New Tools for Affording and Repaying Graduate School

Posted in Graduate School, Training Issues

Affording and Repaying Grad School

On our APAGS website, we recently published a page with tools and materials sorted into four key areas:

  1. Education costs and affordability
  2. Aid, grants and funding opportunities
  3. Loan repayment and forgiveness
  4. Financial fitness

Please visit our new webpage to get information on any of these areas. No matter what phase of an academic career you’re in (a prospective, current, or recent graduate student) there’s likely a link or two to help you. Links consist of materials APA publishes and also materials vetted by APAGS staff.

Match Day 2015: The Dialectic of the Internship Crisis

Posted in Advice, Graduate School, Training Issues

Correction (9:00pm): Due to an editorial mistake, not the author’s, the Phase I match rate was reported in the original post to be 90%. The actual figure is 82% and has been corrected below. The 90% figure represents the possibility of all students who submitted rank lists matching to all available positions after the completion of APPIC Phases I, II, and the Post Match Vacancy Service; however, a small number of positions historically remain unfilled each year. We regret the error. 

Today is the day. The day that students enrolled in clinical, counseling, and school psychology programs have been anxiously and excitedly anticipating for months. Today is “Match Day” for internship, the culmination of a journey from applications to interviews to ranking…to waiting.

For many students, the process itself is wrought with complicated emotions, financial stress, and moments of both triumph and struggle. The match today will mean celebration for many students as they reap the rewards of their hard work. Even for some who did match, conflicting emotions may emerge as they consider the implications of moving away from friends, families, partners, and in some cases children, to complete their training. For others, it is a day of disappointment and heartache as they receive the news that they did not match and are forced to face the difficult decision of how to move forward.

The internship crisis continues to be a huge concern for many graduate students in psychology. For those who might not be familiar with this issue, trainees are required to obtain a doctoral internship to satisfy graduation and licensure requirements. Yet, there are not enough internship positions to meet demand.

In 2013 and 2014, the crisis has demonstrated some overall improvement. There have been significant efforts on behalf of many in the education and training communities to influence our numbers, including internship stimulus funds, partnering with colleagues creatively to create new sites, and other efforts. The data from 2015 again show improvement. This is the great dialectic of our time: There has been improvement, and yet we can and must do better.

The Stats

The 2015 Phase I match statistics, released today, show the following:

  • 4,247 students entered the match, with 3,928 completing the process and submitting a rank-order list
  • 3,684 positions were available in the match, including 2,732 accredited positions
  • 3,239 students matched to any internship site in Phase I of the match
  • 2,600 students matched an accredited internship site in Phase I

Taken together, the 2015 match rate for all applicants to the match in Phase I is 82% (up from 80% in 2014). Meanwhile, the rate for all applicants to an an APA- or CPA- accredited internship in Phase I is 66% (up from 62% in 2014). There is more work to be done.

The 2015 match rate in Phase I is 82% (up from 80% in 2014); it is 66% for applicants to APA- and CPA-accredited internships (up from 62%).

An important note: APPIC data at Phase I tells just some of the story. When we look at the crisis as it relates to only students from APA accredited doctoral programs going to accredited internships (source), the numbers show small signs of improvement. We don’t yet have the latest data from APA’s Commission on Accreditation, but from 2011 to 2014 we can see some modest gains:

Internship year Match rate of students from APA-accredited doc programs to any internship Match rate of students from APA-accredited doc programs to APA-accredited internships
2011-2012 83.1% 51.9%
2012-2013 88.8% 54.6
2013-2014 90.1% 57.7%

Another dialectic—improvement, but not enough.

The Crisis Continues

The fact that 34% of students from accredited programs — that were deemed to be ready for internship by their programs — did not match to an accredited site should be a concern for all in the training community. This is not just a problem for training programs or internship sites. It is the responsibility of the psychology community at large to address this issue for the future of our profession.

As APAGS past-chair Jennifer Doran highlighted last year, there is so much more to the match than the data. The emotional toll, financial stress, and consequences of not matching weigh heavily. To advocates, the data matters. To individual students, these factors will count for more than any compiled statistic when describing the internship crisis.

What is APAGS Doing?

The crisis remains a key issue that APAGS collaborates with key stakeholders to address. We have tirelessly advocated for efforts that address the crisis and are partnering with others in the training community to find innovative ways to address the crisis. Some of the highlights of our efforts and advocacy include:

  • Last year, APAGS produced a video highlighting multiple aspects of the crisis in addition to advocacy, awareness and action steps students and psychologists can take to end the crisis. We need you to help spread the message in this video.
  • APAGS partnered with APA Past-President Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D. and others in the training community during the 2014 APA Convention to present innovative solutions to the crisis. We are currently working toward ways to implement the ideas presented during this panel.
  • APAGS supported the passage of APA’s Internship Stimulus Package in 2012, providing $3 million in grant funding to increase the number of accredited internship positions. As of December 2014, this money resulted in 10 internship programs receiving accreditation, 27 internship programs with pending accreditation, and at least 57 internship positions. Remaining funds will also be allocated toward further creative efforts in ameliorating the crisis, including helping states seek Medicaid reimbursement for intern services.
  • APAGS formed an Internship Working Group to analyze and promote solutions to the internship crisis. In July 2012, APAGS released a policy and expanded response to explain how it will continue to advocate on multiple fronts for graduate students.
  • APAGS has compiled some of its actions since 2000 to mitigate this problem, and further describes its latest actions in a 2014 journal article.
  • APAGS and other departments in APA are developing a toolkit of resources to help psychology training programs advocate for Medicaid reimbursement for intern. This may help entice the creation of and funding for more internship positions.
  • APAGS staff attend several regional psychology conferences each year to teach prospective grad students how to decipher publicly available data related to internship match and 14 other factors.  We also produced a recorded webinar on this topic.
  • APAGS is attending the annual meetings of many psychology training councils to promote the development of new internships.

What the Future Holds

The trends have been positive over the last few years, but change has continued to be slow. There is no simple solution to the crisis. We know it will require multifaceted and creative solutions to continue the trend in a positive direction. There is much that trainees and psychologists alike can do to make a difference. The links I’ve shared, particularly to our video (which I’ll embed below) provide steps individuals at all levels can take today to make a difference for next year and future students.

APAGS would like to congratulate the students and programs celebrating today’s match results. We commend you on your accomplishments. You might wonder what to do now that you have matched, and APAGS has resources for you.

APAGS would also like to extend support for those of you who received disappointing news and did not match today. We have resources and support for you as well. For our colleagues and friends who did not match today, we as a psychology community need to offer them our support and encouragement.

The dialectic of change is that it is difficult and necessary. We have already made positive change, and APAGS is working to continue to advocate for students and ameliorate the crisis. I would like to encourage everyone, regardless of your outcome, to share your story, in the comments section, on our Facebook page, or personally. Please contact me or APAGS staff with your thoughts, ideas, and concerns. We are here to support you. Together, we can all make change.

New Webisode: The Internship Match and Rankings

Posted in Advice, Graduate School

If you are a clinical, counseling, or school psychology doc student and you know what “AAPI” and “February 20″ mean, there’s a good chance you’re an applicant to doctoral internships. To help you during this time, APAGS has a new webisode on the match! Dr. Greg Keilin will take you through the match process — including suggestions about how to best rank sites, and how to make sense of the differences between Phase I, Phase II, and vacancy listings. In the time it takes to watch a sitcom, check out  this friendly webisode.

See #internship on this blog for more videos, articles, and other resources and check out our internship workbook for even more details.

Taking Care of Yourself in Graduate School

Posted in Advice, Graduate School

MPj04330550000[1]Congratulations – you are accepted into graduate school! Whew! It is such hard work to get into a graduate program that it is sometimes hard to remember to take care of yourself once you get there. There are so many things to be involved in, so many things you have to do and learn. And you want to give your absolute best to everything you do.

It is easy to become so engaged in all of this that you forget to take the time to nurture your whole self –the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. It is important to find a way to balance all these aspects of your life and maintain that balance throughout your graduate school years. You will spend many hours, reading, going to class, doing research, and seeing clients; however, to be truly successful you also have to make sure to keep your life in balance. This may actually be one of the hardest things you have to learn and, as someone who learned much of this the hard way, I offer a few suggestions that were helpful to me. I hope they can be useful to you.

First, keep in mind why it is you are in graduate school. What drew you to psychology? What does it mean to you to become a psychologist? What do you really see yourself doing in the future?

It is important to be really specific about answering these questions because you will need the motivation that comes from that specific vision often during your graduate school career.

  • If your answer is something non-specific like, “I want to help people”, it may help you to work on a more specific answer. Which people? Adults? Children? People with specific characteristics, issues, experiences? Try to really picture what you will be doing as a psychologist, who you will be working with, and the setting you will work in. When things get tough and you wonder if you made the right choice in pursuing a Ph.D., when you wonder if you should commit five years of your life, when you wonder if it should be these five years, when you wonder if you can really do this – what will sustain you is remembering the reasons you thought becoming a psychologist was important. It is not a bad idea to write these reasons down, represent them with a picture, videotape yourself talking about them, or engage in any other things that will help you remember exactly why becoming a psychologist was important to you.

Second, make sure that you are always doing something that you really love.

If what you love is clinical work, make sure you have something you are doing in that area in the midst of a semester heavy on research or theory. Even if your courses are arranged in such a way that you have a semester lacking in clinical focus, you can watch videos of psychotherapy, shadow a colleague’s case, or read just ten pages a day on clinical techniques. If research is your passion and you feel that all your time is being taken by practica and clinical work, make sure you give yourself the time to read the latest study in your favorite journal, attend a colloquia, or just talk to a colleague about their research. The point is that going a whole semester with no attention to the things that really make you happy can make you forget why you are doing this. Sometimes you get so buried that you cannot even remember the things that make you happy. That is the time to get out your writing, your picture, your videotape or whatever you did to document why this was all important for you to do at this time in your life.

  • You will always be busy, and if you are doing what you love, that busy-ness should bring you joy. If it is all just about what has to be done, if there is no joy, you need to find a way to reconnect. You might feel that you are so busy that you cannot fit another single thing in your day or your week. But if you think about the time that it takes when you do not want to get out of bed, when you watch a TV show you do not even really care about just so you can avoid doing what you are “supposed” to be doing, or the “just one more” video game you engage in before you get to work on your thesis – you will probably be able to find the time. If you are not sure what it is that you really love, think back to why you started this. In that, you will likely find the seed of what you love to do.

Finally, one of the most important things I have learned is how important it is to have something in my life that allows me to feel a sense of accomplishment.

When I was in graduate school, I was starting a placement at an emergency youth shelter for children and adolescents who had been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. My supervisor invited us over to his house for a BBQ. When we were all there, he said he wanted to show us something important and took us to his garage. Inside, was an amazing array of handmade furniture, in every phase of being cut out, built, finished, and polished. He told us that in our work, we very often do not get to see the outcomes. If people are doing well, they do not come in to see us. Often, working with children, they get sent off to placements, return home, or run away and we never know what happened to them. If we are going to survive in this profession, we have to give ourselves something that we can stand back and say, “I did that. It is finished.” For my supervisor, it was building his furniture. I have never forgotten this lesson and it has come back to me in many ways over the years since.

  • If you find yourself feeling strangely gratified by sweeping the floor — watching the pile of dirt come together, getting it all into the pan, and then throwing it away — you probably have a need for a sense of accomplishment in your life. Theses and dissertations, preliminary exams, and internship applications are wonderful sources of accomplishment but they are few and far between. We need something more concrete, frequent, and often visible. Our work does not often present us with a pile in an “In basket” that will all get transferred by the end of the day to an “Out basket”. We need to find something that can give us as much pleasure as taking an empty box, filling it with objects, taping it up, writing the contents on the side and piling it in an ever-growing stack. Even though it is annoying to realize that everything you need is in one of those boxes, it is an amazing sense of accomplishment to see the stack of boxes piling up. What can you give yourself that gives you that sense of accomplishment. And when you tell yourself you do not have the time for it, remember that you cannot afford not to. You have to nourish your spirit as much as your mind.

Remember that it is all about balance. Graduate school will build your mind and your skills. Don’t forget about your joy, your passion, your friends and loved ones, your spiritual life. These are the parts of your life that will get you through the long run of graduate study, will guide you in your work, and allow you to give the best of what you have to the work you choose to do.

Editor’s note: This post was written by Beth Boyd, PhD, Professor; University of South Dakota. It originally appeared on the Multicultural Mentoring blog by the Society of Clinical Psychology’s Section on the Clinical Psychology of Ethnic Minorities. (APA Division 12, Section 6). It is reposted here with generous permission. Over time, you will see all eight original posts on gradPSYCH Blog.


Searching for Academic Employment After Your Doctorate

Posted in Advice, Graduate School

For those of you unfamiliar with the Hunger Games Trilogy books and movies, the Hunger Games are set in the dystopian future of the United States where adolescent male and female participants from each of the 12 districts (states) must compete in a televised battle where they fight to the death.

While this may sound very different from graduate school, there are some similarities that can be drawn and you may feel yourself as a competitor in a battle arena trying to find that perfect post-doctoral employment opportunity.

There is growing evidence that there are not enough tenure track positions for the number of doctorates being awarded, including those with degrees in psychology. According to an article in The Atlantic, less than 20% of those graduating with life sciences PhDs in 2011 had direct employment lined up. While the vast majority obtains postdoctoral training (44%), 37% do not have postdoctoral fellowships or employment positions and are essentially un/underemployed.

For comparison, the unemployment rate in 2013 for those without a high school diploma was 29%. These “unemployed” doctoral recipients may not in fact be unemployed, but rather “underemployed” where they cannot find an adequate full-time position that reflects their educational training.

There is also increasing evidence that the number of full-time tenure track positions have been steadily decreasing, with the majority of college faculty being part-time employees. At public four-year colleges in 2009, 46% of professors were employed part-time. Within private colleges, the split between full- and part-time was closer to 50/50. With the increase in demand for professors since the mid-20th century due to college enrollment increases, there has been an increase in adjunct faculty by 300%—without the same increase for tenure-track positions.

So what can you do as a graduate student in order to increase the odds in your favor? A recent gradPSYCH blog post by Nabil El-Ghoroury, paraphrased below, offers four helpful tips that graduate students in all disciplines can benefit from:

  1. Ally with your colleagues. Build alliances during graduate school by developing collaborative projects with fellow students. Funding agencies prefer collaborative grants, and you may be able to generate more publications through these collaborations.
  2. Learn helpful skills. Think about what you need to land your academic dream job, and pursue opportunities to gain these skills. Departments are always looking for professors who can teach statistics or research methods, or you may want to gain experience with cutting-edge techniques such as fMRI to make you a more appealing job candidate.
  3. Advocate for more resources. Advocacy for increased funding for science research at the federal and state levels could lead to increases in research faculty positions. Instead of deleting those emails calling for advocacy to your representatives, take the time to respond.
  4. Create an alternative path to victory. You may discover in graduate school that academia isn’t for you. With a psychology doctorate you have a skill set that can translate to many nontraditional careers. Take the time to search for alternative career opportunities and seek guidance and insight from someone currently in a nontraditional career.

Alexa Lopez headshotEditor’s note: This post originally appeared in near-identical form in the November 2014 newsletter for APA Division 28, Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse. Alexa Lopez is 2013-2015 Chair of the APAGS Science Committee, doctoral graduate from the University of Vermont, and current postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University.