You have your target, now it is time to be brave enough to see your fate!
As the field of Child Life is becoming fiercely competitive and with the ACLP’s changing guidelines here within the coming years, it can seem overwhelming, and often times discouraging to apply for programs, especially practicum and internship.
Even when I first began applying, the first thing I asked myself was:
How do I stand out?
It can get frustrating. It was hard for me to accept the fact that there was always someone who was just a wee smidge better than me. Believe me, I almost contemplated giving up, despite how close I was. I often batted my head on the table thinking “What am I missing? What am I doing that no one is telling me?
Well, fortunately my lads and lassies, I am here to give you my piece of advice. I think it’s important to have someone help answer some of those lingering questions.
Here is my list of tips you will want to consider to standing out on your applications:
- Get in a Master’s program. With the ACLP requirements for certification changing in the next 5 years, a Masters will be expected. You will develop skills and network in ways that are beneficial for your application process. Also, fewer hospitals are accepting non-affiliated students. Get on board now!
- Go beyond expectations. If programs require 50 volunteer hours, do 100. If internships require a 100 hour practicum, do 150. Going beyond basic requirements
does make you stand out more. I did a 150 hour practicum and have had over 700 hours worth of volunteer experience! Not to mention my employment hours for 4 years!
3. Make sure you have experience of working with children in the following areas (and provide documented verification!!!):
a. In-hospital/Healthcare setting
b. Healthy settings (school, daycare, nanny, etc.)
c. Employment setting
d. Non-healthcare settings, but working with children with healthcare needs such as cancer camps, children with developmental disabilities, etc.
4. Get a practicum! Once you are at this point, get one. More and more programs are requiring the practicum!
5. Make sure your documents (transcripts, letters or recommendation, etc.) are top-notch! Make sure in this area you only put what you need. If they only ask for 3 letters of recommendation, DO NOT PUT IN A 4th!
6. When you get to essay questions, think more outside the box. When they ask you questions that are broad, such as: “Discuss your favorite developmental theorist and why” or “Why did you choose Child Life”, really think about it. Cookie cutting isn’t going to cut it. Show your writing strengths especially, and get as close to the word limit as possible without going over. Also, make sure you proofread your work! (I have heard students that got denied because their work was not proofread!)
7. Feel free to add any documents or information you think might be beneficial to your application! For mine, I included certificates regarding some conferences I went to and a non-grade certificate for completing an online course in Beginner Spanish Medical Terminology. In some instances, hospitals may want to know any special talents you may have, which can come in handy for intervention planning! Or perhaps a blog…. hehe
8. If you have not done so, I would mention if you speak a different language(s). This may make you more marketable for specific internship sites, especially in states that have a more cultural and diverse background. If you have begun learning a language, chances are you may build the skill as you begin working!
Applications are definitely a challenge with practicums and internship. Do NOT give up! You are amazing and any hospital would be grateful to have you. Child Life is a growing field, and as the field matures, so will its candidates and professionals. Just know that as the expectations change, it will only make you a more profound individual when working with children and families.
Remember: Your fate lives within you. You only have to be brave enough to see it!