So you’ve decided to go to optometry school. Maybe you really love the subject of optometry and simply can’t see yourself doing anything else (if you’re in that boat, I salute you!), maybe you’re not 100% sure what you want to do yet, maybe you like the idea of the potential money after college, or maybe you’re already there and don’t think you can go back now you’ve come this far…
Regardless of the reason, I get it; having gone through optometry school over 30 years ago–wow, has it really been that long?–I have encountered people from all walks of life that went for all those aforementioned reasons and more. Some of them graduated and became full-fledged optometrists, while others left and pursued other ways of life; but, no matter what the end result, I know that all of those people I knew and worked with wanted some sort of insight into what to expect before taking the jump. Here’s a look into what I went through during my college career, as well as some tips you should follow and pitfalls you can expect. Hopefully it will be valuable to your fledgling career as an optometrist!
Tips for Tackling Optometry School
1. Use Undergrad to Figure Out what You Want to Do
I went to a large state school for my undergraduate schooling which, as you may guess, isn’t a great place to learn optometry. But, it did allow me to figure out what I wanted to do by trying out different courses and directions, while still taking the prerequisite courses for optometry school. Remember that it’s okay to use undergrad as a kind of experimentation ground; you really don’t want to lock yourself in until you really know that optometry interests you as a career. If you do wind up forcing your way through, you could easily get burnt out and feel like you wasted your time doing something you’re really not passionate about.
2. Grad School Will Help you Feel More Ready
Like I said, undergrad may help you figure out what you want to do, but it won’t teach you the skills you’ll need to be an optometrist. You may graduate feeling a bit scared of the future, or unprepared for what’s about to come. But, if you’ve decided that optometry school is where you want to go, do not fear that unpreparedness; pretty much everyone feels that way when they graduate their undergraduate schooling! Just to give you an idea of what to expect, optometry school–in comparison to undergrad–provided a much closer atmosphere and more intimate learning experience. For me, it provided much more hands on learning, as well as a respect for my peers that I still have till today. Best of all, our clinical experience at that school gave me the preparation I needed to feel comfortable treating patients immediately after graduation in my own practice. I had personally seen more than 1,000 patients by my 4th year of school and felt comfortable in any and all clinical settings. It was truly an invaluable experience!
3. The Rat Race is Real, But Not Something you Should Fall Prey Too
One of the biggest pitfalls I saw fellow students falling prey too–and, indeed, one that I almost succumbed to as well–was the invariable competition that pervaded the optometry school I attended. Just like any other professional schooling, you are going to be attending classes with those who may be your direct competitors once you graduate. This could result in extreme competition…I saw people burning themselves out simply because they tried sizing up their own abilities to those who they deemed ahead of them. This causes undue stress, lack of quality sleep, and in many cases, a loss of interest in this chosen field. My advice to you is to not get concerned with how other students size up against you or how well you fit in. Just stay your own course and do the best you can! If necessary, get away from it all and find some necessary relief! Go on a trip, visit your family, do whatever you can to make sure you keep your own sanity. It will certainly be worth it in the long run.
Stay Strong During your Optometry Schooling
At the end of the day, if you stay focused on your studies, give yourself a break once in a while, and stop yourself from falling prey to the issues I listed above, optometry school won’t be bad at all. In many ways, it’s just like other schooling you receive but with direct, practical application to the career you hope to join. Everyone’s situation and experience is different, but it’s important to have all the preparation you can before going on. Let me know if you have any questions about optometry school and I’ll do my best to answer them! Or, if you have your own experiences, let me know in the comments!