July 30, 2012

Pacific University College of Optometry Interview

3rd Interview and it was by far the cheapest! Though I was really set on moving to a different state for professional school, I knew it was a good idea to check out Pacific. The university is a mere 40 minutes from my parents' house and in an area that I feel naturally at ease.

Pacific University was the only Optometry program that was part of the typical university campus. It is a private school for undergraduates, graduates, and professional students, so you are surrounded by the feelings of youth, new idea, and possibilities. It doesn't hurt the school is situated amongst tons of trees. You feel like you're in a forest! Ok, enough about the look and feel of the campus (I really love nature and the NW if you can't tell). On to my interview day at Pacific!

7:45am - arrive and check in at the student union centrally located on the campus. Get name tag and meet fellow applicants.
8:00 - attend a morning lecture with current students!
9:00 - brief rundown of schedule for the day before given a 10-15 minute writing sample
9:30 - introduction/welcome to Pacific University and the College of Optometry by the Dean
10:00 - financial aid meeting as a large group
10:25 - 4th year clinical rotation information session
11:00 - Q&A session with student panel
11:30 - break for lunch; eat with students from panel and faculty (you'll be interviewing with these people!)
12:30 - break off into 3 groups for interviews, campus tours, or free time (1 hour for each)
3:45 - finish up final rotation before meeting back as a large group for social hour
4:00 - social hour with sweets, coffee, tea to chat with other faculty, students, administrators, and fellow applicants
5:25ish - feel the drain of the day and head back home

Pacific's Interview day is long, but you get a lot out of the experience. You have the option of sitting in on a lecture (awesome! triple brownie points!), chat with students, eat with the people you're going to be interviewing with (aids in feeling more at ease once you have your interview), and are given a full hour to just relax. At the end of the day you are exhausted, but feel like you're already a part of the Optometry program's family. They really do an excellent job of making you feel comfortable and at ease. When I first saw that interviews weren't going to be held until the afternoon I mentally freaked. I had to be anxiety-ridden until 2pm?! Maybe it was because I was already starting to get drained, had food in me, or had talked with students earlier, but I felt very relaxed when I entered the interview room.

An important note about the afternoon when they divide you into 3 groups: if you are not the first group to be interview, you will have to find your interview location on your own. This is somewhat scary, but your tour guides can point you in the right direction. My campus guide actually walked me to my building because she didn't even know where it was! I guess it was a brand new building that isn't used yet, so if she hadn't assisted me I would have missed the interview.

Next time I'll wrap up my experiences with my final interview at SCCO.

Until Next Time,


July 26, 2012

Salt n' Straw

I love ice cream. period. Stress eating is not my thing, but ice cream always is a great pick-me-up when I am down, struggling, or trying to make the day end on a positive note.

As I've alluded to, these past few weeks have been a struggle with my housing situation in Fullerton. To not go into too many details, my original roommate got a late acceptance to a wait listed school closer to her home and family right as we were about to sign a lease on an apartment. She went with the best decision for herself and decided to attend the other school. I completely understood her predicament as I struggled with my decision to leave my family and home state. However, her decision did put me in a bind with trying to find another roommate or living situation. School is only a month away! Thankfully, after two stressful weeks and contemplating sleeping in a living room or spending over $1300/month for a studio, I have found a cute rental house shared with two SCCO students at a reasonable price!

With this frustrating situation I didn't have enough strength for much else besides crying, obsessively calling anyone I knew who could help me, and attempting to think positive. Oh, and dreaming about ice cream.
Salt n' Straw came to my rescue! It is the hot trend in Portland right now with it's sustainable attitude, local ingredients and unique ice cream flavors such as pear with goat cheese. It is so popular there is a constant line out the door with a 30 minute wait time! I met up with one of my friends the other night to indulge in a sweet treat, catch up, and experience what everyone has been raving about for the past 6 months.

We were not disappointed! We arrived at 4pm and got served around 4:30. They have a great system where as one group is being helped, the next group starts to taste. And you can have as many taste samples as you want! Best part? They provide real spoons for the tasting, so it is 100% sustainable! I don't know how many tiny spoons Salt n' Straw had to purchase, but they are going to a good cause. Feeding my tummy. Anyways, after trying all their selections I went with the combo of Almond Brittle and Cinnamon Snickerdoodle. AMAZING. If I had wanted to go with both flavors but not indulge with two scoops, you have the option of getting a half scoop of each flavor. Pretty nice Salt n' Straw, pretty nice.

Mission was accomplished. Sweet pick-me-up in local, sustainable fashion. If only it had been a bit healthier. Eh, who cares? If you're in the Portland area, have 45 minutes to spare, and love ice cream, check this place out!

Until Next Time,


July 25, 2012

Illinois College of Optometry Interview

I really liked my experience with ICO. Why? Because they have this awesome program where you can spend the night before your interview in one of their dorm (called the Residential Complex) rooms for free. Did I mention the dorm is right across the street from the campus building? And they give you a free breakfast? As I am a cheap gal, I loved this! However, it is a first come, first serve deal. Make sure you call as soon as you know the date of your interview.

Since I took advantage of this overnight program, my morning was interesting as I woke up, got dressed, and went to the school cafeteria for breakfast which was completely empty. I thought this was really weird, but it turned out the students were taking an exam that morning. This was realized as I walked back to my dorm room after breakfast and encountered an entire hallway of stressed out first years reviewing notes with each other. 'Hey everyone! Check out the awkward applicant in her professional clothes!'

Anyways, I went back to the dorm, packed up my luggage, and headed back over to the main building to officially check in for my interview. My flight back home was later that day, so I was "that kid" and brought everything with me. Thankfully, the security staff took pity on me and let me store my gear in their office.

Turns out? I was the only applicant scheduled for that day. At first I thought it was a little weird since at ICO they have a large room where the financial aid officer, admissions director, and tour guides come meet you. Because of this, I mostly was sitting on a couch waiting for the next person to arrive and talk with me. Though, I got all the free cookies, tea, and water to myself. :)

So, in terms of how the day went:
9am - checked in at main lobby
9:15 - received by a student doing work study in the admissions office and lead upstairs to applicant room.
9:20 - introduced to admissions officer, reviewed academic file, filled out lunch card, and did 15 minute written prompt
10:25 - Welcome to ICO conversation by admissions director on couch
10:45 - financial aid meeting on couch
11:30 - official interview with a professor in his personal office. finally got to leave the applicant room!
12:15pm - lunch with ICO students in applicant room. Chatted about student life, Chicago living, academic/social balance, and how they all wanted to move to Portland because it was so green, sustainable, and had no sales tax.
1:00 - student tour guides picked me up and lead me around the building, residential complex, fitness center, EyePod, and lecture/lab skills rooms.
2:00 - said good bye to admissions officer, picked up my luggage, and went on my merry way to the airport.

As you can see, I was slightly annoyed by the fact that I was stuck in one room, but it worked for the best since I was the only person interviewing that day. Being the only applicant seemed daunting, but worked out ok. I didn't have to compete with anyone to ask questions. Though, it would have been nice to meet other applicants and have a better idea of who ICO was looking for their program. The student lunch was a great way for me to get a better sense of this and they were all extremely nice. They gave tips on what they experienced and gave honest thoughts on what they liked/disliked about the program which was really refreshing.

Hopefully the break down of my day was easier to follow this time? Anyways, like I mentioned in my Salus post, this is merely what I experienced and does not reflect how you or someone else will experience an ICO interview. Take my comments with a grain of salt.

Where am I headed next? Why, my local town of Forest Grove, OR and my review of Pacific University's Optometry Interview!

Until Next Time,


July 24, 2012

The Return of the Weekend

Since I've finally figured out where I will be laying my head this next year, my weekends have come back to me!

This past weekend I went with the parents to the Oregon Lavender Festival that highlights lavender farms throughout the Willamette Valley. The day started out really overcast, but turned absolutely gorgeous come early afternoon. This only made the fields of lavender pop even more.

Walking down the rows of lavender with the humming of honey bees all around (and live folk music in the background!) was so relaxing.

Did I mention there were free food samples at almost all of the farms we went to? Sa-weet! Lavender honey, lavender jam, lavender beer, lavender snickerdoodles... a girl couldn't ask for more. Sadly for you, I didn't take pictures of the food. I saw it. I ate it. End of Story.

Until Next Time,


July 23, 2012

Salus Optometry School Interview Day

My day at Salus University (Penn. College of Optometry) began by taking a taxi ride from my hotel 2 miles down the road to the school. The taxi driver was actually a really sweet man who lived across the street from the school with his wife. He had shuttled applicants visiting from Oregon, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, basically every state in the US. He chatted with me the whole way there, so by the time I paid him a generous tip my nerves had disappeared.

This was my first interview. Therefore, I got to the school at 9am when we weren't suppose to check in until 9:15. I walked around the campus, checked out the blue pond with the fake swans (really cute!), and realized how peaceful the setting was! The building was in an odd location, more suburban, and looked more like a business office than school. However, the pond, gazebo, and fake swans made me feel comfortable. Almost tranquil.

Anyways, around 9:10 I couldn't take it anymore and walked into the main office to check in. I was the second applicant to arrive! There were 4 girls, including myself, and we all were wearing pants. Not really an inside scoop, but an interesting tid bit.

At 9:30 our interviewers picked each of us off and whisked us to a secret location. Mine was a room dedicated to pain and torture, but they referred to it as one of their interview rooms. Hmm, maybe I got that wrong? It was my first interview and I was starting to feel those nerves again.

The woman who interviewed me was really nice and we actually had a great conversation about traveling to other areas around the NE and entertainment in Philly. There was some talk about eyes and how I REALLY like them, but it was a very smooth transition. Apparently we got along really well because by the time I was lead back to the main office it was 10:25! I held up the group by having a long interview (which is a good sign for those of you preparing for interviews...), so we were quickly rushed through the financial aid meeting and our academic file review. The file review was really simple. You basically sit there and confirm what you have completed is correct and if there are any weaknesses in your file this is your moment to explain. After a quick water break, we were introduced to 2 student tour guides who we chatted with about student life over lunch in the cafeteria. I think all 4 of us applicants were starving, so this was great timing! After the lunch break and chats with the students, they took us on a tour around the campus that included the library, eye clinic (yes, it is a 10 minute drive away), the fitness center, student lounge, bookstore, lecture/skills labs rooms, and the cafeteria. 

At the end of the tour we were finished! By that point I think it was early afternoon? Maybe 2-3pm? I spent roughly 6 hours at Salus and it was a great way to start off my month of interviews. The nerves were scary, but Salus did a great job of keeping us actively engaged with the experience. We weren't sitting around very much, so there wasn't time to be too concerned about what we had/hadn't said.

However, when I left the school I went right back to the hotel, jumped into comfy jeans and had a mixed drink in the lobby (they had a happy hour in the hotel!!! how awesome is that?)

This was slightly condensed since I can't remember every moment of the interview (it still seems like a blur almost a year later), but hopefully this gives you interviewees another perspective. I should note that this is only what I experienced and may not be what everyone else experiences. This post, along with my future school interview posts, is only here to give my perspective and not a definitive answer to what to expect. Do not limit your expectations of a school from one person's comments or you could end up more confused, disappointed, or frustrated.

With that note, I hope you enjoy! Next interview post will be on ICO!

Until Next Time,


July 19, 2012

Optometry School Application Process Part IIIB: The Interview Day

Here is the Interview Part II! In this section of the application process I'll discuss what my experience was overall for Optometry school interviews and do separate posts about specific schools. That way you don't have to be too overwhelmed with the interview information.

When you interview, this is your chance to be yourself and shine. Corny, but 100% true. Like your wardrobe, you need to put your best self forward. Don't act like you would in front of friends, but do act like yourself around close adults you respect (and want respect from).

The interview day started out with an introduction from a school administrator or the person in charge of the application process. They welcomed me and directed me to the central area where the applicants meet n' greet. In this area, you will most likely be given a name tag and a booklet of information that includes financial aid information, estimated budgets, your schedule of the day, and programs the school offers. There is a high chance there will be a selection of bagels, muffins, juices, and coffee for you to nibble on before the introduction to the program begins. I always tried to eat something before arriving to the school (a protein-rich meal with fruit was very filling), because I knew my nerves would be too high to do anything with the buffet.

After the meet-n-greet, you will have a run-down of what your schedule will be for the day. Typically, your schedule can look 1 of 2 ways: meetings with financial aid, campus tours, a student panel, and lunch followed by the interviews. Or, interviews first with meetings to follow. It depends on the school. However, it is a guarantee that if an essay is involved, it is always done after the introduction. Do not sweat this part. The prompt is usually basic and there to give you an opportunity to think on your feet and show your communication skills. There is a misconception these essays are meant to determine if an applicant plagiarized their personal statement. This is not the case unless you really have something to hide, so just write from your heart.

After the 15-30 minute written prompt, you will head off to your meetings, tours, or interviews. Be prepared to ask questions, know some info about the school, drink water whenever offered, and have good shoes! You'll be walking around a lot, attempting to smile and be friendly when you're really freaked out. At Pacific University I was there from 7:45am to 4:45pm! Having water, mints, and/or good shoes for the long haul is vital. By having a few questions specific to the school prepared you have something to work into the conversation and get what you need out of the experience. Remember you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. The night before my interviews I would review my research of the school and jot down questions divided into two categories. One category were general questions that could be asked during tours or student panels while the other category of questions were very specific to the school's program left for the interview. This was helpful because some questions are better answered by students (how to balance the work load with real life?), while others are better for administrators (tell me more about the required research thesis).

Each school interviews applicants differently. At Pacific we were spread out throughout the campus in different buildings. At PCO-Salus we were in the same building, same floor, but different rooms. My interview at SCCO was in the same room where I did my written prompt, while my interviewer at ICO took me to his personal office. There is no specific written formula for what goes on, but the only thing you can control is how you present yourself.

To break it down, here were some, but not all, of the questions I was asked.

1. Why do you want to be an Optometrist?
2. Why do you want to attend our school?
3. What is your academic weakness? Strength?
4. What is your proudest accomplishment to date?
5. You did a lot of extra-curriculars in college. Which one stands out the most and why?
6. If you were in this type of ethical situation, what would you do?
7. Who do you admire most and why?
8. What do you do for fun or how do you relieve stress?
9. If you could do anything besides Optometry, what would it be?
10. How would you describe or explain what an Optometrist does to a random person?

As you can see, the interviewer is trying to get a sense of who you are as a person and if you will make a good optometrist. The questions asked are evaluating you ability to get through the rigorous program. Some of these questions you WILL get asked (#1,2, and 8 are definite). You don't need to have a prepared, well rehearsed response to all of the listed questions. However, be very clear with your message for why you want to be an Optometrist. This is "The Big One". 

Like preparing my questions the night before, I also wrote very rough draft responses to a few of these questions so I could have a visual of what I wanted to say. It worked out my nerves and helped a lot!
Hopefully this gives you a clearer picture of a general interview day. I can give more details about my days at Salus, ICO, Pacific, and SCCO in later posts.

Good luck and enjoy your day!
Until Next Time,


July 17, 2012

Optometry School Application Process Part IIIA: Interview Prep (The 3 C's)

I decided to split the interview section into 2 parts. Part 1 is about prep for the interview and the things one has to consider before going to an interview: Compatibility to school, Costs, and Clothing attire. The 3 C's.

Ok, so you've decided to pursue Optometry, collected and submitted your organized materials, and are now starting to hear back from the schools you applied to. I know, you're trying to read this as quickly as possible because this is the time when you are PUMPED. Every moment spent checking for emails and wondering the outcome is agonizingly slow, yet surreal and too fast. Enjoy it! This is when your hard work begins to pay you back - with interviews!

It typically takes OptomCAS anywhere from 4-8 weeks to process your submitted material, so during that time relax and review the schools you applied to. Also, during this time you'll be completing the supplementary essays the schools will send you. The supplementary essays are a good lead in for reviewing the schools. The questions in these essays may be more specific to the school and ask you why you chose them or why you would be a good fit in their community. These are important questions not to take lightly, so do your research! What do you want from a school? What do you want to experience and give back while in a program? By answering these questions and doing the supplementals, you will be more prepared for when you hear back from the schools about coming for an interview. By that point, you should have a better idea if you are compatible with the school and whether it would be worth the money to go interview.

Now, you may be surprised by that last sentence. As you should be! If you are uncertain about a school, but have not yet been accepted anywhere or gone on an interview.... by all means, go! Yes, you will have to figure in the money (is it really worth it to spend up to $1000 just do an interview with a school you're uncertain about?), but in the long run it could just be a drop in the big bucket of expenses you'll pay for your education. Plus, the first interview is always the most nerve-wracking regardless if the school is your first or last choice. However, if you have gone on 3-4 interviews and get another request, you need to seriously consider how badly you want to attend that particular school. By that point you may have already spent up to $2000-2500, if not more. If through your compatibility research you determined this additional school seems like the perfect fit and the money is in your budget, it may be worth it. However if the school is one you're on the fence about and you would be going only to go on another interview, seriously weigh the options. Interview requests are selective and by getting an invitation from the school means they see something in you. This is a great sign, but not a guarantee for admission. You must decide if the school is worth the cost you will have to spend for a possible spot in their program. It may not, but only you can figure that out by doing research and weighing your options. 

So, do your research on the schools! It will help you figure out if you're truly interested in a school's program. Also, think about the expense, but with the mindset of your determination of pursuing the Optometry profession and what expenses must be paid or willing to be paid to accomplish your goal.

In terms of the actual interview day? Dressing professionally is a given. For guys, nice slacks, dress shirt and tie is the minimum. Some invest in suits which is fine. For gals, it gets more complicated, but my view is this: dress professionally, but comfortably. Dress as yourself, but in the cleanest, nicest version. This can include skirts with blouses, maybe a tailored cardigan, slacks, button down top, professional suit, or whatever fits your personal style. Many girls struggle with choosing pumps or flats. Again, go with what makes you comfortable or what you deem more professional. You don't want to be walking around all day in a outfit you have to readjust every 30 seconds. I didn't want to worry about if my clothes fit me, when the bigger and more important concern was if the school was the right fit. I decided to invest in a few professional tops, but wore shoes and dress pants I already owned. This kept me within a safe budget and got to look professional while maintaining my comfortable personal style.

So, these are my 3 C's for the interview prep process. Next time I'll give details for getting through the interview day. Stay tuned!

Until Next Time,


July 16, 2012

"Weekend" Update

My second to last weekend in Portland, OR. It is crazy how quickly the time has flown by, and I have less than 2 weeks before the big caravan push to Fullerton.

Instead of giving you a typical weekend update, I thought I'd give a photographic condensed montage of my life during the past month while away from the blog world.

Went to Multnomah Falls with visiting Texas and Georgia relatives. Saw beautiful wild flowers...

... and horsetail falls.
Went strawberry picking with good friends on Sauvies Island...

... and there were great pickins'! Made strawberry lemonade, short cake, and yummy waffle toppings from these Oregon berries. If anyone says they've had the best strawberry and it isn't from Oregon, you've just encountered a liar. Nothing beats Oregon berries! 

Finally visited the historic Astoria, OR where The Goonies was filmed... didn't take a picture of the house, but we found it! Stopped at the Fort Stevens shipwreck site.... isn't Meaghan cute?! She tried climbing everything. Can't take that kid anywhere.

Of course we had to check out the Astoria Column. From below...
 .... and 164 steps later.
 Pretty nice view from the top!

Went on the lovely Eagle Creek Trail for old times' sake. Got to spend quality time with my best red head, Ruth, and even got to go on the hike with an adorable German Shepard!

Good times even in the midst of a housing crisis. When you're picking up the pieces of a messed up rental agreement, the little escapes are that much more appreciated. Thankfully, this powerkat has resolved everything and does have a place to move in to at the end of month without going over budget!

Until Next Time,


July 14, 2012

Optometry School Application Process Part II: Submission

 Apologies for making you wait forever for Part II to my guide to Optometry School Applications. This past month has been hectic with trying to figure out housing situations and attempting to enjoy summer before classes begin in August. More on those fun topics soon, but for now let's discuss the best part of applying: OptomCAS!

Ok - so if you're a pre-Optometry student and are getting ready to apply, here is my number one tip: Review OptomCAS!!! Make an account as soon as possible. Creating an account before your cycle is the best way to get acclimated to the site and find out how it works. Since the 2013 cycle just began, but you're applying for Fall 2014, create an account! It is 100% free and nothing is official until you hit submit. I did this right before my application cycle began and it helped A LOT. Seriously, I got about half of my questions answered and figured out how OptomCAS functions BEFORE I even created my actual cycle's account. There are many weird details that you won't think about (What can I put in Honors and Activities? Do I just upload my resume? Do I have to create a narrative for every school?), and you need to be informed of how your information needs to be put into the system. This is really important when it comes to confirming transcripts and letters of recommendation. If you input something wrong, it will take longer for OptomCAS to approve your application and get the application sent to your schools.

In theory, for our tech-savvy generation, online application submission should be a breeze. And, in theory it is. However, when you're stressed and want to submit your paperwork ASAP it is very important that you know how the website works so you can quickly get everything done. I should point out that I was wanting to apply and submit my application early (which is what all Optometry websites, schools, and current students will recommend). If you are tech-savvy or are comfortable with applying later when the OptomCAS staff will be busy with the overload of paperwork people have submitted (and therefore will not be as likely to quickly answer your questions), this may not be worth it. But, for me, wanting to be aware of what I was getting myself into was important. Plus, it takes about 2 minutes to create an account. And it's FREE!!!

When you are ready for the official submission process, make sure all of your ducks are in a row for letters of recommendation, personal statement, and the pre-reqs required for each school. OptomCAS does not (nor should they) keep track of each schools requirements. We are applying and entering a professional program and therefore we must be proactively aware of the requirements needed to get it. What made my process easier was printing off a paper copy of my transcripts, personal statement, and pre-req lists for each school. This will come in handy when you are required to manually in-put every course you took in undergrad. Yeah, that's right. EVERY course. Not just pre-reqs. Having a paper copy allows you to visually check off every course you enter. On another note, it helps you determine which schools you really are interested in. Maybe you don't have all the pre-reqs necessary for a certain school. Maybe you do, but realize a particular school has other pre-reqs that you don't want to complete. If you have those types of feelings towards a particular school's pre-reqs, maybe it isn't the right school for you to apply to. By knowing that early, you can save yourself some money. There is a $45 fee to send your application to a school. That adds up quickly, so to save yourself some money and time, consider the schools early on.

So, to sum up, make sure you are prepared for OptomCAS. The submission process is already stressful with the knowledge that what you input could make or break you getting into the school of your dreams. By putting forth a few minutes to create an account, getting questions answered, and printing off a paper copy of your transcripts, you will have more time to relax and enjoy the process. Plus, it will make you that much more prepared for Part III: Interviews!