Every application submitted through the AAPI Online service must include your responses to four essay questions. Many applicants will submit the same essay responses to all internship sites to which they apply. However, the AAPI Online provides you with the opportunity to tailor your essays to particular internship sites (or types of sites) if you prefer to do so. Thus, you have the option of sending the same set of essays to all of your sites or writing essays specific to a site or to a group of sites.
In the AAPI Online, essay responses are saved together as a “set” of four essays. Each essay should be no longer than 500 words. When you e-submit your applications to internship sites, you will designate which “set” of essay responses is to be sent to each site.
Example: Let's say you wanted to send the same essay responses to all of your sites, except for one site to which you wanted to send a different essay #1. To accomplish this, you would create two essay “sets”: Set “A” would include the four essays to be sent to all but one of your sites, while Set “B” would include the same essays #2, 3, and 4 and a different essay #1.
The contents of your essays must be your original writing, which is solely authored by you. Plagiarism of any kind is not acceptable.
Once you are ready to create your essays, you may begin by clicking on the “Add New Entry” button. On the next page, you will be asked to specify a title for this new essay set. You can specify any title that you prefer; however, we encourage you to choose a title that will clearly describe the site or type of site to which this essay set will be sent. This will help you accurately identify the proper essay set when you are e-submitting your applications.
The AAPI Online service allows you to compose your essays directly in the application, and will allow you to apply bold, italics, and other formatting as you compose the letter. While you are encouraged to use this feature, you may also compose them offline using your word processing program.
If you choose to compose your essays offline and paste it into the application, be aware that cutting and pasting, especially from Word, can bring invisible codes and hidden characters into the text box that may “count” as characters. As a result, you may find that the number of characters you think you entered appears incorrect. Additionally, these MS Word formatting characters can interfere with the web's formatting language, leading to text display problems common to copying and pasting from Word.
As a result, if you need to cut and paste from a word processing application and are experiencing any of the issues above, we recommend the following steps.
- Open Notepad on your PC (generally located in the Accessories folder in Windows) or TextEdit on your Mac.
- Copy your text from the original word processing program into Notepad or TextEdit, and save the file.
- Close the file, then open it again, and adjust spacing if needed.
- Select all of the text, copy it, and paste it into the application.
- Apply any special formatting (bold, italics, etc) directly in the application.
Once you are satisfied with your essays, Click “Save” to save them, and you will see that this new essay set has been added to the list of your saved essay sets.
From this page, you may also update your essay sets by clicking the blue button under “Update” on the right side of the screen. If you wish to delete an essay set, click on the red “x” button.
Note: Make sure to save this section by selecting the save button
Fall is in the air…the leaves are changing. It’s a time of transformation and reflection.
This is also the perfect time to reflect on who you are and how to express that to internship directors. One of the most important and most scrutinized materials in your APPIC internship application is the autobiographical essay (Essay #1), yet most students agree it is the hardest to write.
While there is no exact method that is “right,” there is some strategy to it, and below I’m sharing some tips for how to make the best impression and maximize the impact of your essay.
Tip #1: Make it Personal
There is very little in your application, apart from this essay, that really gives directors a feel for who you are as a person; this is entirely different than the credentials you submit that are focused exclusively on your training.
In addition to a good training fit (that I discussed in my last blog entry), directors want to work with someone they feel they can connect with, and this is your opportunity to reveal your personality to them.
Tip #2: Do not Reiterate Your CV
This essay should focus on you as a person, so while you need to keep it relevant (see #6), this means more than just a list of your training experiences or graduate school accomplishments. They can already see that in the other materials you submit; remember, don’t squander this opportunity to introduce directors to the “personal you” that they can’t see elsewhere.
Tip #3: Be Authentic
Be genuine. Be yourself. Don’t try to write an essay about something that you think sounds good but isn’t truly authentic; trying to figure out what kind of intern sites are looking for, and trying to create a narrative to fit that, is not a good strategy.
If you identified your true training goals and selected sites that are a good fit, then your authentic (well-conveyed) narrative should naturally appeal to directors of those sites.
When deciding on a focus for the autobiographical essay, consider what you really want to convey to directors, what quality or personal characteristic you possess that makes you uniquely you, and how that contributes to making you a more evolved or self-aware, or uniquely empathic, etc. emerging clinician.
Tip #4: Be Careful When Disclosing
If appropriate, consider discussing life-changing events that define who you are. Even negative life events such as loss, illness, adversity, etc. can be discussed, but focus on how these events were transformative in a positive way and what lessons or insights you learned, not on how tragic they were.
The emphasis should be on how you coped with it, learned from it, overcame it, and eventually, used it, to become more self-aware and grow from it. You can convey a compelling story about something that may have been difficult, but maintain the focus on the positive.
Tip #5: Be Compelling
This essay should move the reader and let him or her really get a glimpse of who you are. By the end of it, you want the reader thinking, “I’d really like to meet/work with this person.”
Try to stay away from clichés and the trap of writing about how you were “always interested in psychology” or “everyone always thought I was a good listener.” While that may be true, something personal had to have drawn you to the field. If you can identify that, and really create a sincere and engaging narrative about it, while tying it in to your evolution as a psychologist, you will have a more compelling (and successful) essay.
Tip #6: Keep it Relevant
Not everything that’s happened to us that we think is important will be relevant for this essay. Ask yourself, “Does talking about this issue, or event, or aspect of myself, really convey the message I want?” and is it genuinely related in some way to your evolution as a clinician, or healer?
Again, don’t “force” that connection; it should be a natural one. If it’s not, then reconsider the essay topic.
Tip #7: Make it Personal
If your interest in psychology was naturally more academic than related to a personal event or circumstance, or you would simply prefer not to talk about your private personal life, that’s ok. However, it still needs to be a personal essay, so consider some aspect of your work with patients that is genuinely compelling for you, and try to craft an essay around that.
You can start by thinking about a particular patient, or a specific moment with a patient(s) that truly moved you, or validated your desire and the meaning of being a healer. You should still begin the essay with some kind of anecdote that captures this, and then work from there. This can also make for a very compelling essay.
Tip #8: Engage the Reader
Remember, directors are reading LOTS of these essays, so keeping them engaged is half the strategy.
Having a compelling story with a well written narrative is necessary. Consider starting with a very engaging, or “seductive” first sentence that can really grab the reader, right from the beginning, and make them want to read on. It doesn’t have to be a long sentence, and it can even be a quote, a song lyric—anything that captures the essence of your message.
Start with that and build the essay around it. Make sure to somehow make reference to it at the end too; wrapping up your essay by connecting it back to the beginning is also a good strategy.
Tip #9: Write a Cohesive Essay
It should tell a story about you, with a beginning, middle and end. Make sure it sends a cohesive message about you. Try to utilize transitional sentences when bridging topics, and don’t forget a summary statement at the end that ties it all together and really brings your message home.
It should wrap back, at the end, to how this “story” about you ultimately translates into who you are (as a clinician) in the room with the patient. How is the aspect of yourself you decided to write about an asset as a therapist?
If it’s something transformative that really had an impact on you, chances are you have learned something profound from it about human nature, and about yourself, which helps your understanding of patients—so make sure to state that in some way.
Tip #10: Remember the Word Limit…Unless You’re Writing
We all know the word limit is 500, and I know doing everything I described above in 500 words or less is definitely a challenge. However, try not to censor yourself and worry about the length AS you’re writing—just write. You can edit later.
If you find your essay is way too long, consider whether you need a “hatchet” or “scalpel” approach—that is, can you cut entire sections or sentences without compromising the message or the quality of the writing, or do you perhaps need to go in and condense sentences and be more parsimonious in expressing yourself?
That being said, if you go up to 550 or even 560-ish, that’s ok; no director is going to think you are a “bad” match or that you can’t follow instructions because you went a little over 500 words; it’s a guideline, so use it as such. Do not make arbitrary cuts simply to reach that number. As long as it fits onto a single page with 1-inch margins, it should be ok.
Most directors just gauge the length by “eyeballing” it; no one is really counting words. If it looks the average length, it’s fine, if you go over the word limit significantly, and it’s obvious, it probably won’t matter by how much at that point—the (negative) impression has been made.
Tip #11: Don’t Forget it’s a Writing Sample!
Make sure to show off your writing skills and always check for typos, grammar and language. Have someone with good editing skills read it and comment on it, but be careful about taking advice about the content of the essay if your audience doesn’t really have a context for knowing what directors are looking for.
Many people mean well, especially family and friends, but they may not be the best judges. If you do want “lay” people—read: non-psychologists or those unconnected to the internship process—review it, then the best way to make the most out of it, rather than simply asking for open-ended feedback, is to give them a lot of context for it, and explain a little bit about what you aim to convey BEFORE they read the essay.
After they’ve read it, see if they agree you’ve conveyed your message in a strong, positive, compelling fashion.
Josephine Minardo, PsyD
Josephine S. Minardo, Psy.D. is an expert on psychology internship preparation. She has been running preparation workshops for over a decade and has been successfully coaching psychology internship applicants for several years through Psych Internship Prep, a unique consulting service for psychology graduates students looking for assistance with internship. Dr. Minardo has been involved in, and created, many events that offer advice, strategies and successful tips on applying to internship. From 2000-2008, she organized the annual New York State Psychological Association (NYSPA) Internship Fair, along with presenting her workshop, and Dr. Minardo has also presented internship preparation seminars for several other state psychological associations.