BEFORE YOU ARRIVE
Identify settings in which you may be interested in working (such as community health, hospitals, college counseling, forensic, etc…)
Research sites in which you are interested. Talk to teachers, supervisors, friends, and visit the website. Have a general sense of what populations they serve, what services they provide.
Try and gauge how competitive the site is and make sure you have a diverse list of sites ranked by competitiveness prior to heading into the fair
Try and also get a feel of what the culture of the site is, does a particular site have a more rigid work structure or do the allow you more autonomy and freedom? You can gauge this by talking to students who were externs during previous years and in doing so you can begin to get an idea if the culture of the site is a good fit for you or not.
Dress Professionally. Ask yourself if would you want a potential future supervisor to see you in what you are wearing.
AT THE FAIR
As you enter the practicum fair take a moment to locate one of the student mentors greeting attendees as they arrive. These students will be wearing bright colored marked shirts and are there to aid attendees with whatever they need. Mentors are all 4th and 5th year students who have plenty of experience with this process. Be sure and utilize this valuable perk at the Practicum Fair this year.
Make eye contact.
Remember to breathe.
Engage the representative in a meaningful conversation about the opportunities available at the site based on what you already know, while finding out more. It is very appealing when a prospective applicant is knowledgeable of and interested in the specific site and what is has to offer.
Do not linger too long if there are others waiting to speak to the representative. Remember you can always come back later when there are not as many people and say that you have a follow up question. Use good judgment in this regard.
Ask for business cards or contact information in case you have questions at a later time.
Thank them for their time.
GOOD QUESTIONS TO ASK: This may be the most important part of the Practicum fair. Many supervisors express that they appreciate students who ask questions. Prepare for the fair by having several generic questions available to you prior to attending the fair (see examples below), but tailor site-specific questions to make a connection with the representative. If you make an impression at the fair you can send a thank you note later in the week and follow up with mention of the conversation in your cover letter. Some of these receive more than 100 applications each year, so it can help to stand out. Making connections at the fair can be an important part of the application process. Some examples of questions include:
“Would your site offer me the opportunity to ….?”
“Can you tell me about any unique training opportunities available for a therapy
practicum student at your site?”
“Do you have any information I can take with me?”
“What qualities in an extern are a good fit for your site?”
“What do you look for in an extern?”
“How many testing batteries do most externs end up with at the end of the year?”
“What type of theoretical orientation does your site predominantly adhere to?”
“How competitive would you consider the site?”
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Stop by the IPAGS table, get information, and sign up to be in the loop on issues affecting psychology graduate students!
Check out the panel discussion for all 1st and 2nd year students. The discussion is very informative and as a result well attended, try and get a seat early because last year it was standing room only.
Ask yourself if you have gathered enough information about the sites you were interested in and if not try you may want to grab a student mentor and ask them for some assistance and opinions on what other information you might want to gather.
Complete the Practicum Fair Evaluation form. Your feedback will help shape next year’s event.
Feel free to send a follow-up email or note, thanking the representative for their time. It may be helpful to mention the practicum fair in your cover letter of the application materials as well.
Continue to gather information by talking to peers, professors, clinicians and colleagues. Time and effort invested during the beginning of the application process is well spent.
Feel free to contact the any of the student mentors or IPAGS to answer questions or give advice on how to negotiate the externship application process. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org