lot of information, so you want to read carefully what it is asking for. For instance, this section separates out master’s work from doctoral and it can be very easy to confuse the two. Originally, I had noted that I had a master’s thesis — thinking they were asking about my doctoral project. I caught it, but what if I hadn’t? What if the first person who noticed was a potential interviewer? What seems like a small error could be the reason your application is placed in the “no” pile. Don’t give them that. Read everything and read carefully. Still not sure? Ask others and don’t hesitate to utilize APPIC’s help line. It is there for a reason.

Use All Your Words

Use all your words, and I am not just talking about your essays. Yes, you should use all (and exactly) 500 words for your essays. But throughout the application, there are boxes in which you need to describe things. For instance, in the Additional Information about Practicum Experiences section, there is a box asking if you have led or co-led any groups. It is easy to say “yes” or “no.” However, they give you 3,000 characters, so use as many of the characters as you can! Be detailed and thorough. Describe your type of group, populations, location, topic — anything that you have space for. You want to give the reader as much information as you can about your experience. If the answer is no, explain why you haven’t had the opportunity to run a group and your desire to do so during internship. Yes, some of this information can also be found on your CV, but save the reader the time and put all the information where they can easily find it.

Triple Check

It’s finally finished. You have all the information listed and your cover letters and essays are uploaded. Now is the time to double and triple check it all. Print out the application and read it over. Have someone else read it all over. Make sure all your words are spelled correctly, sentences are completed, and your information is correct. Go back and check that all your cover letters are properly labeled and the right one is going to the right site. I was confident, but when I double checked, I found that I had uploaded the same cover letter to two different sites. A final tip — print all your letters to PDF format before uploading them, otherwise your formatting will be thrown off when the site prints or views it.

Once it’s all done and submitted, try to relax before the agony of waiting for interview emails kicks in. Enjoy this time — completing this application is a major accomplishment.

Final Thoughts

I wish I could tell you that above all, there was one trick, one section to focus on, one magical answer which would ensure success. I can’t, because there isn’t one. Every single section is just as important as the others because each internship site and each committee member will have their own system and preference for what is important in their search. It is all important. If you treat each section as if it is the most important one, you can’t go wrong.

The key to a winning application is one that is open, honest, accurate, fully completed, and highlights your accomplishments. And just remember, in a few months, you will be watching the next group of intern applicants turn pale as you prepare for the final step of graduate school as a psychology intern.

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