After going through four different interviews, I did not think this experience was going to be any different. The other schools had offered the usual amenities of any interview day: a tour of campus, meetings with students and faculty, and of course free food! The only difference was this time I was staying at the house of Epsilon Psi Epsilon (EΨE), a professional optometric fraternity. I heard about this organization through an Ohio State optometry student I had emailed. It looked like it was worth the try, and a way to save money on a hotel room.
Twelve hours after I left home, I parked my car and nervously walked down the quiet neighborhood street to the EΨE house. It stood out from other houses because of the greek letters EΨE attached to the front. I was immediately welcomed with open arms. I was first taken to the incredible guest room which included my own queen-sized bed and recently renovated private bathroom. I was then greeted by a welcome message on a dry erase board, a few of the other students, and a big dog. Everyone was pleased to see me and interested in any questions or concerns I had. One of the students even invited me to witness a student event.
We soon piled into a car and drove 5 minutes to campus to watch the three third year students face off in an optometry-based quiz bowl. It was later explained to me that many schools use a mini optometry bowl to pick a student representative for the Varilux Optometry Bowl at Optometry’s Meeting. An amazing fried chicken dinner was served much to everyone’s delight. Many students from all classes came to see the bowl. Everyone was very friendly, with lots of people talking and laughing with each other. One student even brought his young daughter for a brief visit. The bowl then started with each of the three contestants making a grand entrance in funny outfits with a comical introductions by the emcee. The bowl consisted of three rounds with 10 questions in each of the first two rounds and a “Final Jeopardy”-like question in the third round. The contestants were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject material. Some first years even took notes to study from. A few questions were familiar to me from shadowing and classes in undergrad, but I couldn’t remember the answers. Before long, a winner was selected to the excitement of his fellow classmates, and the bowl ended. The optometry college seemed to be more than just a collection of students, and more like a supportive family. The atmosphere was very relaxed, yet spirited and supportive. The passion people had for the profession even in the throes of optometry school made me relieved to know this passion did not melt away while in school.
We piled back into the car and drove back to the EΨE house. Some of the students gathered around the big screen TV to watch the OSU vs. Northwestern basketball game. It was a close game and I was able to pick the brains of students about academics, life outside the classroom, financial aid, and in-state residency. Once the game ended everyone quickly dispersed to study, and by 8:00 PM the house was silent. I figured I should study as well for an impending exam in my class. I got comfortable in the living room and commenced studying. However, I couldn’t help but notice the various memorabilia on the wall. It included member pictures going all the way back to the 1980s, paddles done by previous pledge classes, a newspaper clipping about the fraternity from the 1960s, and a poster of the original founding members from Columbia University in 1911. It was fascinating yet surprising to have a professional organization with subtle hints of a social fraternity. Throughout the evening students came downstairs to get food and I was able to discuss more about Ohio State and optometry school. Everyone I spoke was incredibly satisfied with their education and experience in optometry school but said it was hard work. I’ve always heard this and accepted it, but witnessing a silent house with everyone studying emphasized this point even more.
The next morning I woke up at 6 am to a stampede of people getting ready for classes. I found out later that classes start at 8 am for most people, hence the busyness so early in the morning. Since my interview was at 11 am I went back to sleep. After showering, dressing, and repeatedly telling myself the interview will be fine, I drove to the school. The interview was relaxing and consisted of a tour, free lunch at the union, and the actual interview. It was similar to the other interviews except it wasn’t. I felt like I knew the school just a little bit better, and was a bit more relaxed after spending an evening with other students. In addition, the admissions staff, and the student tour guides had heard about my stay and were interested in how it went. After a rather relaxed interview and nice day overall I was on the road home, but not without leaving a thank you present for the house.
The lessons I took away from this experience was to always try to contact students at prospective schools. I would have never known about EΨE or the ability to stay in the house had I not talked to a current student. It let me see potential classmates not only as representatives of the Ohio State University College of Optometry, but as real students with the academic responsibilities of optometry school. This experience also highlighted the importance of visiting an optometry school. It’s one thing to see an optometry school on its website – it’s a completely different experience to see the school in person. The academic quality is important but being comfortable at the school is critical. To ensure your happiness it’s always important to visualize yourself at the school, walking on campus or in the building, going to class, and hanging out with your future classmates. If you are not happy at your chosen optometry school, you will not be successful. Your gut feeling will never steer you wrong. Word had traveled throughout the school among the students and staff members of my visit. Even though I was only officially interviewed for 20 minutes, people were watching throughout the whole experience. So its important to always present yourself respectfully to everyone you meet associated with the school. You never know what kind of impact it may have on your admissions decision and beyond.
I would recommend staying at the EΨE House to anybody interviewing at Ohio State. It had a positive impact on me, and I cannot wait to start here in the fall.