One of the most frequent questions I get about being in optometry school from prospective students, as well as family members, is how I transitioned into optometry school. To be honest with you, I’m still transitioning! Learning from older students, you never cease to transition into each year. Here are a few of the transitions I have been through so far:
Undergrad to First Year
My experience in transitioning from undergrad to first year was fairly easy, but not without challenges and an adjustment period. First, I should provide some background of what kind of school I came from. I am from El Paso, Texas and attended UTEP for my undergrad. I earned a Bachelor’s in Biology with a focus in biomedical sciences. I tell this to every person I meet and I stand behind it: I never really studied intensely in undergrad. This is not to say my college was not difficult; my high school prepared me very well for college level work, so most of it just stuck to me the first time I heard or saw it. That being said, optometry school was a 180 turn for me and I entered knowing that I had to study. As a student in professional school program, I realize that the material I am learning is not something to memorize once for a test and forget about. We are learning to take care of people, and that weighs heavy in my mind. Needless to say, it was very easy for me to get back into studying, even being a year out of school. I think anyone can develop and enhance their study skills if they are committed to it.
As a new student, I found orientation was a great way to meet my fellow classmates. I was scared that everyone would be sizing me up in terms of my OAT scores, grades, or where I came from. This was not the case at all. The student academic services make it easy to transition when it comes to orientation, financial aid, and forms you need to turn in before school begins. UIWRSO also has a “Big Sib, Lil Sib” program which I will write about in a future blog! Basically, the program assists you in connecting with an upper-class student who helps show you the ropes and is there if you need support. UIWRSO helps with tutoring, so if you find yourself struggling, they are always there to help with one-on-one or group tutoring as well.
As a student, one of the biggest adjustments I had was in Optometry Lab. Before enrolling at UIWRSO, I was a “Nervous Nelly” about everything! Now, in optometry school, I am accustomed to someone testing me on skills, watching my every move about a foot away from me! At first it was very uncomfortable, but now I am so used to it, I no longer feel so anxious. Another big transition was my finals were extremely difficult. It was a relief that after my first round of finals, I had a better idea of what to expect and have done well from there on out. Another question I am often asked is: how often did you study? I studied almost every day during first year, but definitely had time to have an outside life. I was able to go to Spurs games, go bowling, and even Six Flags here and there. After your first year, you do get the summer off if you decide not to apply and participate in the Summer Fellowship Training Program (focusing on research) they have here at UIWRSO. It was a great relaxation period for my classmates and I. I went home and spent time mountain biking, kayaking, and just plain hanging out and relaxing my brain finally!
First Year to Second Year
During my first year, all I heard from second years was how difficult second year was and how much work they had. To be honest, I thought they were over exaggerating, but I was extremely cautious about it as well. The best thing I have heard about the start of second year was that you “hit the ground running” and that’s exactly what we did. For upcoming second years, I would recommend just keeping your mind somewhat fresh on the topics you learned first year. Don’t let summer melt your brain completely!
First, I had to adjust to having more classes and the difficulty of these classes is much harder. Don’t get me wrong though, they’re much more interesting as you are learning more about the eye and techniques used in clinic! UIWRSO still offers all the tutoring a student needs, however, so learning all the material well is definitely possible if you put in the work. Optometry lab is on another level, as well. The expectations are much higher of you in this lab, so time spent practicing after school is imperative. I am very appreciative of the availability and resources to assist in my after-hours practicing. These labs are preparing you for clinic in the following year, so it makes sense that we are constantly watched and being graded meticulously. Teaching assistants in “after hours” help any and all students who want the help. They give great tips and tricks that you otherwise might not learn from the professors. Again, one of the most popular questions I am asked: how often do you study this year? Well, I study every single day, and for many hours at a time. I enjoy my sleep, so I make sure I study effectively in order to sleep enough. Some people like to stay up until 3:00 am, but not study straight through, and that works for them.
As I start to approach the end of my second year, I am very excited about our Clinical Induction Ceremony and starting my clinical rotations and seeing real patients in our clinics! All of the techniques and material we have learned in the last two years at UIWRSO will definitely be put to the test, but I am confident we will be extremely successful in the clinic. I will definitely keep you all updated as I continue my journey through optometry school!