It feels like yesterday that I narrowed down what I wanted to be in life, studied and took the OAT, flew for a couple of interviews, graduated undergrad, and enjoyed my last free summer before optometry school. Time flies. But in the last couple weeks of summer, I spent less time relaxing as I was more anxious about what lies ahead in optometry school. I scavenged OptometryStudents.com reading for articles on pre-optometry as well as tips and expectations for first year. I probably read close to thirty articles, some of them more than once, in hopes of generating some sort of idea of what lies ahead. Today, I am done with first year of optometry school and would like to pay forward the value this site and its articles have been to me. While there’s a handful of transitioning articles with tips and expectations already such as this one, this one, and this one, I feel no harm in adding another person’s experience to the list.
Actually ENJOY your summer before optometry school. A lot of people look to getting ahead by either reviewing their undergrad sciences so they’re “ready” or look up their school’s curriculum and try reading on it in advance. Both of these are wasting your time and you’ll end up full of regret once school starts and you’re already burned out. Your professors will review undergrad science concepts all over. They don’t expect you to know the nervous system anatomy inside and out (that maybe your undergrad course did) until THEY teach you it. Your summer before optometry school should be full of relaxation, vacations, sleeping in, seeing friends, family, significant other, etc. One school starts, and progresses, all those will be of rarity.
Join the various clubs your school has. A lot of people feel repelled by the idea as they feel it might take away precious study (or free) time, especially when they know that there’s no higher school to apply to that requires extracurricular content. Usually time expectations are minimal, but benefits are boundless. It is especially useful if you are going to an optometry school that is way beyond your home state, where undergrad classmates do not exist. It helps in making friends as the club will be a little family. You never know what connections you will make. If a club you’re interested in does not exist at your school, start it!
Begin studying from day 1. While the content in the first week or two is introductory and basic, it will pile up very fast at an exponential rate. Soon the “eh, I can review this in 2-3 hours easily” becomes mixed in with higher volumes (and difficulty) of new material that you wish had those 2-3 extra hours to use on it. Don’t fall behind in lectures so that come quizzes/exams, you can focus on reviewing the information rather than cramming new material.
Time management is key. You CAN have free time in optometry school, depending on your time management skills. In optometry school, the volume of information learned in 1 week is equivalent to 1 month in undergrad. However, it IS doable, you just have to accept this as a full time job and put in the time. Do this and you’ll get some time out where you find yourself capable of having a night out or going out of town and giving your brain a much needed break.
There is a high standard and level of expectation set for each student from the staff of the school. Most of the professors hold an O.D. title themselves, thus when teaching you and fellow classmates, you are viewed as future colleagues and not just some students who they teach and won’t see again. Some professors will also be your preceptors later in clinic. Point I am trying to make is that you’re being trained to be doctors by doctors, who you will see frequently again in your optometric school career or even beyond as colleagues (many instructors are alumni of their respective schools). You are held to a professional standard that you have not encountered before and it starts to prepare you mentally for the O.D. title.
Find time for the gym (or your favorite hobby). While this statement has probably been repeated to you since college days, it is probably even more important for grad school. Most days you will be in your school’s building for a minimum of 8 hours, more if you intend to study at the school. This can be mentally exhausting and daunting, especially with the winter months coming up where you will enter the school before the sun comes out, and leave after the sun comes down. It is vital to incorporate some fitness into that schedule not only for physical benefits, but for a mental boost. The gym itself will be appreciated as a change in setting (even if the gym is in the school) and pushing some weight or cardio will literally knockout some of the stress and anxiety. If you are really pushed for time (say it is midterms season), you can put lecture recordings on your phone and listen to them while you run or lift. You may not get pumped from them as a Bieber song will, but at least you’ll be killing two birds with one stone.
I hope some of this insight can be of use to anyone preparing and/or considering optometry school. If there are any further questions or curiosities, feel free to leave a comment below! Input from other first years is also welcomed! Best of luck future O.D.s!