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  • Writer's pictureLFaits

Diving into Doctorate Level Coursework at ICO

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.”

As I began optometry school, one of the biggest stress-inducing factors was the unknown surrounding coursework. How I could be successful in all of my classes right off the bat? I had developed some strong study habits and test-taking skills in undergrad, but was so nervous about how these would translate to tough graduate-level courses.


Today, I have three pieces of advice for first-year ICO students on how to alleviate some of those worries:

Start with what you know 👩🏼‍🏫 – Before I began class, I was told that one of the most popular ways to take notes and study was to use an iPad. However, I did not have experience relying solely on technology. I personally found this concept extremely intimidating. The day before classes started, I decided to stick with what I knew (good old fashioned pencil and paper) and BOY, I am so glad I did. I walked into the first day of lecture with confidence, as I was equipped with all of the tools that had worked for me in the past. This confidence helped ease my first-day jitters.

Of course, I am not saying that my way is the only way. Sticking to pencil and paper worked for me, personally, to gain that extra comfort when everything else around me felt so new. The start of school is stressful enough. For me, adding additional unknowns was just unnecessary. As a first-year student in optometry school, you are constantly being introduced to new things, from people to challenging concepts. Starting as close to your comfort zone as possible with the things you can control is very important.

Worry about YOU 🙋🏼‍♀️ – While it may come across as harsh, this advice applies to grad students in two distinct ways. First, everyone has their own study style. Just because something works for the person next to you in the Lecture Center doesn’t mean it is going to be the best practice for you.  It doesn’t hurt to seek study tips from your peers (or even upperclassmen), but it is not worth sacrificing your grades (or sanity) to drastically change from your norm. This applies to not only schoolwork but also to exercising, eating, and downtime, too. You have to find your own groove. 

Which brings me to my second point: Listen to YOUR body. Know when enough is enough and when you need to take a break. Know when it is time to walk away and come back to that particular subject… maybe after a 2-hour nap. It is such a blessing to have all of your peers in the same classes, understanding the craziness of your schedule, but it is also important to know your own personal limitations. Graduate work puts a lot of stress on your body. You need to continually fuel yourself for those long days of studying and class. Eating well, taking some personal time to relax (see my previous post for some cost-saving ways to unwind,) and having fun are all important activities to keep in a weekly rotation. All of these things will be critical for success with your coursework and are just as important as the hours you put into studying.

Roll with the punches 👊🏻 – You might walk out of a test with a score you were not expecting. That’s okay. Life will go on. There is time to improve, but seeking timely help is critical in a grad school setting. ICO does a great job of not only providing upperclassmen tutors who have been in your exact seat but also making sure professors are available outside of class. A low score can be used as motivation to turn it around and get help. Don’t let a confusing concept continually baffle you until the day before an exam. Go to office hours or text a tutor to meet with you as soon as possible and figure it out before test time rolls around.

ICO is a family and a place for learning. There is opportunity around every corner to grow not only as a student but also as a future doctor.

Comment below with some other topics that have you worried about starting optometry school, or your point of view on dealing with academic challenges!

Good luck with next quarter, my friends, and thanks for reading!! 👩🏼‍💻


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