What Are You Doing This Summer?

Thinking about summer conjures up thoughts of sunning, swimming, tanning, surfing.  Or perhaps you think of hiking, camping, trekking.  Maybe you will journey to distant lands and soak up new cultures and learn a new language.

Your summer plans as a prospective optometry student differ from those of an incoming student of the Class of 2016.

As a prospective optometry student, summer vacation provides a great opportunity to really investigate the field.  What is a day like for an optometrist in private practice?  How does it differ for an optometrist practicing in a community health center or in a hospital?  What is a day like for a doctor specializing in low vision?  How about a Veterans Administration setting, vision therapy practice, contact lens specialty, or MD/OD practice?

Spending one day per week of summer vacation shadowing optometrists in each of these specialties also gives you opportunities to pursue other summer activities.  Best of all, you would begin to get a brief but true-life exposure to the realities of different modes of practice.  You would begin the start of your own network of potential employers.

How would you find optometrists willing to welcome you into their practices for the day?  Your state optometric association can be one avenue to explore.  Your own OD or MD may be another.  You will also find that many ODs have a referral network of specialists for their own patients, and this list may suggest other ODs for you to contact.

If, in the process of exploration, you decide you would like to pursue optometry as your career and are not yet ready to begin the admissions process, think about applying for a full-time job in an optometrist’s office.  Whether technician, front desk or other position, once again you strengthen your commitment to the profession and increase your knowledge base.

As an incoming student, hopefully you have a full-time summer job with an OD who you may have met during your prospective optometry days.  Now you are looking at your summer job as a prelude to your first year of optometry school.  You observe how patients are greeted.  You see how many appointments per day are booked.  When invited, you observe the doctor during the patient exam.  You wonder why each test is done, why each patient may have different tests, what the results actually mean.  You may be given the chance to actually do some tests under the doctor’s supervision.  It seems to be so easy for the doctor to decide what is to be done; it seems each test is done so gracefully and it seems so easy for the doctor to educate the patient.  It begins to sink in:  in 4 years, this will be ME.  How will I transform into this knowing, experienced, compassionate OD?

Summer vacations provide opportunities for quiet reflection on who you are now and who you will become.  The value of this is impossible to assess: learning more about your career cannot be measured in salary.  Take the opportunity to turn your summer into a priceless experience of career exploration.

Lose the Competition – and Win the Knowledge

Do you like to win?
Who doesn’t like to win?
Whether it be at athletics, test scores, or term grades, it just feels good to be the best.

What does it take to win? Determination, practice, and competitive spirit are traits that winners have.

What is competition? Competition can be defined as “a test of skill or ability; a contest.” It can also be thought of as a “rivalry” (from www.thefreedictionary.com). These are important distinctions.

The first, in the case of grades, is a test of your own talents or expertise. You are, essentially, competing against yourself. How well did you study? How prepared for the exam were you? In a rivalry you are competing against others. How well did they study? How prepared for the exam were they – in comparison to you?

When you think of it, you have been competing most of your lives. You competed to be on the team in your sport. You competed for summer jobs. Your biggest competition, your rivalry among the greatest numbers of applicants, was to be admitted to the college of your choice. You competed for the highest scores on the SAT or ACT. You competed to have the best admissions essay and the best admissions interview.

Once in college, the competition started yet again. Perhaps you competed for leadership roles, perhaps for internships, perhaps for sports. And then – you decided to be an optometrist. More competition loomed: OATs, great grades on prerequisites, great grades overall. Did you also compete for a job in an optometrist’s office?

All this competition! It can be exhilarating. It can also be exhausting and anxiety-producing. And here is the absolutely best news: you can turn it off. You can say goodbye to competition, although it has become such a part of you that it may be hard to for you to consciously, deliberately lose it.

Why do I advise you to lose the competitive part of your personality in optometry school? The genuine answer is that I want you to become the best optometrist you can be. You might argue that to become the best involves competition, and in a way it does. Becoming the best optometrist you can be involves the following:
• Realizing that you have reached your end goal – you’ve been accepted to NECO.
• Truly understanding that grades are no longer to get you to another place somewhere – they are to give you the knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat your patients.
• Recognizing that both competing and winning now have new definitions.

At NECO, you and your classmates learn together. You are with one another in lecture. You practice on each other in lab. You may be roommates. You attend social events together. The key word here is TOGETHER. You and your classmates, the faculty and staff at NECO are in this together. We Are All Here For You.

How do you relate to each other in this new non-rivalry world?
• First, ironically, you compete with yourself to find the determination and commitment to sit down and study for depth of knowledge.
• Next, you continue to compete with yourself to go to the lab and practice, practice, and practice even more.
• Then, maybe you form a study group. You may decide to become class note taker.
• You leave no question unanswered. If you don’t understand, you ask the faculty, you ask upper class students, you ask your classmates.
• You answer your classmates’ questions.

Losing competition now means winning.

Saying goodbye to competition means becoming the best OD you can be.

Don’t you feel better already?

What You Learn in First Year Is Not Only Optometry

Being the Associate Dean of Students allows me to share in and be a part of all of the experiences you have during your time at NECO, from your first day (orientation) to your last (commencement).

You have had many first days and first years and new ways of learning, forming and maintaining new relationships, and taking on more and more responsibility for yourself, your decisions, and your intellectual, emotional, and social life.

Your first day and first year of optometry school offer you the same opportunities, challenges, and adjustments, only magnified (no pun intended). You will find that there is more volume of work, less free time to study, and that a greater depth of knowledge is required of you. As you study, you are constantly wondering how what you are learning relates to patient care.

You will also enjoy a common bond among all of us in the NECO community. Since you and every one of your classmates have the same career goal, becoming an optometrist, all of your classes relate to optometry. We are all here to support you in achieving the OD degree.

As Dean, I so enjoy getting to know you, especially in the first year because I see so much growth in you, and because I know that each year you continue to grow in response to the opportunities before you.

Here are examples of your growth during first year.

• If you are living on your own for the first time, you truly learn to manage a household. You conquer grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, housecleaning and bill paying.

• You learn how to manage your time. Your priority is to study well, and you find the needed time.

• You adjust the way you study. You conquer exam anxiety. You seek out study partners or request peer tutoring.

• You become active in one of our many student activities.

• You bond with your classmates. You help each other out when needed.

• You realize that asking for help is encouraged. You find that proactively seeking assistance provides great relief and allows you to accomplish your goals. You leave my office happier than you arrived.

• You take good care of yourself. You eat well, sleep well, and exercise.

• You fall in love with Boston and find wonderful places to go with friends.

Being Associate Dean of Students allows me to find a little space within each of your hearts. You each have a big space in mine. On your first day at orientation, you are excited to arrive and I am excited to welcome you. On your last day, commencement, I am proud of you, but the day is bittersweet for me, because I must say farewell as you begin your new life. And when you do contact me as an alum, I am delighted.