Life in Optometry School
1. What did you do to prepare for optometry school?
-I figured out I wanted to be an optometrist when I was in high school through shadowing my own optometrist. I would definitely suggest shadowing as many optometrists as you can to get a feel for what a typical day at work will look like. It’s also important to shadow different specialties in optometry such as low vision, contact lens, ocular disease, pediatrics, and vision therapy to see what optometry really has to offer (we don’t just prescribe glasses!) You should also shadow an ophthalmologist just to make sure that medical school and surgery really isn’t something you’re interested in. In terms of my major, I took a pretty stereotypical route to optometry school by completing a major in biology because it was an area I was interested in but it also allowed me to easily complete the pre-reqs I needed for optometry school. Since I planned to graduate from IC in 3 years, I took my OAT (the entrance exam for optometry school) the summer going into my last year at IC, just in time for the application cycle to open up (end of June to early July). Because I had a strong application based on my GPA, letters of rec, and OAT score, I decided to take a risk and only apply to two schools. However, it’s definitely more common to apply to at least 4 or more if you want to be safe and have options.
2. Describe your day-to-day life in optometry.
- During your first two years of optometry school, a typical day lasts from 9 am to about 4-5 pm, with your lectures either in the morning and your labs in the afternoon, or vice versa. Depending on the school you go to, you can expect at least 1 quiz, exam, or clinical assessment a week. Optometry school was definitely an adjustment from IC because I wasn’t used to having to study every single day. It took me about a semester to really get into a good study habit. Second year is the hardest year of optometry school and consists of your systemic disease, ocular disease, and pharmacology courses. The workload is significantly larger than first year because the material is much denser, so you can expect at least 2-3 quizzes a week. Third year is 50% seeing patients in clinic and 50% didactic. You begin studying for boards during your third year which is essentially your first three years of school crammed into an 8 hour test. I am currently in my fourth year which is the externship year. My typical day lasts from 8:30-5:30, Monday to Friday, seeing patients all day under the supervisor of an attending doctor. You can choose externships at VA’s, hospitals, private optometric practices, private OD/MD practices, and specialty clinics. You are matched into your externship sites based on your clinic performance during third year, GPA, and extracurricular involvement.
3. Describe your day-to-day life outside of optometry.
- My school is located Midtown East in NYC, so I've definitely taken advantage of exploring the city in my free time because the city has so much to offer in terms of art, fashion, food, and culture. Although doing well in school is important, I think setting time aside specifically for self-care is just as important for your mental health. I spend a majority of my weekends going home to NJ or out to Long Island to spend time with family and friends.
4. Is there anything that you wish you would have known before entering optometry school?
- Not really! I was pretty well-informed before I matriculated into optometry school because I did a lot of research before I applied. I had an awesome optometrist who also served as my mentor, so I always had someone to answer my questions and give me her opinions on where she sees the profession heading in the future. I think it’s really important to talk to a lot of providers in the field as well as take the opportunity to do shadowing in order for you to really know what you’re getting into.
5. Is there anything you would go back and do differently?
- No! I’m very happy with all the decisions I’ve made in my academic career. I think there were a few bumps in the road here and there in terms of procrastination and finding the motivation to study, but I eventually figured things out and have performed very well in school.