Getting through my first year of optometry school was by no means a walk in the park. I would not have been able to cross this milestone without setbacks, obstacles, and failures. But is through these setbacks that I have become a better student and a more optimistic doctor-to-be!
I’d be lying if I said I aced every exam my first year. In fact, during my first quarter at the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO), I bombed my very first anatomy exam. Not only is anatomy a difficult class, but I was also still figuring out how to juggle my other classes on top of having two cumulative exams every week. Since I had less than two weeks to prepare myself for the next anatomy exam, I knew I had to study smarter to be able to redeem myself. I studied diligently, better managed my time, and made it my priority to perform better. After many long nights and hundreds of flashcards, I walked into my second exam feeling nervous, yet confident. My hard work had paid off—I aced it.
I could have let failure get the best of me. I could have been discouraged, or even given up. However, to be the best student and future optometrist I can be, I stayed determined and worked harder to see the result I always knew I could get!
Knowing Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses, and mine were revealed over the past year. I have never been the strongest test-taker and, up until this year, I refused to accept it. I always believed that the only way to succeed in school was by having good grades and getting high-test scores. Time and time again, I found myself challenged by every exam. But through this, I learned that just because multiple choice tests are one of my weaknesses doesn’t mean that I can’t become a successful optometrist.
As my first year of optometry school continued, I found out how much I really enjoyed clinical skills and being able to interact with patients. I not only liked this aspect of the optometry field, but I also started to realize it was going to be an area I could succeed in. I began to focus on ways to become a better clinician and, despite my average test scores, I found a silver lining; clinic was my strength as a student and future optometrist.
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” –Robert F. Kennedy
Learning From Your Mistakes
With every new academic quarter came a new set of clinical skills that must be performed during a clinical assessment. My classmates and I would spend the weeks leading up to this assessment practicing on each other, correcting each other, and encouraging each other.
There were several days where I would be practicing and either didn’t finish on time, missed a step, or forgot a specific instruction. Although it was frustrating, tedious, and tiring, I had to recognize what mistakes I was making and how to fix them. At the end of the day, these are the skills that I will be performing every day as an optometrist. After putting in the time and preparation in the practice lanes, I ended up being awarded with clinical honors based off of my assessment performance! Learning from my errors allowed me to perform well on my clinical assessments, creating confidence for my future in this profession.
Mistakes and failures have a stigma for setting you back, but they don’t always have to. In life, you learn to get back on your feet when you get knocked down and optometry school is no exception. So, wherever you are in your career, don’t be afraid to fall because at the end of the day, you just might be better for it!