Taking a gap year was the best decision I’ve made during my application process. Instead of rushing to fit a certain timeline, I decided to take a mental break from school and spend more time expanding my patient care experience. This extra time before optometry school helped me become a better prepared and more confident applicant when completing my applications.
Before graduating college, I knew I wanted to spend my gap year before optometry school exploring different practice modalities. The idea of working in an OD/MD group practice has always intrigued me and I was lucky enough to find a job opportunity working as a medical scribe for an ophthalmology/optometry practice located in my hometown. I’ve had prior experience working in patient care, but this job expanded my knowledge of the optometry profession completely beyond an annual eye exam. I was exposed to a range of specialties in optometry such as pediatrics, low vision, ocular disease management and myopia control. The doctors of optometry and ophthalmologists worked closely as a team to handle many post- operative appointments for cataract and pterygium surgery follow-ups. This was a side of optometry I didn’t even know existed!
As time progressed, I became more comfortable interacting with patients coming from different age groups and cultures. I even got to assist with in-clinic procedures, such as punctal plug insertions, laser peripheral iridotomies and medical Botox® appointments! This would not have been possible for me if I didn’t decide to take a break from academics.
Prior to this year, I was certain optometry was the right profession for me. After taking a gap year to explore my specific interests, I have a clearer vision of what kind of optometrist I strive to be. Completing applications, finishing prerequisites and taking the OAT exam is an understandably stressful timeline to meet. Optometry school will have many challenges, both mentally and physically, so ensuring that you’re in the right mental state to prepare for its challenges is crucial. A gap year can be a wonderful opportunity to further your experience, maturity and character development, and I recommend it for every pre-optometry student!