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  • Writer's pictureLauren Aguilar

Dear Class of 2023,

It has been a year since my world turned upside down when I made the big move to Chicago. Starting optometry school has brought with it a change in perspective and a world of new knowledge. Orientation for the incoming class of 2023 has had many of the 2nd year students reflecting on how much we have grown in the past year and what we want to share with new students as they begin their journey at ICO. Here are some of my favorite pieces of advice for the incoming students:

Experiment with different ways of learning until you find what works for you.

Many of us come into ICO thinking we have a perfect study method and will have everything under control. While for some this may be true, I know that the rigorous curriculum can challenge the methods we’ve used before and cause us to look into different ways of covering all the material. I personally had to learn the hard way that I didn’t have enough hours in the day to make physical notecards like I was successfully able to do in undergrad. My study methods changed and evolved from quarter to quarter, and I’ve accepted that I won’t always know what will be most effective for me in a certain class from day one. There’s a lot to learn, so try your best, study hard, but don’t be afraid to get creative and try something that you haven’t tried before!

Don’t forget the importance of your physical and mental health.

When exam season picks up and it feels like you have every minute of your schedule penciled in, don’t forget to include time for yourself. In fact, write it in Sharpie! When you feel overwhelmed with the amount of material you still have to finish, sometimes going for a walk or hitting the gym can be the solution you need to clear your mind and motivate yourself to push through. Just like your body needs an exercise break, your mind needs breaks, too! Don’t feel guilty about hanging out with your friends or about time spent making phone calls back home. Your family and friends are a great source of encouragement and are a reminder that there’s more going on in the world than your science courses!

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Everyone wants to vent when they don’t do as well as they want to on an exam, just as everyone feels elated when they hit it out of the park. I would encourage you to express your feelings about your exam performance in a tasteful way that takes into account the fact that everyone has different strengths and struggles. Nothing can make a disappointing grade worse than hearing about how easy your friends thought the exam was. Despite what everyone may be saying about a class or a grade, remember that each person has a different goal they’re working towards. Some of your classmates will be distraught if they don’t make straight A’s, while others are happy to simply pass the class. Know yourself and your goals and only compare your results to your own potential.

Good luck to all the new and returning students at ICO. We are all rooting for each other, so don’t be afraid to reach out, ask those around you for help and advice, and take advantage of all the resources you can.


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