ICO vs. Other Optometry schools
During fourth year at ICO, you meet tons of optometry students from other schools at your rotations. At both my first and third sites, we had 3 students from 2 different schools each. Sharing our experiences, we all found similarities and differences between optometry schools.
Clinical experience: Some other schools don’t have students start clinical experiences until their second year. Then, it is often just shadowing. ICO, however, begins right away. During the first quarter, you must get an eye exam to see it from the patient’s point of view. The following two quarters, you shadow third years and can start to do 1-2 tests on a real patient once you feel comfortable. By second year, you have a partner and see your own patients.
Externships: ICO is not a competitive setting. By this, I mean that classmates help each other and almost everyone wants to help their peers succeed. I think part of this is because externship selection (as of now) is not based on GPA, but based on a lottery system. Speaking to the other students who do select based on GPA, it creates a toxic environment. People are not willing to help each other out as much. Another school has students give them a list of their top 9 for each quarter and the school picks. I would hate that; ultimately, I would be sad if I didn’t get my top choice.
Note taking: Again, ICO students like to help each other out. Each class has a note taker who uploads their notes for everyone to see. In addition, some students who aren’t getting paid upload their own notes/study guides/flash cards to the grade’s Facebook page. We also get printed handouts from teachers, and all of our lessons are recorded. I have not heard of another school that does all of this.
Exams: From what it sounds like, some schools have unlimited time to take an exam. Others can leave whenever they are done. ICO tries to simulate NBEO as closely as they can. We have 50 minutes to take an exam, they happen at 8:00 a.m., and you can only leave at the halfway point. Sometimes, the time limit can be stressful, but it is good preparation for the real thing.
Time off: ICO gives their students time off before NBEO. Other schools do as well, but I only think ICO gives their students enough. We get about three weeks to prepare for NBEO Part 1, travel time for NBEO Part 3, and one day off for NBEO Part 2. This makes students less stressed and more likely to succeed. I will say some other schools have trimesters instead of quarters, which perfectly align with Christmas break.
Attire: Some schools require students to be in clinical attire even for class. Other students must wear scrubs all the time. I love being able to wear my comfy gym clothes to class and early morning exams. I think I learn better when I am comfortable. Honestly, I didn’t mind dressing up for clinical shifts at ICO until my current externship spoiled us with letting us have the option of wearing scrubs (hint, hint ICO!)
While these are only a few differences between ICO and other schools, I think it is a quick reference to some fun differences to look for when picking the best school for you. It is also a good reality check for current students to remember how great ICO is!