ICO Interview Day: What to Expect
With the start of optometry school interview season, I thought I would write a post on what my Interview Day experience was like at ICO. Here is a step-by-step breakdown, from beginning to end:
Once I received my invitation to interview, I booked a flight from Tampa to Chicago. I flew in the day before my interview and stayed at a hotel in the South Loop. I did this because I wanted to scope out the South Loop area; I thought I would rent an apartment in that neighborhood if I ended up at ICO. There is also an option to stay in the Residential Complex if you do not want to spend money on a hotel or think you may stay in the dorms your first year.
I arrived on campus at about 8:45 a.m. The security guard at the front desk greeted me as I signed in. I waited with a couple other interviewees and their families for about ten minutes. We were then taken to a room, offered coffee and snacks, and told what to expect.
Candidate File Review
One by one, the other interviewees and I were called back to meet with a member of the admissions team. This person reviewed my file and helped me write out a checklist of items I was missing from my application. I was relieved to find that I was only missing a letter from my undergraduate stating that they had given me college credit for AP Physics. She also confirmed that I was scheduled to retake the OAT exam and asked what my study plans were. The entire Candidate File Review was straight-forward.
After all of the interviewees completed their reviews, we were each handed a piece of paper with an essay topic written on it and a pencil. I was a little worried about writing the essay, but it turned out it was something that can be completed based on personal experience and passion for the field. If you struggle with writing, you can practice writing timed essays on optometry and why you want to be an optometrist.
Then, representatives from the Financial Aid department went over the cost of attendance and what to expect money-wise over the next four years. The presentation helped me plan for my expenses in the months leading up to ICO as well as budgeting for my apartment and dogs once in Chicago.
After I saw Career Development’s presentation, I was sold on going to ICO! They mentioned that ICO is the oldest optometry school in the country, and thus has the largest alumni network. Having completed my MFA at SAIC ten years before, I knew the importance of having a large alumni population and historically sound education. After I completed my MFA, I knew how to get a teaching job in art as well as how to get my work in galleries around the world. I felt that with ICO’s history, I could have similar success in optometry.
I was also excited to learn that some students are able to buy private practices and that Career Development can help you do this. I realize that I might not be ready to buy a practice right out of school, but this is something I would like down the road. Also, having the large alumni network means there are a lot of people around the country to mentor us.
Next, ICO faculty members met us for the one-on-one interviews. My interview was with Dr. Rebecca K. Zoltoski (who is now my Biochemistry professor!) She took me to her office, where I could tell she had thoroughly looked over my application. Being that I am a non-traditional student, she stated she found my application “interesting.” Admittedly, I had about 12 different undergraduate schools on my transcripts, each with one or two classes for my optometry school pre-reqs; I could see why my academic history could be a maze. Since this was a more informal interview, I was able to explain the maze and why, at 34, I wanted to attend optometry school.
The one-on-one interview is a great opportunity to explain things. I was able to explain to Dr. Zoltoski that I went through lots of speech and hearing therapy in my late teens to early twenties, and more recently, vision therapy. It was not until now that I finally felt capable of attending optometry school. I was also able to express my goals of making animations and designs to help others activate their binocular vision. Dr. Zoltoski was very understanding and expressed the time constraints and rigor of the curriculum. We also found that we were both active in Girl Scouts!
Do not fear the one-on-one interview. Just be prepared to explain any anomalies in your academic record and why you are capable of succeeding in optometry school. Also, be able to articulate why you want to be an optometrist!
Tour of Campus
We met with a current first year student. She took us on a tour of the ICO campus. This helped me get a sense of the facilities and to see if I felt comfortable here. I loved that everything, including the clinic, was nearby. With my vision, I am still not great at driving, so it was nice to know I would not need a car and could walk everywhere.
Lunch with ICO Students
After the tour, we had lunch with a few current students. This was a great time to ask questions about the curriculum, how it was going, and what their overall thoughts were about optometry school so far. This helped me get more insight into the program. I liked hearing that, since the focus of ICO is only optometry, you learn with other optometrists and the education is geared around that.
After lunch, we met back with the admissions team. They set expectations and explained when we would likely hear from them. We were also able to ask any additional questions.
Overall, Interview Day at ICO was a great experience. I was able to get a sense of the program and left feeling even more excited about the prospect of going to optometry school. If you are coming for an interview, remember you are also interviewing ICO! You must decide where will you be the most successful over the next four years and where will prepare you to be the best optometrist.
Until next time,