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In this month’s Eye on Optometry blog post, we address campus visits. If you’re considering applying to optometry school, visiting the campuses of the schools and colleges of optometry you think you’d like to attend is a crucial part of the process. There are plenty of opportunities to do so!
Most if not all of the schools and colleges of optometry have at least one open house, and often more, each year. They’re usually handled by the Admissions Office, Student Affairs Office or similar department, are announced on the schools’ websites, and require an RSVP/reservation. However, most of the schools and colleges of optometry also welcome visitors at any time, allowing them to call and schedule a visit and tour at their convenience. “We love to have future applicants, current applicants and their families and friends visit us anytime,” says Lyle Tate, Admissions Program Manager for the University of Houston College of Optometry (UHCO). “Our Office of Optometry Relations can arrange for an advisor visit and tour whenever it’s most convenient for our guests.” And it’s never too early to visit, he says. “We welcome high school students and undergrads alike.”
In addition to open houses and individual visits, “Many schools offer intensive summer programs to help prepare students for the admissions process and the rigor of the professional program,” notes Kristine Benne, MA, Assistant Dean, Student Affairs, University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (RSO).
Can’t I Learn Everything about Optometry School Online?
Ideally, you’ll make it a point to visit at least your top one or two school choices in person. According to Tate, “There’s really a world of difference between what you can learn online and what you can experience in person at any school or college of optometry. A visit is an opportunity to get a feeling of the culture of a program.
For example, what that means at UHCO is, among other things, inclusiveness, collaboration in both classroom and clinical environments, a supportive family atmosphere, exposure to a diverse patient population and a commitment to providing students the best access to top-notch technology.”
Kurt Thiede, Executive Director of Enrollment Management at New England College of Optometry (NECO), agrees. “A visit gives prospective students a sense of the character and tone of a campus and provides a very tangible idea of what the day-to-day experience at a particular school will be like,” he says. “Even with the many ways students can now acquire information, to date no one has created a virtual experience that matches the on-site physical visit. ‘Feeling’ the place is a very important part of candidates’ final decisions on what school to attend, and ultimately their satisfaction with their education within a particular campus community.”
Students and faculty at the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry’s Bowden Eye Care and Health Center review optical coherence tomography results.Along the same lines, Benne encourages students to observe the overall culture of the campus when they visit. She recommends paying attention to how staff, students and faculty interact as well as whether the school’s stated mission and message are expressed in the day-to-day interactions and activities on campus. During a visit, she says, “The prospective student can best determine if there is congruence between the recruitment message and the school environment and whether he or she feels welcomed and comfortable.
Who to Talk to, What to See During Your Visit to a School or College of Optometry
Scheduled on-campus open houses typically include a tour and presentations on many important topics, such as what the program has to offer, the admissions process, the Optometry Admission Test, financial aid, student organizations and career options. Often, a Q&A session with a panel of current students is part of the day. But whatever type of visit you’re taking advantage of, interacting with and asking questions of current students is highly recommended. Explains UHCO’s Tate, “Even though we as student affairs personnel provide great information, there’s no topping a sit-down visit with current students to learn what it’s really like, how they transitioned to the professional school world, how they recommend preparing for optometry school, and so much more. They’re truly an applicant’s best resource many times.”
Other people who are helpful to meet with during a campus visit whenever possible are academic and financial aid advisors, administrators, and didactic and clinical faculty members. It’s also a good idea to find out whether you can walk through clinics, observe classes, get any hands-on experiences, such as in skills labs, visit other key buildings, such as libraries, and see housing options and social spots on or near campus.
Questions to Ask
The questions you ask during your visit to a school or college of optometry may depend somewhat on how close you are to applying to optometry school. For example, a high school student may want to ask different questions than someone who is closer to applying, or someone who already has a family. Regardless of your specific current situation, here are some good ones:
- what are the current academic prerequisites?
- what are the strongly recommended courses? (According to RSO’s Benne, “Although not required, many times taking the recommended courses can truly help a student succeed in the professional program.”)
- what emphasis is placed on shadowing experience; does the school have a minimum number of hours? (Benne notes that “Regardless of a minimum number of hours, all prospective students should begin shadowing a doctor of optometry early in their higher education careers if they have not done so before. This helps develop their passion and interest in the profession and looks good on the application.”)
- what do I need to know about the key parts of the application process, such as deadlines, the personal statement and letters of evaluation? (See also OptomCAS.)
- what are the attributes of a candidate who will be strongly considered for admission?
- if you’ve been invited to campus for an admissions interview: what is the general agenda on interview day, is the interview open- or closed-file, how many faculty/admissions committee
members do I interview with, what is the process once the interview is over, how quickly will I be notified of the admissions decision, how long do I have to make my decision, how do I reserve my space in the class?
- what will my first semester be like?
- what is the balance of classroom/lab and clinic time during the doctor of optometry program?
- at what point in the program will I start working with patients?
- how diverse is the patient population seen in your clinic(s)?
- what type of support is available for helping me to succeed academically and otherwise?
- are there study/prep opportunities as I prepare for Boards?
- do you offer practice management courses?
- what is your externship/fourth-year rotations process like?
- what faculty mentorship and/or research opportunities does the school offer?
- what student organizations and clubs can I join?
- are there service or mission trip opportunities?
- what financial aid/support is available to me?
- what are the options for living arrangements; do most students live on or off campus?
- what is the ‘personality’ of the surrounding city or town?
- where do students hang out and otherwise socialize?
- what residency programs is the school affiliated with?
- what types of programs and or communication does the school provide to help me find a job leading up to and after graduation?
Before and After Your Visit to Campus
In order to maximize your campus visit opportunity, NECO’s Thiede recommends that you learn as much basic information as you can about a school or college, i.e., the “facts and figures,” before you make the trip, allowing time for more substantial questions while you’re there. And Benne offers further advice on preparing for your visit to a school or college of optometry: “All 21 schools of optometry are strong and governed by accreditation criteria, which ensures a similar standard of education. However, how each school delivers the optometric education and what the school or college focuses on can be keys to determining if the program is the right fit for you. Reflect on what you value as part of your future optometric education experience and tailor your questions to how your top-choice schools provide opportunities in those areas.”
Benne also points out that the RSO admissions or student affairs team can typically put a prospective student in contact with a current student for long-term communication and help with questions that may arise after a campus visit is over. Same for UHCO, whether it’s officially or not officially arranged, as Tate mentions, “Our students will stop in the hallways when they see a guest visiting and offer their e-mail addresses and phone numbers just in case the guest wants to follow-up with more questions.”
Try the Optometry Virtual Fair
Visiting a school or college of optometry is an invaluable experience, but it isn’t always possible, for financial and other reasons, to make the trip. If you find yourself in that situation, or if you simply want to learn all you can about as many schools as possible or narrow down your top choices, the next best thing to in-person visits is the Optometry Virtual Fair. Presented twice a year by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), the fair is an online event during which you can live chat with admissions representatives from any or all of the 21 ASCO member schools — for free! Register here for the next fair, which is just around the corner on October 28, 2015.
Three ODs discuss what led them to the profession and what keeps them loving it.
Do you have an interest in science, medicine or health care but don’t quite know how to turn it into a career choice? Need some inspiration? If you consider optometry as a career, inspiration is not hard to find. Take for example Drs. David McPhillips, Valerie Kattouf and Neil Gailmard, all highly successful Doctors of Optometry who at one time or another were in the same situation as you.
You Can Take Your Pick from the ManyOpportunities in Optometry
By the time he was in middle school, Dr. McPhillips knew he wanted to do something in health care so he worked several jobs at the local hospital, starting as an orderly and making his way through various other positions. But that wasn’t where he discovered optometry. Instead, while he was a pre-med student in college, some of his former classmates who were attending the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) suggested he spend some time shadowing them. After doing so several times, including sitting in on classes, he was hooked. “It was so interesting,” he recalls. “The eye itself is amazing, and I saw how many opportunities optometry offers.” Since he graduated from PCO, Dr. McPhillips has seized quite a few of those opportunities and put them to use for the benefit of, literally, the world. He draws immense satisfaction not only from helping patients in his private practice in Horsham, Pa., but also from his roles as director of Eye Care Services with the Genesis Health Care Quakertown Geriatric and Rehabilitation Center and president of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) International. The day he spoke with Eye on Optometry, Dr. McPhillips had just returned from examining patients at the center, and he has personally led or participated in more than 40 medical missions with VOSH.
He talks with passion about VOSH’s purpose, which is to provide sustainable vision care worldwide for people who don’t have access or can’t afford it, and with pride about one of the organization’s newest initiatives, VOSH Corps. “Nearly a billion people around the world are functionally blind or visually impaired simply because of uncorrected refractive error, because they don’t have a pair of glasses,” he explains. “The VOSH Corps, a joint effort with the Brien Holden Vision Institute supported by Optometry Giving Sight, recruits U.S. and Canadian optometrists, including recent graduates, to teach optometry for at least one year at emerging optometry schools in the developing world. VOSH missions currently serve about 100,000 patients per year. If just one optometry school has 20 graduates, they could see enough patients each year to equate to 50 missions.”
Tailor Your Optometric Career to Feed Your Personal Passion
While Dr. Kattouf seemed destined to become a Doctor of Optometry — she always had an interest in science and medicine and her father is longtime optometrist/practice owner and current eyecare business consultant Dr. Richard S. Kattouf — her career didn’t follow the precise path she had expected. “My dad’s practice never seemed like work; it was part of our life,” she says. “I never experienced him talking in a negative way about his career, and that was infectious.”
Dr. Kattouf says she arrived as a student at Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) thinking she’d return home to Ohio after graduation and join her father’s practice, but mentors helped her discover other possibilities. “Dr. Sue Cotter, one of my professors at ICO, was a tremendous role model,” Dr. Kattouf notes. “She engaged my interest in pediatrics and binocular vision and was instrumental in my interest in academics. Also, during my residency at State University of New York College of Optometry (SUNY), another mentor, Dr. Irwin Suchoff, told me that he saw teaching qualities in me, and I found I really did enjoy an academic environment.” When Dr. Kattouf was at SUNY, Dr. Cotter was making a move from ICO to another school and encouraged her to apply for the position she was leaving. “I chuckled and thought ‘I’m too young and inexperienced for that,’ ” Dr. Kattouf says, “but my dad chimed in, too, telling me I should pursue the position.” Ultimately, she listened to the wisdom of her mentors and joined the ICO faculty.
Today, Dr. Kattouf is an associate professor at ICO and chief of the Pediatrics and Binocular Vision Service and a clinical instructor at the University of Chicago. Her goal each day is to inspire those around her to be the best they can be. “Optometry as a career tends to have a positive air around it,” she says. “Our patients and students appreciate us, and we can influence them in positive ways. Things we do have a big impact on patients’ lives, such as addressing someone’s struggles with reading or prompting earlier diagnosis of a systemic disease because of its effect in the eye. And I enjoy being able to show students what they are capable of. Even though I’m incredibly busy sometimes, I’ve never come to work a day in my life disliking what I do.”
Dr. Gailmard describes his path to the optometric profession as practical. Receiving excellent optometric care as a child, including the prescription of vision therapy and glasses, helped to shape his perception of the field, but his decision to pursue a Doctor of Optometry degree was based on his assessment of the field as a freshman in college. He went to the library and researched key aspects of many different careers, including educational requirements, nature of the work, income potential and outlook for the future. “I was interested in medicine and the health professions, but I also had an entrepreneurial spirit and I wanted to be my own boss,” he says. “Optometry seemed to be the best fit for me.” Dr. Gailmard points out this gem about optometry as well: “Most college majors don’t lead you directly to a career; there is still a great deal left to chance and you must work your way up the career ladder for several years. Professional school was challenging, but it was fun at the same time, and as soon as I graduated I started to practice my profession.”
When he first graduated from optometry school, Dr. Gailmard opened his own practice from scratch, but also became a clinical instructor at ICO to supplement his income. He stayed with ICO for 20 years, finding that he loved teaching, which he still does at optometry schools and professional conferences today. And, while he also loved providing medical eye care for patients for the first 20 years of his career, he subsequently earned an MBA degree in order to change his focus to the business aspects of optometry. Currently, he’s still CEO of Gailmard Eye Center in Munster, Ind., but is also co-founder and president of Prima Eye Group, where he works as a consultant to help optometrists manage their practices. He is a great example of how many career options exist in optometry. “There are many different modes of practice and many opportunities to change your career as you go along,” he says. “Change keeps the work fresh and exciting.”
Your Bright Future in Optometry Awaits
Dr. Gailmard believes optometry is a terrific career choice for today’s students, citing that most publications that cover the outlook of various careers rank it even higher today than when he was exploring it because of the huge need for eye care. “Optometry is a very rewarding profession because you can help people to preserve and maximize their eyesight,” he says. “You can own your own practice, which allows you to be your own boss and follow your career goals and dreams. The typical income range is quite high for optometrists and has unlimited potential. The scope of practice for optometry has expanded quickly over the past 50 years to go far beyond refraction, eyeglasses and contact lenses, to include the medical treatment and management of eye disease. Technology holds the promise of rapid advancements in the years to come.”
Dr. McPhillips couldn’t agree more. Optometric career options exist to satisfy just about any aspiration, he says. “There is just so much opportunity. One can work in private practice, pediatrics, a commercial setting, contact lenses, ophthalmic practice, ocular disease; the list goes on. Furthermore, the field is always moving toward bigger and better things. We have an expanded scope of practice and amazing technologies that improve what we can do to help patients here and abroad. As a primary eyecare profession, optometry can really have a great effect.” And that’s quite inspiring.
Are You a Doctor of Optometry Who Wants to Share Your Inspiration?
If you’re an optometrist who would like to spread the word about what a great career choice optometry can be, learn more about the new program from the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), Inspiring Future ODs. The program is a practitioner-based effort that encourages Doctors of Optometry to speak to their patients and other qualified young people about optometry as a rewarding career. Register and learn about the free, readily available resources the program provides at ASCO’s website.
In the previous post, we zoomed in on the Letters of Evaluation (LOEs) section of the application for optometry school, clarifying requirements and providing some pearls for effectively fulfilling them. This time we turn our attention to another crucial part of the application: the personal statement, a.k.a., the essay.
The LOEs and the personal statement [both of which you’ll manage through the Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS)] are relied upon heavily by the schools and colleges of optometry as they determine whether you’re the type of person who can succeed as a student in their programs and as a future optometrist. Your official instructions for composing the essay are as follows: “Please describe what inspires your decision for becoming an optometrist, including your preparation for training in this profession, your aptitude and motivation, the basis for your interest in optometry, and your future career goals. Your essay should be limited to 4500 characters.”
While the instructions have a kind of “just the facts,” flat quality, your essay will need to be the opposite of that in order to provide the admissions office with information they’ll notice and appreciate. According to Michael Bacigalupi, OD, MS, FAAO, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs & Admissions at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry (NSU), “The personal statement allows me to get to know a student much better than just filling out blank spaces and checking off boxes on an application. It gives me a better sense of who the applicant is. Through the personal statement, students can convey what we’re looking for, which is motivation, dedication and a love of the profession of optometry. Those qualities aren’t measurable by OAT scores and GPAs.” By the way, Dr. Bacigalupi uses the word “love” of the profession on purpose. “I want students to be passionate about becoming an optometrist,” he says. “Like in any health profession, the rewards can be substantial, but the road to success is not easy, so you have to love it.”
Like some other schools and colleges of optometry, NSU requires applicants to submit an essay in addition to the personal statement. In fact, they ask for two supplemental essays. The two essay questions change from time to time, but for the last application cycle they were: 1) “What specifically are your reasons for choosing to apply to Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry?” and 2) “Professional school is very challenging. What experiences in your life and/or undergraduate career have prepared you for the rigors of optometry school?”
Dr. Bacigalupi says the statements and essays (he reads about 3,000 per year) that catch his attention are the ones that tell a story and talk about a crossroad or a serious decision an applicant made in life that led him or her to optometry as a career. He cites as an example, “Let’s say someone was an at-risk youth but realized that’s not the way he or she wanted to end up so instead took the right path and decided to focus on school. That’s a story that illustrates motivation.” He also recalls an essay from an applicant who had temporarily lost his vision, which led to the realization of how important sight is in daily life and the desire to help safeguard it for others. Don’t worry if your experiences aren’t as dramatic as those, Dr. Bacigalupi says, just be honest while providing insight into who you really are.
Essays that definitely don’t impress are those that seem to be quickly thrown together or are poorly crafted and contain spelling or grammar errors. “What comes across through those things is that the applicant rushed through this step without much care, which may indicate a lack of commitment or that this isn’t that important to him or her,” Dr. Bacigalupi explains. He recommends having another person or people, perhaps with no ties to optometry, read the personal statement with an eye toward content, grammar and readability before it’s submitted. “That gives you insight into whether it’s readable and will be effective,” he says.
Need more inspiration and ideas about what to write about in your personal statement? ASCO points out in its Optometry Career Guide that, in general, optometry schools are looking for students who can demonstrate strong academic commitment as well as exhibit the potential to excel in deductive reasoning, interpersonal communication and empathy. They like to attract well-rounded candidates who have achieved not only in the classroom but also in other areas, such as in leadership ability. A disposition to serve others and a work ethic characterized by dedication and persistence are other desirable qualities. Adds Dr. Bacigalupi, “We want to see in the statement and essays that we’d be admitting teachable students who ultimately will make good colleagues; therefore, the right balance of people skills and academic abilities is very important.”
The 2015-2016 OptomCAS application cycle opens on July 1, so the time to start working on your essay is right about now. Good luck!
Here at the Eye on Optometry blog, you’ve already done some reading about OptomCAS, the Optometry Centralized Application Service, which you are required to use in order to apply to any of the 21 schools and colleges of optometry in the United States (and Puerto Rico) that are members of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). While OptomCAS is a requirement for applying to be accepted into the Doctor of Optometry programs, it’s also a major help to you because it enables you to use a single web-based application and one set of materials to apply to multiple schools and colleges of optometry.
As part of your optometry school application at OptomCAS, you’ll need to provide names and contact information for the individuals you have chosen — and who have agreed — to write letters of evaluation (LOEs) for you. The LOEs play an important role in helping the schools and colleges determine whether you have what it takes to succeed in their programs and as a future optometrist. The number of letters each school requires ranges from one to four. ASCO provides an informative overview of the essentials in a chart at the OptomCAS website.
Who Should Write My Letters of Evaluation for My Optometry School Applications?
“When considering whom to ask to write you a LOE, it’s important first to understand the letter requirements from each institution to which you are applying,” says Monica Maisto, Director of Admissions at Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry (Salus/PCO). “Most institutions give you various options for letter requirements, and there are subtle differences between them. Be sure to carefully read and understand the letter requirements according to each school you are interested in and to cover all of your bases as far as the type of recommenders that you should ask to write you a letter (e.g., science professors, optometrists, pre-health committees/advisors). If you have any confusion, don’t hesitate to call or e-mail the admissions office of the school to clarify the requirements.”
Even if the ASCO overview of LOE requirements for a specific school seems straightforward, there may be nuances you wouldn’t be aware of unless you contacted the admissions office directly for a complete explanation. For example, a school or college might accept one committee letter in lieu of several separate individual letters to satisfy its entire LOE requirement. Or, a school may have updated its LOE requirements since the previous application cycle.
Each undergraduate institution that has a pre-health committee has its own process for producing committee LOEs, and the departments the committees are part of have different names, such as Health Professions Advising Center, Pre-Health Mentoring Office or Pre-Health Advisement. A committee may also fall under the auspices of a more general Career Center on campus. According to Maisto, “A committee letter usually consists of the collective evaluation and summary of your qualifications by the pre-health committee” The committee usually consists of college/university faculty and staff members. Its process for creating the committee letter usually includes an interview with you and often includes information such as your resume and your shadowing experience, which you are asked to provide. Sometimes, the committee may also seek out an evaluation from someone other than a committee member.
Some schools and colleges of optometry also accept what’s known as a composite letter to fulfill all or part of their LOE requirements. A composite letter is a single LOE that is based on letters from evaluators who have agreed to your request to provide a recommendation. The combined letter is typically compiled by an academic advisor or other individual in a pre-health office or career center.
If you’re using a committee letter, you would list the chair of the committee as the evaluator on OptomCAS. If you’re using a composite letter, you would list the letter compiler, e.g., the advisor, as the evaluator on OptomCAS. In both cases, even though each letter represents multiple evaluators, each would be counted on OptomCAS as one LOE, taking up just one of the four available LOE slots.
Whoever you list in an LOE slot on OptomCAS — whether it be an individual evaluator (e.g., professor or optometrist), the chair of a pre-health committee, or the creator of a composite letter — will automatically receive an e-mail from OptomCAS that provides instructions for uploading the letter(s) to the web portal. Many schools and colleges of optometry also accept LOEs via a letter service of your choosing, which is basically a third party that collects the letters you designate and uploads them to OptomCAS. If you choose to have your LOEs submitted to OptomCAS via a letter service, ASCO strongly recommends that you have the author of each letter fill out the rating of attributes, which is required in addition to each LOE.
In addition, knowing the attributes evaluators are asked to rate can help you to determine who best to ask for letters. They’re asked to rate you on a scale from Excellent to Poor, including “Not Observed,” on the following:
• knowledge of profession
• organizational skills
• promise of achievement
• stress management
• time management
• intellectual ability
• interpersonal relations
• oral communication
• reaction to criticism
• team skills
• written communication.
“When deciding who to ask to write a LOE, you want to consider how well each recommender knows you and to what capacity,” Maisto explains. “The recommender should be able to comment on your academic abilities and/or assess your qualifications for graduate education and your ability to complete graduate work, your qualifications for a professional scholarly career, and/or your patient care and professional skills in a clinical setting.”
Additional Advice for Maximizing the Letters of Evaluation Process
Maisto and ASCO also recommend the following for achieving the best results with your letters of evaluation:
- Request your evaluations as early as possible to give your letter writers plenty of time.
- Notify your evaluators that they’ll receive an e-mail from email@example.com.
- Know that OptomCAS doesn’t determine or notify you as to whether or not you’ve properly fulfilled your target schools’ LOE requirements; it’s up to you to know.
- Don’t use evaluations from co-workers, someone you have supervised, relatives or personal and family friends. These are inappropriate and can be detrimental to the review of your application.
- It’s considered best to waive your right to read your LOEs. Doing so allows your letter writers to feel comfortable providing a completely honest and open review without worrying that you’ll be reading it.
Stay tuned for our next post, which will be Inside OptomCAS Part II: Your Personal Statement for Applying to Optometry School.
Information about the entire OptomCAS cycle can be found out www.optomcas.org.
There are many reasons optometry is an outstanding career choice. To name just a few, it offers job security based on demand for services, personal satisfaction through helping people to improve their lives, and an enviable work/life balance. But we’d be remiss to not recognize that the current state of optometry as a career didn’t just magically come to be. It’s built upon the efforts of optometrists who chose to spend their time and energy on helping to move the profession forward, in other words, serving as leaders.
The point is definitely not lost on Devin Sasser, who is about to graduate from the University of Missouri at St. Louis College of Optometry, just after completing his term as president of the American Optometric Student Association (AOSA), the largest affiliate of the American Optometric Association (AOA). “I have seen the sacrifices made by those who have come before me in order to grow the profession,” Devin says. “I feel as though it’s now my responsibility to continue to make this profession better. As a first-year student, I would often hear then-president of the AOA Dr. Dori Carlson tell students and doctors to leave the profession better than they found it. This has been my personal motto since then. To be completely honest, there is certainly a part of me that runs solely off of being able to be a part of something greater than myself.”
The same goes for Hunter Chapman, a third-year student at Southern College of Optometry who has been elected to replace Devin as AOSA president for a 2015-2016 term. As he explains it, “When I was in college at Louisiana State University, I figured out that it was only when I took on certain leadership positions that I gained a sense of place and purpose. Leadership allows you to gain meaning in life.”
Give to Optometry and Optometry Gives Back
Being an optometry student leader does come with its challenges, but Devin and Hunter both agree the positives outweigh what can sometimes seem like negatives. “There are many times when the juggling of school and leadership may get a little tough,” Devin says, “but the things you get to experience as a student leader are invaluable. During my time on the AOSA Board of Trustees, I served alongside representatives from each of the optometry schools in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. How many students can say they know someone from every single school of optometry? I have also had the distinguished honor of working directly with the AOA and its affiliated associations to develop ways to make this profession even better than it is currently. The feeling of knowing that what you are doing is having a positive impact on the future of the profession is by far the best part of being a student leader.”
Having to make decisions that negatively impact peers that you like and respect, such as appointing committee members from among friends and colleagues, is another aspect of leadership that can be difficult, Hunter continues. But he says, too, that most people understand the difficulty of those situations. Also, he points out, “For me personally, one of the greatest benefits of pursuing leadership positions has been how I’ve developed and continuously learned more about myself. Additionally, I have been fortunate to see many doors, personal and professional, open for me.”
Seeing the Importance of Optometric Student Organizations
If you’re feeling the same inner drive Hunter and Devin have to get more involved in your chosen optometric profession as a student, they say passion will be key to your success. “You have to be in it for the right reasons,” Devin says. “I truly believe that a sense of passion for the respective organization should be at the root of every student leader. So it’s important to do your research in order to develop a better understanding of an organization’s mission, and what you can do to further said mission. When you begin to realize just how important an organization is on both a personal and professional level, you’ll have no reluctance in doing your part to sustain it. It’s also important not to feel discouraged if you don’t get the position you’re seeking. The beautiful thing about optometry is there are many areas in which you can get involved.”
Hunter offers further advice for succeeding as an optometry student leader: “Be relentless in achieving common and personal goals with a sense of urgency and discipline. Choose a specific area for action or priority because time in school is limited. Be personally motivated so that you may also effectively motivate others. Exercise effective communication but also active listening. Be willing and able to personally grow and develop.”
What’s Next for These Two Optometry Student Leaders?
As Hunter rolls up his sleeves to get into his new role as president of the AOSA, he looks forward to contributing to the achievement of the group’s short- and long-term goals, which include creating a stronger connection with pre-optometry students. “Our thought is that if we want to fulfill the needs of our students and profession, then certainly an early exposure to the profession is key to its vitality,” he notes. “We have already created a pre-optometry webpage, and pre-optometry students can become a member of the AOSA at www.preoptometry.org.”
Now that he is just a few weeks away from officially becoming Dr. Devin Sasser, Devin plans to stay involved in the bigger picture. “I’m currently working closely with fellow members of the AOA on ways to strengthen the profession,” he says. “This is yet another step along the path of a lifelong commitment to optometry.”
Even though you may have already decided that you want to be an optometrist — an exciting, in-demand, well-paying career — it doesn’t mean you couldn’t benefit from some help along the way. Joining a pre-optometry club is a great way to learn things you need to know about academic requirements, the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) and OptomCAS for applying to optometry school. But the clubs offer much more, too.
They invite speakers to inform and inspire members by providing information on a wide range of topics, such as why they chose the profession, the many different ways to practice, eye diseases and current research. Speakers often include representatives from the schools and colleges of optometry, who talk about what makes their programs unique. Club members get involved in the community by doing volunteer work and helping eye health-related organizations with fundraisers. Members of clubs in areas with a school or college of optometry nearby have opportunities to visit campus and interact with optometry students and faculty. Also, a pre-optometry club is a source of support, fun and camaraderie with like-minded students.
Many undergraduate colleges and universities have a pre-optometry club, which you can find at events like freshman orientation fairs or through the university’s website if it lists available activities or registered student organizations (RSOs) on campus. The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) provides a list of clubs here, and clubs can register with ASCO to be included on the list.
How the Pre-Optometry Club Helped Me
Here are just a few of the ways students say they benefitted from their involvement with a pre-optometry club.
Patricia Ziccarelli (first-year year student at Illinois College of Optometry (ICO); former member of pre-optometry club at Purdue University in Indiana): “My pre-optometry club was very important in solidifying my decision to go through with applying to optometry school. It was nice to meet other students who shared my same goals. We talked a lot about things that we were all going through together such as taking the OAT, navigating OptomCAS and getting teacher recommendations. The club only met once a month or so but it was nice to have a reminder every few weeks about my end goal of being an optometrist. If for no other reason, I am happy I joined the club because it was at a meeting that I was first introduced to ICO, which is where I am a student today!”
Maryam Khan (first-year student at Illinois College of Optometry; former member, secretary and president of pre-optometry club at Benedictine University outside Chicago): “The leadership experience, including hosting fundraisers and community events, will be something that will help me during and beyond optometry school. The number of members in our club increased every year as awareness of optometry on campus grew. In my first year of undergraduate school, we had 3-5 members and by my last semester we were able to fill a classroom. As we had more members, we added even more events and fundraisers, which led to more awareness and interest in optometry.”
Aaron Nichols (first-year student at Illinois College of Optometry; former member of pre-optometry club at Ferris State University in Michigan): “One of the optometrists who came to talk with our pre-optometry club, Dr. Mark Colip, Vice President for Student, Alumni and College Development at ICO, really sticks out to me as being very helpful. Because the undergrad university I attended has its own college of optometry, I thought I knew what optometry school would be like. However, Dr. Colip explained to us how different students (based, for example, on demographics or personality) are better suited to attend different optometry schools. He explained how life as an optometry student and an optometrist varies in different areas, such as rural vs. major city. He was telling us to find the best place for us, the place we’d be comfortable. That really helped me to broaden my interests when applying to optometry school and realize I wanted to be where I would see the most diseases and potentially more diverse patients.”
No Pre-Optometry Club on Campus? Start One!
While attending MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Jade McLachlin was surprised to learn there wasn’t a pre-optometry club on campus. So she and a friend decided to start one. It required planning and legwork to determine the club’s mission, what type of meetings it would have, how to get the word out about the club and the field of optometry in general, how to elect officers, how to obtain university permission to set up a club (often through an office of student activities or student affairs), how to file an official budget, etc. At times it felt like a lot to do, but you can do it, she says. Her advice: “The best way to go about it is to be passionate! If you’re passionate about starting a club, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
Sign Up for this Additional Valuable Experience
On April 21, 2015, ASCO is holding another Optometry Virtual Fair. No matter where you are that day, you can hop onto the Internet and live chat with admissions representatives from any or all of the 21 ASCO member schools — all for free. They’ll be waiting to answer any questions you may have. Register today.
One of the most important items on the How to Get into Optometry School Checklist is shadowing. Shadowing is when you spend time observing an optometrist as he or she works through a typical day. All health professions schools strongly recommend, require really, applicants to shadow. The point is threefold: to gain a real-world understanding of what people in the profession actually do, to ensure it’s what you want to do, and to help you prepare for the admissions interview, during which you’ll definitely be asked to explain why you want a career in the field.
Not every school or college of optometry mandates a certain number of shadowing experiences or hours (although some do), but all of them consider it best that you shadow several optometrists who are practicing in different settings. This gives you a wider view of the many different ways it’s possible to practice optometry.
How to Arrange to Shadow Optometrists
There are several ways to pursue shadowing experiences. Some schools and colleges of optometry and some undergraduate institutions (often via pre-optometry clubs) have formal or semi-formal programs through which they can connect you with alumni and/or local optometrists who are willing to be shadowed. In some cases, you can observe for several days. In others, you may be able to do more than observe, perhaps performing office tasks or working on your technical skills as part of patient care, almost like a mini-internship. Whether you have single or multiple visits with each optometrist, keep track of your shadowing locations and times. You’ll be required to provide varying levels of detail about them as part of your optometry school applications.
It’s also possible to find optometrists to shadow on your own. “You just have to be willing to pick up the phone or walk into the office and ask,” says Kelsey Connelly, a second-year student at Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry. She shadowed in two private optometric practices and one optometry/ophthalmology private practice for a few full days each. Annie Lee, a second-year student at the University of California – Berkeley School of Optometry, and Kristin Schwab, a second-year student at Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, also successfully used various resources to find shadowing opportunities. Among the options they utilized were contacting local doctors listed in the phone book or online, those they learned about through friends who had positive shadowing experiences, the family optometrist or doctors involved with a pre-optometry club. In addition to shadowing an ophthalmologist, an optometrist at a VA site and an optometrist in solo private practice, Annie worked at the UC-Berkeley School of Optometry’s Clinical Research Center as a Berkeley undergrad, which she says “gave me exposure to yet another mode of practice.”
Elizabeth Brubaker, a member of The Ohio State University College of Optometry class of 2017, shadowed six different doctors in different practice settings — a Walmart location, several private practices in a large city, a private practice in a rural town, an ophthalmology practice in a large city, a vision therapy practice, a pediatric practice and a clinic at a homeless shelter — prior to her admissions interviews. “This was very beneficial because no two optometrists do everything the same way,” she notes. She requested shadowing sessions via e-mail whenever possible or by leaving a phone message with office staff. She also made connections at the Ohio Optometric Association’s EastWest Eye Conference. “During one session, a doctor in the audience asked a question and said where he was from,” Elizabeth recounts. “It happened to be a town where I’d really like to work, so I introduced myself to him after the talk. We exchanged contact information and have been in contact several times since.” Attending the 2014 Optometry’s Meeting in Philadelphia was helpful as well. “It’s all about asking questions and making connections with doctors who will let you shadow them or direct you to another optometrist who specializes in your field of interest,” she says.
Scoping Out Your Career in the Optometric Profession
Kristin shadowed four optometrists in four settings: an optometry/ophthalmology group practice, an optometric group practice, a solo practice and a corporate practice. “I was more confident that optometry was the right profession for me after I shadowed several optometrists,” she says. “I better understood what the daily routine of an optometrist is, and what the differences between optometrists, ophthalmologists and opticians are. I was a senior in high school when I shadowed my family optometrist, so I think this showed the admissions committee that I had a longstanding interest in the profession. The earlier you can start shadowing, the better!”
If you were to ask Elizabeth for her advice on shadowing, she would say to not be afraid to ask questions. “Optometrists are generally very happy and helpful people,” she points out. She gained lots of insights by asking the doctors questions such as whether they like their job, if they think pursuing a residency is a good idea (e.g., if they were to hire another doctor, would they be looking for someone with residency training?) and if they specialize in a certain area, what got them interested in it. “With every opportunity I took advantage of, I seemed to have another door opened to me,” she continues. “I would make another valuable connection with another optometrist or I was inspired by a patient interaction. I walked away even more enthusiastic about the field of optometry than I had ever imagined. Shadowing was also useful because it gave me many ideas and stories to talk about in my application to optometry school. Because I had so many positive experiences while shadowing, it was easy to explain to the interview committee the many reasons why I wanted to become an optometrist.”
We’ve been in the optometry biz for a long time, and because we’re the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), we know a lot about, well, the schools and colleges of optometry. We’ve also learned a thing or two about the students who aspire to a career in optometry and what they typically need and want to know in order to make that happen. So, here we highlight a handful of the most common questions for which you will eventually be seeking answers. We asked Eryn Kraning, Director of Admissions at the Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University (SCCO at MBKU), for her insights and how things work at her school as well.
1. What are the Academic Prerequisites for Optometry School?
Every optometry school lists the coursework it requires all students to complete before being accepted into the program. The list is pretty similar for all of them, but what may not be as simple to figure out are how the schools’ policies surrounding the prerequisite coursework differ. For example, as Eryn explains, some accept online coursework, AP credit in lieu of classes or courses taken many years ago, while others don’t. Some limit the number of units that can be taken at a community college, while others don’t. Eryn’s advice: “Thoroughly review a school’s website to clarify its policies. If that leaves you with unanswered questions, contact the admissions department directly.”
There are requirements other than coursework that also come into play as you’re applying to optometry school. They include getting letters of recommendation, shadowing optometrists and taking the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). (Click around the OptomCAS website, www.optomcas.org, for more information regarding application requirements.)
2. What Do I Need to Score on the OAT?
Speaking of the OAT, all U.S. schools and colleges of optometry require students to take the test in order to be considered for admission. However, how much weight OAT scores carry toward your likelihood of getting in is not the same at every institution.
Of course every school wants students to have strong scores in all subjects tested, but not all of them have a set minimum acceptable score. They may instead cite a range of acceptable scores, or emphasize that their admissions decisions are made with consideration of several factors, such as leadership and community service experience, shadowing experience and GPA and level of competitiveness at the undergrad school attended. At Eryn’s SCCO at MBKU: “We highly value optometric experience, community service and leadership skills. However, first and foremost, a student must be capable of handling the rigorous academic coursework of a professional program. This is why we place a strong emphasis on OAT scores and GPAs. We want to make sure that anyone admitted has the ability to thrive academically in our program.”
ASCO is in charge of the OAT testing program, and its guide to the test can be found at http://www.ada.org/en/oat/guide. In addition, every year, ASCO compiles average OAT scores for the entering class of each U.S. school and college of optometry. The most recently posted information can be found at /wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Profile-of-the-Entering-Class-2014-Final.pdf.
3. When During My Optometry Education Can I Start Seeing Patients?
Actual patient care usually ramps up in the third year of optometry school, but sometimes sooner depending on the school or college. Eryn points out that “At SCCO at MBKU, we have an Enhancement Program that has first-year students working with upperclassmen, observing in the clinic almost immediately. By the second quarter of their second year, our students are performing a full examination on their own patients in the clinic.” You may follow a similar path at other schools, or you might work your way up to patient care differently, such as observing third- and fourth-year students in the clinic right away, screening patients at community events in your second year, or serving as a scribe prior to actually examining patients yourself. It all depends on how each program has chosen to structure the way it goes about achieving its goal of providing you with the best optometry education possible.
Consider, too, that “how soon” you’ll see patients is not the only question you may want to explore as you’re researching schools. Other good questions are the number of patient encounters you’ll experience, the diversity of types of cases and patient demographics you’ll see in the clinic, and if you’ll be participating in interprofessional care, which is the way of the future. In the fourth year at all U.S. schools and colleges of optometry, the focus is on students providing direct patient care in the schools’ clinical facilities and/or at externships, so you’ll want to research what externship opportunities each program offers and how rotations are assigned/selected.
4. What about Housing During Optometry School?
Some, but not all, of the schools and colleges of optometry offer college-operated, on-campus housing. Those that don’t always provide at least a minimum of information about finding a place to live in the area. They may even have a housing-specific handbook or have a “housing day” event you can attend to get information and learn about the options, especially in the larger cities where the hunt can be more challenging. Eryn elaborates on SCCO at MBKU’s setup: “We don’t have on-campus housing, but we’re located in a suburban neighborhood, so we provide a list of about 30 housing options all within a few miles of campus. We have a way for students to fill out roommate profiles online, post rooms for rent, get help from upperclassmen, etc., so they’re able to find students from any of our programs to room with.”
Current students at all schools typically say the best thing they did while looking for housing was to ask people already attending the school about their experiences and recommendations.
5. Are Doctors of Optometry in Demand?
That’s a big yes! The population is aging, which means the need for eye care is vastly increasing. People in general are increasingly aware of the importance of prevention and proper health care, which requires the services of optometrists now more than ever. The settings in which optometrists are needed are numerous. If you don’t plan to open your own practice, you can fill the demand in a hospital, ophthalmology or optometry practice, community health center, teaching institution, the ophthalmic industry, the military, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs … the list goes on. Optometrists provide about two-thirds of all eye care in the United States.
The numbers are there to back it up: According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of optometrists is expected to grow 24% percent from 2012 to 2022. This compares favorably with the average growth rate for all occupations, which is projected to be 11%.
6. Where Can I Find Out More about Optometry School?
We hope the questions we’ve brought to your attention here get you off to a good start in your search for an optometry school and your pursuit of an optometry career. We’ve answered many other common questions in previous posts, so take a look back to make sure you didn’t miss any. And you can always visit ASCO’s website, www.opted.org, and the websites of ASCO member schools for all kinds of useful information.
Majority of Optometry Students Use Financial Aid
The majority of optometry students utilize financial aid, including loans. You’ll likely be doing the same, so you’ll want to plan ahead of time how to finance your optometry education responsibly. As you probably know, the costs to complete a program in any of the health professions, which include not only tuition but also living and other expenses, have been on the rise.
“Based on information included in the Annual Student Data Report (Academic Year 2013-2014) from the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), the average indebtedness of students graduating from optometry school is $148,000,” says Tami Sato, Senior Director of Enrollment Management and Financial Aid at Marshall B. Ketchum University (MBKU). For many students, this can’t be avoided, Sato notes, so the goal is to have a strategy that will lead to successful repayment.
Understanding the Terms of a Loan
The good news is that graduate students in general have a low average student loan default rate, 6.4% according to the U.S. Department of Education, and the average default rate among optometry students is even lower. “The colleges and universities that list their optometry program’s default rate separate from their overall rate in the Department of Education’s database tend to have default rates among optometry students of 1% or less,” Sato explains. “At the Southern California College of Optometry at MBKU, we have had a zero percent default rate for 16 years. These low rates indicate that the strength of the optometric profession is strong enough to make the debt level manageable.”
A solid repayment strategy includes borrowing the least amount possible and understanding the terms of your loans. The latter can be tough because, as Sato explains, “In addition to the standard 10-year, graduated, extended and loan consolidation plans, there are seven income-driven repayment plans. It’s a puzzle for students to try to figure out the best repayment plan for their individual situation.” Fortunately, there’s lots of help available. Every optometry program provides some kind of assistance, whether it be seminars, informative publications or one-on-one counseling. “The schools and colleges of optometry are concerned about the wellness of the whole student: physical, mental, personal, academic and financial,” Sato says. “So if we can reduce the financial stress/worry for students, they can focus on what they are attending our schools and colleges for, becoming successful Doctors of Optometry.”
Scholarships are a great potential source of financial aid and are available through each of the schools and colleges as well as via industry and other national organizations such as the American Optometric Foundation. You can find an American Optometric Association Guide to Optometric Loans, Grants and Scholarships online. Scholarships are awarded based on a wide variety of criteria. You can contact the financial aid officer at the school(s) or college(s) of your choice for information on all types of available aid. Some students work while attending optometry school to help defray expenses. Work study programs can be a good option for landing an on-campus job that might allow some flexibility for fitting with your class schedule. Whether to work while attending optometry school is a personal choice based on how you assess your ability to juggle both your studies and a job.
Other Helpful Financial Resources, Most of Which are Free
Other excellent resources, some related to general financial wellness and many that are student-loan specific, include:
■ The exit interview, an in-person or online counseling session with your optometry school’s financial aid office before graduating, is an opportunity to review the terms and obligations of your outstanding student loans.
■ 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy is a national volunteer effort of the nation’s certified public accountants to help Americans understand their personal finances and develop money management skills.
■ The free mobile phone app mint.com (owned by Intuit) enables easy organization of your finances, including automatic categorization of your transactions, plus active, zoomable charts and graphs, bill payment reminders and ways to save money.
■ Great Lakes is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping students borrow responsibly, complete their education and find repayment solutions that work for them.
■ YouCanDealWithIt.com is a public service of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency that provides practical and easy-to-understand advice on how to deal with common financial situations facing today’s college students and recent graduates.
■ SALT, created by the non-profit American Student Assistance, helps students make better decisions about paying for and paying back the cost of their education.
■ Nelnet offers products and services to help students and families plan, prepare and pay for their education.
■ The U.S Department of Education has created several tools to help borrowers understand their loan obligations, such as a financial aid counseling tool and detailed explanations of flexible loan repayment plans.
■ Inceptia, a division of NSLP, provides forms, resources and calculators aimed at helping students achieve financial success.
■ The National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) is the U.S. Department of Education’s central database for student aid. NSLDS Student Access provides a centralized, integrated view of Title IV loans and grants so that recipients of Title IV Aid can access and inquire about their loans and/or grant data.
■ Practical Money Skills for Life, a partnership between Visa and leading consumer advocates, educators and financial institutions, aids consumers and students of all ages in learning the essentials of personal finance. At the website you can find free educational resources, including personal finance articles and games.
■ Many books have been written about managing student debt. Titles include: How Smart Students Pay for School: The Best Way to Save for College, Get the Right Loans, and Repay Debt, CliffsNotes Graduation Debt: How To Manage Student Loans And Live Your Life and How to Wipe Out Your Student Loans and Be Debt Free Fast: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply.
Successfully Financing Your Optometry Education: Your Happy and Successful Future Depends on You
If you asked MBKU’s Sato for her advice on responsibly financing your optometric education, she would tell you to establish good fiscal patterns by not borrowing more than you need to, not overusing credit cards, having an emergency fund and paying bills on time. Her top five recommendations:
1) Have a spending plan. Know where money is coming from and where it is going.
2) Know what you owe. Keep all your loan documents in one place and refer to the government’s website, NSLDS.gov for your loan history.
3) Establish or keep your good credit. Pay bills on time, don’t take out too many credit cards (that extra 10% off at department stores is not worth it) and regularly check your credit report.
4) Plan for the unexpected. Have adequate insurance, have an emergency fund or plan for car repairs, a trip home due to a family emergency, a dental problem, etc.
5) Don’t become delinquent or default on your student loans. This is pretty hard to do if you know and use the options available to you, such as forbearance (a temporary halt to repayment) or using one of the income-driven plans for loan repayment.
She also says that financing your optometric education is an opportunity to learn and practice good financial habits that will carry over to your professional — and happily successful — life as an eye doctor.
You can get a great education at plenty of schools and colleges of optometry, but to really make the most of it, you’ll need to look beyond the brochures. Ask yourself what you need to succeed in the career you are envisioning for yourself and what factors are most important to you when you think about how you’ll be spending the next four years. Your answers will lead you to the school that is the best fit for you.
Reid Cluff, now a second-year student at the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (RSO), chose what school to attend based on his three primary criteria, which were the institution’s reputation and the affordability and family-friendliness of the surrounding area. “As much as I was attracted to some of the schools in bigger cities, they weren’t an option for me because of their high living expenses,” he says. “For me, being married with three kids, RSO has the whole package. It’s a mission-driven school with great faculty and excellent class size in an affordable yet fun city in which to live,” Reid says.
For Lauren Fereday, choosing the MCPHS University School of Optometry had a lot to do with how the school approaches clinical experience and interprofessional care. “MCPHS prides itself on getting students into the clinic in the first year, which was really a huge selling point for me,” she says. “In addition to allowing students to work with patients in the school clinic early on, they explained during my admissions visit how they were establishing more clinic sites around the city to give students more time with different types of patients.” MCPHS is also home to other health professions programs, which appealed to Lauren. “I like the idea of having different cohorts to interact with,” she explains. “The way healthcare is going, we are going to have to work closely with different providers, and this gives us the opportunity to start sooner. I was also ‘wowed’ by the phenomenal technology available at the school and in the clinic because the program is relatively new.” Cost of living was important for Lauren too. “It’s very different in Massachusetts than in my home state of Louisiana, but the school was generous with scholarships and able to point me to reasonably priced, nice housing options nearby.”
Weighing the Tangibles and Intangibles
Lauren and Reid also talked about the questions they asked and what they paid attention to during their campus visits that helped them figure out where they would feel most comfortable. “I gathered what details I could about each school ahead of time,” Lauren notes. “Then during my visits I asked about the resources available for students, especially online library access and resources in case I needed help in a certain class. I also asked about extra activities the school offers because I knew I’d want to get involved with something other than my classwork. Finally, I asked about the surrounding area and my safety. I knew my parents were eager to know about this as well!” Lauren says applicants can learn a lot about a school or college of optometry during their one-day visit to campus. “You can see how all the students interact and ask them their opinions about the school. Alumni can give you some insights, but because schools continue to change, the students are closest to the current dynamics.”
Reid applied to nine schools, was invited to interview at eight, and accepted five of the invites before settling on RSO. He always asked admissions officials how they would define success in training optometry students. “I wanted to make sure I found a school that coincided with my own personal goals so I could ensure my best chance for success,” he says. “The biggest things during an interview that made me want to attend a school were feeling like the school cared about me as an applicant and was a competitive, successful school that was going to be a great investment.”
Some Parting Advice
Reid says if he were going through the process of choosing a school or college of optometry again, he would narrow his list of choices sooner. He concludes, “That would have been more efficient and saved me some money on application fees and travel costs.” And according to Lauren, “Don’t choose a place because someone else really likes it. You are the one who has to spend the next four years there so make sure you are choosing a new home for you, not someone else.”
Both students moved quite a long way from home to attend their chosen schools — Lauren from Louisiana to Massachusetts, and Reid from Utah to Texas. Both miss friends and family back home, but don’t regret the change. Reid sees it as “a great opportunity to experience a new culture and location.” For Lauren, “The toughest thing to get used to was missing holidays, birthdays, family events, weddings, etc., but so many other people in my class are in the same situation, so it has been an opportunity to get to know each other better and celebrate with each other like a family. I’d never change my decision to choose optometry as a career or my school choice. It is a perfect fit for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
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