In just a few weeks, I will officially become a second-year student! Crazy how quickly time has flown.
Although looking back, the days seemed to never end. With constant schoolwork and studying, it still doesn’t feel real that I am so close to finishing off my first year. I am filled with so much excitement, but also a sprinkle of fear. It seems super overwhelming, but I already made it this far. With my study techniques and motivation, I am ready to tackle another year head-on.
Getting adapted to my first year of graduate school took a lot of trial and error. I changed up my study techniques several times, but I think I finally found what works for me.
So, here are a couple tips that I wish I knew before I started optometry school;1. Know your “Why”
Having a strong purpose for going into a rigorous four-year program is a huge necessity. You will be making numerous personal sacrifices that require a lot of self-control. Many weekends may need to be spent buckling down on schoolwork or studying; grad school waits for no one, so you don’t want to be left behind. By having a strong reason to be there at the back of your mind at all times, this helps to really bring you back and recognize that all that you are doing is worth it.
2. Be open to change
When all is said and done, everyone has the end goal of becoming an optometrist. But you must be aware that there are many paths to take even after you become an optometrist. Will you be in a private practice or corporate? Will you take a residency or become a fellow? Where do you want to practice, since every state has different regulations? Your goals will shift or become more and more specific as you continue through schooling, so you must not have tunnel vision. Be open to different paths and the possibilities are endless. Even as a first-year, the future I have imagined has changed so many times already. This is completely normal.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others
Everyone in your class will have the exact schedule as you, so you will all be experiencing similar stresses with exams and practicals at the same time. Don’t get obsessive over a grade or your GPA — at the end of the day, once you graduate you will ALL be doctors. Don’t be ashamed to reach out for help because the number of resources is endless (professors, mentors, tutors, peers).
4. Buy a cute water bottle and take many breaks
You can only get so far as your body and mind will take you. Don’t push yourself to put 110% of effort into your studies constantly without sprinkling in other activities to keep a balanced lifestyle. I found that having several water bottles and cute reusable straws really help remind me to stay hydrated. I am more of a night owl, so I like to sleep in but stay up late to finish up my tasks. Do what works for you and try to create a balanced routine. Find ways to refresh your mind, like taking a nap, watching a quick show, or even checking out a few TikToks. Make sure you’re eating properly, getting enough sleep, sticking to an exercise routine, and socializing with friends and family through video calls. Breaks will be your best friend to avoid burning out. You may think it is impossible to put all those aspects in, but just know, you do have time and you are doing just fine.5. Have a “to-do” list and try to complete it by the end of the week
It is completely okay to fall behind with lectures for the week as you always have the weekend to catch up. If you find yourself falling more and more behind, make a study group with a designated study spot. You may find that just being around productive people would be helpful. Change up your study locations, have a tidy space, use new writing utensils — sometimes your mind just needs a change of pace to find the motivation to be productive again.
6. You are not alone
Even if you start off your experience virtually, you will find your pod. Don’t be hard on yourself if you are unable to find a group of friends from the get-go; everyone is very busy getting acclimated to the new environment. Just be yourself and have an open mind with everyone you meet. Reach out to anyone in every section for lab if you need a partner, as it is a great way to meet a wide range of people in your class. If anything, attend new clubs, join the mentorship program, or form other study groups—there are infinite amounts of chances to put yourself out there.
It is important to note that these helped me personally, but everyone is different! Do not be afraid to reach out to upperclassmen, your professors, or even your fellow classmates. We are all in it together and everyone is there to help and support you. Always remember to take a deep breath and get it done!
- Michelle is a first-year Optometry student at Salus University