Advice on Applying for Internship


KayLoni Olson
Chair, Student Advisory Council

We sat down with Karen Oliver, PhD  of Brown University’s Clinical Psychology Training Consortium (coordinator of the Health/Behavioral Medicine Track) to better understand how one program approaches the application review process.


Q and A session with Karen Oliver, PhD

1. You are the track coordinator for the Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine track at the training consortium of Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Tell us a little bit about your role?

I coordinate the Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine internship training for the Brown Clinical Psychology Training Consortium. This involves supervision and management of training for seven interns in the Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine track, direction of the Admissions Process for the Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine Track, and working closely with the Health Psychology/Behavioral Medicine faculty to coordinate intern training.

2. So, you’ve reviewed a lot of internship applications. What things do you consider when you review applications? What are the talking points when the committee sits down to make a final decision on an application?

We consider a variety of factors, including depth and breadth of clinical training, quantity and quality of behavioral medicine/health psychology training, research interests and productivity, career goals, dissertation status, letters of recommendation, clinical hours, and personal factors, including diversity and/or unique life experiences.

3. What are key things that make an application stand out to you?

Thoughtful, well-written essays, very strong letters of recommendation, novel or interesting research experiences, high levels of productivity, high quality clinical experiences with health psychology/behavioral medicine populations or settings, strong match with our program in both clinical and research domains, unique personal factors (e.g., cultural background).

4. What types of things could ruin an otherwise competitive application?

TYPOS. There is no bigger turn off than an application with typos, misspelled names of faculty, or obvious cutting and pasting from other applications. Other red flags include significant concerns documented by letter of recommendation writers, low levels of productivity in an otherwise strong graduate training program, and/or lack of fit with our clinical/research training offerings.

5. Students keep hearing that internship is “all about the fit”. What does that mean to you?

It means that your interests, experiences, and career goals are in line with the training and opportunities that our program offers.

6. Career development is a passion of yours, what advice do you have for students as they prepare for the capstone of their clinical training?

Be able to clearly express your goals and interests, both in your application and verbally in your interviews. Spend time reading about the programs you are applying to and develop higher level questions that show you are familiar with the program, and be able to discuss why you are a good match. Try to make your application stand out in some way, either through your CV or through your essays. Talk with others who were successful in the internship match process.


More tips to get you started:   

  1. Begin finalizing your list. Spend time familiarizing yourself with the APPIC search engine so you can search for sites that fit your training needs (also, start thinking about your training needs!). Review training program brochures to start getting a feel for the different types of opportunities available. Make special note of the deadlines for application submission—they vary across programs but tend to fall within a general window of a few weeks from the end of October through mid-November.
  2. Think about your letter writers. Most supervisors will end up writing many letters this time of year. Be considerate of their time by emailing or meeting with them as soon as possible to request an internship letter. Ask what they need from you to make sure they can write the strongest letter possible. Think about specific aspects of your training that each letter writer will be especially able to highlight or comment on in their letter.
  3. Start drafting your essays. You will need to write four essays for your application. Unlike a lot of the writing we do during graduate training, these essays are very brief but need to pack a punch. Start writing as soon as possible to give yourself plenty of time to revise, ask for feedback, and finalize. Try putting pen to paper without any expectations or editing to simply get the process going. Trust yourself to edit it the next time around. It’s always easier once you have something to work from moving forward!
  4. Don’t forget about self-care. This is a marathon, not a sprint!