June 11, 2012

Optometry School Application Process Part I

I was recently asked by someone how the Optometry school application process went so seemingly smooth for me. After being shocked that I somehow effectively covered up my 24/7 stress for 9 months, I sat down and wrote out how I made it work without always being overwhelmed.

I have decided to divide up my process into 3 parts to make it easier to follow along:
I. Preparation
II. Submission
III. Interview

Today I will discuss the "Preparation":

I first started exploring the idea of Optometry in the fall of 2010. A few family friends and co-workers had mentioned the career thinking it would be a good fit for my quiet, but friendly personality. An old family friend was a private practice Optometrist, so I contacted him and asked if I could shadow for a day. After 1 visit I could see why people thought of me when they thought of Optometry, but I still wasn't convinced. I enjoyed how the Optometrist could create a conversation with the patient, analyze the problem, solve it, and improve the person's eyesight within one visit. But, it was sooo routine. My OCD side loved this, but I wondered if I would get bored in the long run. So, I contacted a few other Optometrists in the area, at larger practices and HMOs, to see if I would like a faster pace setting.

Loved it. Specifically, all of the eye diseases I was exposed to in a single day of observation. Not just cataracts, not just astigmatisms, but also detached retinas (post-opt), macular degeneration, and pink eye (last one, not so fun). I was hooked and wanted more. So, I looked into what was necessary to apply to Optometry school. Holy moly, a lot!

Apparently I needed to take an OAT (Optometric Admissions Test)? Three letters of rec, a personal statement, at least 30 hours of observations, and wait... I had to take another psychology course? Yikes. I realized I was not prepared for applying to enter with the Fall 2011 class. So, what did I do? I prepared for Fall 2012. And made a Timeline checklist (these months were during the year of 2011 to enter the following fall):
  1. Prepare for OAT and take by end of May
  2. Find 3 Letters of Recommendation, 1 being an Optometrist by end of February
  3. Begin rough draft of personal statement in February and refocus attention after OAT exam. Have final draft complete by end of June/early July.
  4. Double check prerequisites by end of March and take any courses if necessary during summer/fall
  5. Submit application on OptomCas by end of July
I started investigating methods of studying for the OAT (I decided to take a Kaplan course since I had been out of school for a couple years) while at the same time getting back in contact with a few good professors from college. This was in November/December of 2010. Why so early? Well, registration for Kaplan courses fill up quick and I wanted to give ample time to my potential letters of rec (LORs) so I could have a back-up plan in case they said no.

So, Kaplan course started in January and went through April of 2011. Early on I spent 2-3 days a week studying for a couple hours with the other days either relaxing, working on a very rough draft of my personal statement, and confirming letters of rec. In other words, I multi-tasked like no ones business. I also committed to a test date for mid-May (a few weeks after the course ended). By sticking a proverbial carrot in front of myself, I had more determination to follow through with the late night study sessions as time went on. By April, I left the personal statement alone, ignored everything, and became good friends with the librarians.

After a celebratory drink for completing "the beast", I double checked my pre-req situation and signed up for a summer online psychology course. Since I had given some time in February towards my personal statement, I didn't have to waste extra time figuring out how to start the essay. I was able to look at my rough draft from a new perspective.

Because stress was over taking my life, I logically decided to take a nice break and go to my family reunion in Durango, CO. I didn't think about Optometry, schools, or applications during this week in June. It was a great distraction and because of my preparation in earlier months, I knew I would be ok. If you plan early, breaks are more enjoyable and won't feel like a time waster. And, they are nice goals to look forward to (stick that carrot in front of you)!

After the glorious week off, I got back to work on my personal statement. I actually took longer with this than I initially planned for and didn't complete the statement until mid-July. In the end I spent about a good month editing, re-editing, reviewing, and word crunching to make it "me". This couldn't have happened without many people reading and providing feedback. Other people have great insight about grammar, flow, and oh yeah, cool qualities about you that you sometimes forget!

Once I was done with the statement, did a last confirmation with my LORs, I was ready to submit. And have a good drink.

So, while I was stressed from January until July, I was able to manage my time and multi-task early on in order to make May through July not seem as stressful to me. Next time, the submission process!

Until Next Time,