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You may consider asking people to serve as your reference as early as August – ask if they are available and willing to provide a strong recommendation for you. It’s okay if you don’t have all the supporting documents (see below) ready yet; you can mention that you will send more details to them in September when you are closer to finalizing your internship site list.
By early September, provide your letter writers the following:
- your CV
- bullet point list of your professional goals/interests;
- highlights of accomplishments, such as awards, publications, works in progress (e.g., the outcomes assessment project you’re doing at your practicum site), service (professional or student organization leadership positions);
- clinical supervisor comments from practicum evaluations, etc.
- AAPI Standard Reference Form (SRF)
- list of internship sites you are applying to
Each reference writer only needs to complete the SRF once; you will designate your letter writers in the AAPI online portal (early October). The writers will receive instructions on how to upload it directly to the AAPI online portal. Additionally, while the reference writer does not have to individually address the Standard Reference Form to each internship site, you should provide a list of internship sites you are applying to so they have a sense of your aspirations. Provide a deadline that is at least 7-10 days before your first deadline.
Q: How many reference letter writers should I have?
A: Most sites will ask for 2-3 letters of reference, so you should have at least 3. You get to choose which letters go to each site (although you will not be able to read them). If you send 3 letters, 2 of them should probably be from clinical supervisors (vs. research advisors).
Q: Who should I ask to write my letters?
A: People who know you well. Usually one letter will be from your primary advisor – they can speak to your overall grad school experience (they often have worked with you longer than your clinical supervisors). It’s helpful to have a letter from a supervisor that’s from a practicum setting that is similar to the kind of internship sites you are interested in applying to (e.g., VA supervisor for applying to VA internships).
Internship sites probably prefer that your letter writers are doctoral-level psychologists since they should be commenting on your doctoral-level training. I think it would be acceptable if you had a joint letter in some cases – e.g., master’s level supervisor (worked with you more closely) plus doctoral-level psychologist (provided didactic training, group supervision, oversaw training program).
Q: If a site only requires 2 reference letters, is it okay if I send more (3)?
A: This question gets asked almost every year on the APPIC intern list-serve. Some training directors respond, “sure! more is better.” Others respond, “hmm, you don’t follow directions.” So…it’s your call! (Personally, I’m more of a rule follower, so I’m more comfortable with following the site’s instructions.)
Q: Is it ok to get two letters from the same site?
A: If you have 3 letters from clinical supervisors, then it would be fine to have 2 letters from the same site. It gives the training review committee a better sense of your clinical skills if you can get letters from different clinical training placements. Ideally, you’d provide 2 strong letters from clinical supervisors at different training placements.
If you have a strong letter from your faculty advisor and feel the best letters you could get are 2 supervisors from the same site (most recently completed practicum training), then that would be okay. There are many (understandable) reasons folks don’t feel comfortable getting letters from previous training sites – wasn’t a great fit with supervisor (maybe they didn’t get to know you well), disruptive training experience (e.g., multiple supervisor transitions during a year that were unplanned), not a great training experience for you and doesn’t reflect what you’d like a letter to address.