Let’s be honest – starting optometry school is a scary experience. Orientation is overwhelming, meeting new people is stressful, and the first week of class is intimidating. Graduate/professional school is so much different from undergraduate studies. No matter how much you try to prepare for this experience, the questions still remain: How should you study for certain exams? What clubs and organizations should you be a part of? How do you balance the responsibilities of optometry school with the responsibilities of your normal life?
When it comes to finding answers to these questions regarding optometry school, the best people to ask for help are often the people who have already experienced what you are going through. Even though it can be somewhat intimidating, finding and asking the right upperclassmen for advice is the best way to get your questions answered.
The Peer Mentoring Program (PMP) at my optometry school, Salus University, took the stress out of finding that person. Thanks to this program, I was able to connect with an upperclassman mentor who went above and beyond to answer all my questions and make me feel less overwhelmed during my transition into optometry school.
The summer before I started optometry school an email was sent out to my class asking if we would be interested in a mentoring program in which we would be paired with an upperclassman who could assist us. Since I was nervous about starting optometry school and I already had a bunch of questions, I decided to apply.
After taking a compatibility test, I was paired with my mentor and we met during a “welcome event” sponsored by PMP. The event organizers went above and beyond to come up with fun social events for the mentors and mentees to do together throughout the whole semester. Some of the events included a sip-and-paint event, a cookout, and a murder mystery-themed party.
While these events were fun, I appreciated having a mentor to rely on more than the events. My mentor did an amazing job answering all my little questions and she even helped me find a new study groove since studying in graduate school is very different from studying in undergraduate school. It was also nice to have another friendly face around campus, especially during the first few weeks when I was getting used to everything new.
This is my personal experience with a mentoring program at my school, but many other optometry schools have similar programs. Even if your school doesn’t have a formal program, I would recommend reaching out to an upperclassman you feel comfortable with for help. Being able to freely ask for advice—whether it be with studying, extracurricular, or with life—is an invaluable resource that you should take advantage of if you can.
Since my experience was so positive as a mentee during my first year of optometry school, I have now taken on the role as mentor during my second year. I can “pay it forward” by helping my mentee. Becoming involved as a mentor or mentee is a great way to contribute and I highly recommend it. We are all in this together and we all want each other to succeed.