While reflecting back on the internship match process, a lot of mixed emotions surfaced like anger, anxiety, sadness, acceptance, and elation. Sounds a lot like the five stages of grief because that is exactly what it felt like, being rejected the first time.
Not getting matched is the worst imaginable outcome for any psychology student. “The Match” is a horrible process to go through once and the idea of going through it twice is daunting. So much time is spent planning, writing, reviewing, redrafting, and rewriting essays. Then after spending weeks or months of selecting the ultimate internship list you have enough hope to charge your credit card over and over and over again. Hoping and waiting to hear back from the sites you are really interested in for internship. But one by one they slip through your fingers. Self-doubt and negativity begin to set in. You start to question your competency and think about what you could have done differently. Unfortunately, after going through all the rounds of the match process it began to set in that I will have to reapply for next year.
Goodness of fit was my most important factor for selecting the right internship. It was difficult to imagine selecting an internship that would cause me misery for one year. There were some sites I interviewed at the first time and did not even rank them because I knew it was not a good fit for my style of learning or career goals. The idea of waiting another year was devastating. It felt like I was being left behind while friends moved on with their careers and I was just stuck. It was embarrassing to tell people that I did not match and I wanted to forget it even happened. Then it hit me that in only a few months the process begins again. There was little time to sulk and mentally process what just happened. My advice for all future applicants is to be prepared and feel confident to not rank less than ideal sites even if that means waiting another year. It was worth the wait for me!
To prepare for attempt No. 2, I asked my friends’ internship directors to review my essays and CV for feedback. I examined clinical areas to improve and gain further experience. A lot of time was spent talking with my previous practicum supervisors for emotional support and keep them updated with my progress of reapplying for internship. Not only was I relying on others for support but I was also engaging in a lot of positive self-talk. Time was spent reminding myself that students go through this process two or even three times and they still become successful psychologists. I had to keep pushing myself forward and have a positive outlook on my future. It took me a while, but I realized waiting one more year was not the end of the world.
Before I knew it, the next round of coordinating flights, hotels, car rentals, and hoping to avoid disastrous weather began. When scheduling flights I made sure to avoid certain airports that are notorious for delays during bad winter weather (I’m looking at you Chicago). Due to scheduling conflicts, I had to decide which internship sites to decline their invitation to interview. Luckily some of the interviews were in December or spaced a week apart in January. However, during my most busy week, I had three interviews in four days.
For the first interview, I flew into a major city then drove three hours to a very small town during an ice storm. After the interview was over I hopped in the car and drove across the state to my second interview for the next day. As a note, while you fly and drive to interviews the only food you really eat is unhealthy fast food especially if you are in small towns. It was nice that this second interview site took the applicants out to a restaurant for lunch. I made sure to order the healthiest item on the menu and man was that not the best tasting broccoli I have ever had! After the second interview, I had to wake up the next morning at 3:00am to catch a flight because my next interview was in the afternoon that same day. I needed to walk off the plane and be prepared for the interview because there was no time to check into a hotel and get ready. If my flight was delayed or if there was an accident on the highway then I would have likely been late for the interview. Everything had to be timed perfectly. When I reached my final interview I was actually in a lot of physical pain. The back of my legs were sore from sitting in Planes, Interviews, and Automobiles. It was painful to sit so I stood and stretched while waiting to be interviewed. After a physically and emotionally draining week it was finally over.
Some consider ranking the sites to be the most stressful aspect of The Match. It is almost like a mind game of guessing where each site will rank you and trying to be strategic with each site. There is a big deal made about being accepted to an APA-Accredited site versus Non-APA. In a perfect world the only things that should matter are our clinical, personal, and professional skills. It is a ridiculous process but in the end everything will work itself out. Personally, I was more concerned about ranking sites based on goodness of fit rather than accreditation status. Leave the mind games out of the equation! Ask yourself if you can work at a site for one year or even longer. Would you be able to build a positive and effective relationship with the supervisors? Will an internship provide new experiences? Will you feel a part of a supportive and collaborative team or will you be a work horse?
During this whole process, it is important to stay calm and not allow distractions spill into the interview. Everyone will have some sort of “horror story” about their travels and interviews. While you are interviewing, the outside world does not exist and you should not worry about the next adventure. It is not only important to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for interviews but also physically, as I had learned. Be sure to exercise, stretch, and find time for healthier food options. You will spend countless hours reviewing each interview site trying to come up with the best answers for potential questions you may be asked. Try to relax, enjoy the process, and be yourself.
This is the nature of the beast that is called The Match.
Jonathan Torres, M.S.
WKPIC Doctoral Intern
*Director’s note: We’re pretty sure Jon picked us because we fed him a healthy lunch… Kidding! Mostly… 🙂 We are very proud to have him, and all of our interns. Our message is as always–you will get through this, and we have faith that you, our young clinicians, will not only survive but thrive in the field. Good luck to all of you!