Your cover letter is the first impression Internship Directors/Reviewers have of you, and also where they will be looking to determine how strong of a “match” and well suited you are for their site. Below are some tips that will help you craft your tailored (but templated) cover letter. YES, it can still be a template! It is not the best strategy, or use of time, for you to write an original cover letter for each site you are applying to. While each should appear to be, and read as though, it is in fact written specifically for each site, it is not necessary to write each cover letter “from scratch.” Here’s how…
PARAGRAPH 1 – This should simply be a brief introduction that includes the following:
- Which program/specific track you are applying for.
- Who you are (what graduate program you are in, which year of training, etc.).
- List anything you are including as supplemental materials so there is never any question you sent them.
PARAGRAPH 2 (and BEYOND) – The central task of your cover letter should be to address the question: “How do you envision this internship site meeting your training goals and interests?”
ELEMENTS OF A GOOD COVER LETTER: You should aim to include the following elements. There is no exact order and this can be done in a variety of ways.
- State your internship goals (and possibly short-term and/or long-term goals) as precisely as possible with regard to this site.
- Explain why these are your goals: What led you to want to devote internship year to this? These goals should make sense with your training history.
- Make an explicit declarative statement about this site being a good fit with your goals (i.e. “….makes your site is the ideal setting for me….” OR “your site would be an excellent fit with my training goals”) AND any other similar language.
- Explain how this site is a good fit with your goals by mentioning specific past experiences that are relevant to this site (what you bring to the site) and how a particular rotation or aspect of this site achieves certain training goals for you (what the site can offer you).
Be sure to both STATE and ILLUSTRATE your points throughout your cover letter. If it is only a series of statements without supporting what you are saying with an illustration, or “connecting the dots” for the reader, you lose out on making the strongest impression of a good fit, and the letter runs the risk of feeling generic. Additionally, you want to “prime” the reader with explicit statements about the fact that you ARE a good fit, so you are both leading them to that conclusion (through illustrations) and also making that conclusion for them up front (with explicit statements).
CONTINUE THE “FORMULA” THROUGHOUT THE COVER LETTER:
- Make strong positive statements about your fit or match with the site
- Identify clear internship goals & explain why they are important to your overall professional development
- State & illustrate how the site offering will meet your goals
- State & illustrate how your past training experiences have prepared you well for an internship at this site, with specific reference to certain offerings
ADDITIONAL PARAGRAPHS CAN INCLUDE:
- Other more specific training goals and how site-specific offerings match these goals.
- Some highlights from your current or previous training that are important to you in your professional development and relate to a specific quality of the internship site (e.g., supervision, a rotation, specialty, orientation).
- A particular supervisor or faculty at their site whose work you know and respect. Always explain why and make sure that this person is still working there.
FINAL PARAGRAPH – This should be a summary of your main points including:
- That you ARE a good match with the site, or that the site IS a good match with your internship goals.
- A sentence or 2 with a short list of the most appealing aspects of the site for you and why you are applying there.
- A reiteration of your internship/professional goals.
- A statement that primes the reader to invite you for an interview such as “I am looking forward to meeting with you to discuss my interests further.”
OTHER THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
- Your cover letter is the FIRST thing directors will see, so make sure the first impression is a good one.
- Do not send a generic cover letter. It must be site-specific if you want to ensure your reader believes you are a good match, but you do not need to write each letter from scratch.
- As instructed above, make a template and simply tailor key sentences or words/phrases; if your training goals are specific and genuine, most cover letters will not be too different.
- If you are applying to more than one kind of setting, you may need a different template for each setting, i.e., if you are applying to child site, you will want to emphasize your child work and goals related to this, whereas if you are applying to a VA you will want to emphasize your work with adults, with medical settings, collaborating with multi-disciplinary teams, etc. Consider a different template for:
- Major Medical Centers
- Community Mental Health Centers (outpatient)
- College Counseling Centers
- Child vs. Adult sites
- Neuropsychology or Health focused
- Make sure you send the correct cover letter to the intended site. Seeing the names of other sites can offend some directors and demonstrate carelessness, so check your work!