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Cover letters outline why the site is a good fit for you and your professional goals –
- The fit is how well an internship program’s training opportunities match your interests, qualifications*, and career goals. FIT is the number one consideration in the internship application process (yes, according to research).
- The internship cover letter is different from a job cover letter – you are striking a balance between showcasing your skills and experience and identifying where you still want to learn and grow during internship year. Thus, do not focus only on your qualifications and experience – speak to why you are drawn to the internship program too (they want to hear about why you think they are so awesome)! (More details below)
- While it’s acceptable to develop a cover letter template, a generic letter will not be very convincing for a training committee to invite you for an interview. Some training committees read the cover letter first – you can have an amazing CV, but if you don’t explain why you’re interested in their specific training opportunities, they will have difficulty envisioning you as part of their program. Therefore, if the training program includes rotations, you should identify which rotations you’re interested in and why (this is also an opportunity to reference your relevant experience).
*Qualifications do not mean you must have the exact experience that the internship site is offering. It does mean that you have a solid foundation and relevant/overlapping experience that has prepared you for advanced training. Your materials should reflect a demonstrated interest in the various professional goals you’ve identified.
For example – You are interested in an internship program that includes working with adolescents diagnosed with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, in a residential or inpatient setting.
Scenario 1: You have not worked with adolescents in an inpatient unit, but you have taken several courses in serious mental illness (SMI) and have had a few SMI clients; you have worked with adolescents in a community mental health setting; or you have worked with adults on an inpatient unit. [reflects a demonstrated interest – comes across as a better fit]
Scenario 2: On the other hand, it would be a hard sell to apply to an internship site focused on inpatient work with adolescents, and you have only worked with adults in outpatient settings and have not taken any coursework in child/adolescent therapy or serious mental illness. [where’s the demonstrated interest? How does the internship site know you are really interested in the work versus maybe applying for the program because it’s in a geographic location you desire?]
Organizing your cover letter
Length – around 1 page to 1.5 page (11 or 12 point font with 1-1.5 inch margins; single-spaced; with internship program address as heading)
- Introduction of yourself and your degree program (e.g., Ph.D. in counseling psychology, Psy.D. in clinical psychology, etc.);
- Mention briefly why the internship program is a good fit for your training goals
- e.g., I am especially interested in the training opportunities for conducting crisis intervention and outreach since my goal is to work with a diverse student population in a college counseling center.
- Or – e.g., XYZ’s offering of multiple rotations fit well with my professional goal to become a well-rounded generalist psychologist who works in an integrated health setting as I believe an interdisciplinary approach is very important in providing care. I am especially interested in the inpatient clinic, primary care, and PTSD rotations.
- Talk about your professional goals by the end of the first paragraph – this will help give the reader some context of how their internship program would help you reach your goals. Providing a framework of “these are my goals” helps them make sense of the following paragraphs instead of leaving them wondering what your point is.
- Organize your paragraphs by your interest in training opportunities (e.g., PTSD rotation, crisis hotline, outreach to LGBTQ students, supervision of practicum students), not by chronological order of your clinical experiences. Integrate your interest in their program offerings throughout your letter, not just in the first and last paragraphs.
- State your interest in one of their training opportunities (could be a rotation, like health psychology, or a modality, like group therapy).
- Reference your relevant previous experience (i.e., coursework, clinical training) and brief commentary about what you liked about it/learned from it
- Reiterate what you’re looking forward to in that training opportunity, especially if they offer something above and beyond your previous training/experience.
Again – format of paragraph = a) mention internship program’s training opportunity; b) reference your training and experience; and c) reiterate the fit of the training opportunity with your internship goals. (A common mistake is to focus only on your experience without explicitly tying it to a training opportunity that the internship is offering.)
e.g., I am very interested in the opportunity to deepen my training in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and am excited that Y internship program has a rotation in DBT group therapy. In my practicum at X Clinic, I utilized some DBT techniques with individual clients with my supervisor’s guidance and saw how quickly clients found symptom relief once they learned how to apply emotional regulation skills. I look forward to more extensive training and co-leading a DBT group during internship year to expand my DBT intervention techniques.
- Briefly reiterate why you believe the internship program is a good fit for your training and professional goals.
- I personally don’t find it particularly helpful when people write about how “detail-oriented, hardworking, and passionate” they are since those are subjective characteristics. Instead, you want to demonstrate those qualities through your materials (e.g., minimal typos on your CV, a range of experiences on your CV), early submission of your application materials, and/or thoughtful discussions during interviews.
- It’s not necessary to list your contact information at the end since it’s part of your AAPI.
Based on the cover letter templates you’ve developed, tailor each cover letter to the specific training opportunities you’re interested in for each internship program you’re applying to. Do not use the generic “I’m interested in your site” – just write out the name of the site so they don’t feel like it’s a form letter (even though it’s based on a template).
Your goal is for the cover letter to flow easily so the reader only has to read through it once to understand why their internship program will help you continue toward your training and professional goals.