My Tips for Effective Studying at ICO
One main thing I’ve learned over the course of the past two quarters is that not all subjects require you to study for them in the same way. When I started my first quarter at ICO, I felt myself retaining information really well for some classes but was not able to concentrate and retain the material if I studied that way for another class. ICO luckily has a lot of resources for helping out first-years transitioning into the intensity of optometry school. I sought help at our Academic Coaching Center. Kathy, a second-year student, helped me figure out ways to efficiently and effectively study for my classes.
For some classes like Anatomy and Physiology, which are content-heavy, I started writing notes on my iPad which were condensed and allowed me to annotate diagrams. For Optics, which has a lot of mathematical and conceptual problems, it helped to go solve all the problems we did in class without looking at my notes. For Biochemistry, typing my own notes while saying it all out loud was beneficial, and for our Clinical Methods class, performing skills in the lab helped me understand the concepts. Being aware that each class requires a different approach allowed me to jump right into second quarter without feeling as overwhelmed.
With such a large course load, it is also important to manage your time wisely. Organize your day with subjects that require the most brainpower during times you are most mentally fresh. For me, this is in the morning after breakfast. As the day goes on and I start to get tired, I’ll focus my attention more on homework assignments or tasks that don’t require as much energy to complete.
I try to also make a list of things I need to get done by the next day or week. This always encourages me to finish more because I find it satisfying to cross things off my list. It makes me feel more productive and reinforces the idea that I can do this! For me personally, I try to focus on the stuff that is happening this week versus getting too far ahead of myself. Although I like to plan for the future, sometimes thinking too far ahead in an optometry program can make you feel overwhelmed and maybe even be less productive because of all the stress of what's to come. Focusing on a few days or a week at a time has proven to be the best for me.
One amazing piece of advice that Dr. Z gave me during orientation week was to schedule your breaks and to not feel guilty for taking them. With multiple tests, quizzes, and assignments due in one week, getting out of the apartment for an hour or two may seem like it’s taking time away from studying. But in reality, that mental breather will allow you to focus more and study faster than if you were cooped up all day.
It is also beneficial to your mind and body to exercise and make sure to eat all your meals! ICO has a Fitness Center that is free for all students and is open seven days a week. We also have a fitness trainer who can help you customize a workout and meal plan based on your health goals. Working out at the gym for even 15-20 minutes can be a good mental refresher and allows you to get that blood flowing. Eating well-balanced and nutritional meals helps make up for the greater amount of energy being burned off during studying.
Hopefully, my study tips and experiences are helpful for any students that are wondering what an ICO studying regimen looks like. Maybe now you can perfect your own studying techniques, too!