While our students come from diverse backgrounds and are pursuing degrees in different fields, the one thing that they all have in common is that they end up here at Salus. We wanted to feature a few of our student ambassadors about their experience transitioning into graduate school because everyone’s got a unique Salus story.

This is the first chapter of a three-part series, featuring:

Rachelle Yang
Rachelle Yang
  • Second-year Optometry student
  • From Naperville, Illinois
  • Undergrad at University of Wisconsin, Madison 
Katie Vang
Katie Vang
  • Second-year Optometry student
  • From Hickory, North Carolina
  • Undergrad at East Carolina University 
Lauren Furicchia
Lauren Furicchia
  • Third-year Optometry student
  • From Miami, Florida
  • Undergrad at Florida International University and Northern Arizona University

Q:  Thank you all so much for being here. Why did you choose Salus?

Lauren: I chose Salus because I really liked the early clinical exposure. I feel like most of what you’re going to need as an optometrist is to do the exam, the hands-on. So I felt like for me, the way I learn, I am a more hands on person. So I learn more from seeing things as opposed from reading a textbook so to me it was more important to go to a school that had more clinical exposure as opposed to academics.

Rachelle: I’m right there with Lauren, I think was part of the reason why I decided to come to Salus, and another reason why I decided to come here was because it was also close to home and it doesn’t sound like a good enough reason to be here, but I feel like sometimes with how busy grad school can get and how stressful it can get, being close to home was a really important factor for me, so I think that was another reason why I decided to come to Salus.

Katie: Another reason I chose Salus was because during the interview process, I felt very welcomed and very at home. Dr. Trego, our Dean of the Optometry program, she was very open with us and very…she just seemed like she cared a lot, and she does. After the first year, we have these town hall meetings with her and she always takes our thoughts and concerns into account to see what they can change and what they can improve on and it really shows that they care and they want us to succeed here at Salus. And I think that was really important for us because coming in as the first group with this new curriculum that they had put in place, it was tough for us, especially for Rachelle and I, because being the first class with this new curriculum, things were still changing and it was still in the works, working out everything and all the kinks and stuff. Dr. Trego and them would hold these town hall meetings and listen to what we had to say and try to find a solution. I think it really shows us, as first years, that they cared and wanted us to do well. They want us to succeed. So that was important.

Q: So this is kind of a two-part question, did you all come to Salus straight out of undergrad?

Katie: I didn’t. I actually finished a 2 year Master’s Program, and then I started school here.

Lauren: I also didn’t come straight out of undergrad, I was originally going to go to med school, so I took classes, and prepared for that. Then I changed my mind, I realized that optometry was more of what I wanted to do. I took a year off of school to kind of learn more about how to apply to optometry school and to work as a technician to make sure it was what I wanted to do before I started school.

Rachelle: I also took a year off before I started optometry school and I worked as a technician as well, I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do either. I was between dental school, med school, optometry school…so I’m really glad I took the time to figure out what I wanted to truly do before I applied because applying can be a lot of money and you want to know exactly what field you’re getting into, otherwise you’re not going to like it.

Q: Do you find that you’re time in between undergrad and grad school helped you prepare more for the program that you’re in now as compared to what you were doing in your undergrad years?

Katie: I feel like for me, going through a 2 year Master’s program, I feel like professional school is much different than it is with a 2 year graduate degree. So I thought I was prepared, but coming in, I feel like you can never be prepared enough.

Lauren: I think that sometimes the break helps, because especially if you’re in a more intense undergrad, four years of that, and then you go straight into four years of graduate school, it’s almost like you get burned out. Sometimes I think the break is good, to just travel or do something non-academic before you start, so you don’t feel overwhelmed and tired when you start optometry school.

Q: Prior to starting grad school, what were your expectations, and how do they compare to the reality of things?

Lauren: So my expectations were that it was going to be similar to undergrad, but just more studying. That you were just going to go to class and take exams and that was pretty much it. It’s a little different. Your schedule changes every week, it’s not like undergrad, where you have a set schedule, classes from 1-3 every day. Your classes could change by the week, sometimes, a few days before, a class will move, and so it’s very important that you are very good at time management and that you read all of your emails. It was just different also, in undergrad, you could kind of get away with just cramming at the last second, here a lecture will be 200 slides, and a test has 7 lectures on it. You can’t just study the night before. So here, it was really important, what I learned, is at the end of every day, I would review what was taught that day, so it’s more likely to stay in. Whereas in undergrad, I would just go to class and not look at it again until the exam. So here reinforcement is very important. Always trying to be one step ahead of the material, keeping up with everything.

Rachelle: Yeah I think coming in, I knew it was going to be hard, but you never know how hard it’s really going to be until you’re actually in school. So yeah, I knew it was going to be hard.

Q: Harder that you expected?

Rachelle: Oh yeah, definitely. You need to stay on top of your game, and I think Lauren kind of emphasized that. There’s so many lecture slides and back during undergrad, I barely didn’t study until a few days before. Now that you’re in grad school, you really have to…I start studying at least a week in advance, and I try after every lecture to go back and re-watch the lectures which is nice, because all of our lectures are posted online. And take my own notes and add what the lecturer says during class that day. Also, I learned that it is good to get help early. There’s so many resources here at Salus like tutoring. A lot of our professors also have office hours and they always tell us to get help early. It’s never bad to ask for help.

Katie: And it’s nice because we have that peer mentoring program. So you can always refer back to your mentor. Usually they are upperclassman, so third years. They are very welcoming, too. If you need help or any suggestions with anything, please ask us. So that’s nice.