My Experience Applying to JRCOSTEP
By Kate T.
Kate T. driving to a site.
My internship search began fall quarter of my junior year, when I was enrolled in ENVH 480. I learned about the JRCOSTEP internship opportunity through a fellow classmate who completed her internship the previous summer with the Indian Health Service in Phoenix, AZ. After learning about her experience, I decided there was no harm in applying. She did warn me about the lengthy application cycle, so I started looking into it right away. It started with a screening phone call to even get access to the application. It was a challenge in itself trying to catch the office during business hours, considering the time difference and being in class for the majority of the day, but eventually I managed to get through. Once I did, I gained access to a portal with a slew of application materials ranging from forms I needed to get signed by a physician, directions on how to obtain fingerprints, and reference requests. Needless to say, as a student who was already juggling a rigorous course schedule, another part-time internship, and volunteer work – I was overwhelmed.
Although it sounds simple, my best advice is to take each direction one at a time and I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to start early. JRCOSTEP is part of the Commissioned Corps, which is a branch of the U.S. Public Health Service and as such is a federal-level internship. The application process for federal positions is extremely lengthy and rigorous, which is something I had never previously experienced as most of my previous jobs were either found online or through connections. Applying was a learning process in itself and I emphasize starting early because you’ll run into all kinds of unexpected obstacles and questions. These questions and obstacles take time getting resolved – from finding an opening at a police station for fingerprinting, to making a doctor’s appointment, to mailing in the application itself. If you wait until the very last minute it’s going to be all the more stressful, if not impossible, to complete the application on time. Another important lesson I learned throughout the process is that sometimes job searches have to take priority over other responsibilities. Whenever I got too overwhelmed I tried to think long-term: several months from now, would I be more satisfied that I put in the time and effort to obtain a killer internship or that extra night I spent studying to change my class grade by 0.1 GPA points?
Additionally, I highly recommend using all of the resources that DEOHS makes available for students. I utilized Hayley’s office hours for revising and editing my personal statement, asked multiple people for recommendations as back-ups in case someone couldn’t submit the form on time, and spoke to several previous interns about their experience in the application process. The internship/job search doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be a solo journey, and your peers can sometimes be your most valuable resources.
Although I technically only applied to one internship, I actively searched for and kept tabs on other internship applications while I was waiting to hear back. The time frame was several months – I sent my initial application (after working on it for about a month and gathering the necessary requirements) in November and didn’t hear back until mid-late January for an interview. Applying for federal positions is slightly different and oftentimes more arduous than other positions, but I am happy I went through the experience, despite the stress and occasional confusion.