Student Success & Residency

A Survey Of Study Methods: What Works?

Tis the season for studying here at the University of Houston College of Optometry. The third years are busy with boards, the second years are tackling pharm, and the first years are just now realizing what they have gotten themselves into.  

 As a third year myself, it has been a time of reflection; as I began studying for boards, I realized that there was a lot of information that I had “learned” in my classes, but never retained. Then the big realization hit: I had been cramming for tests my entire academic career. 

 So, as a reasonable person in a state of reflection, I mass-emailed the entire student body of first, second, and third years asking for some advice on studying. It was disguised as a survey of study methods, saying it was for an article I was writing, but the real reason for sending out the survey may have been two-fold.  

Everyone, of course, is different when it comes to learning styles. It’s best to know yourself and your own preferences. Unfortunately, I had no time for that. What I needed was DATA and I needed it quickly.  

Here are the findings (n=151 unless otherwise stated): First, I should say that the classes were almost equally represented. If you really want to extrapolate, it means that I have only a slight skepticism for the current first years.  

People overwhelmingly thought that the best study method was writing and re-reading notes.


Many people are happy with their methods for studying, but a good amount are not. Interestingly, the OPT IIIs were proportionally the least likely to be happy with how they study. 

Most people had to change their style of studying for optometry school. 

Finally, I asked for some thoughts if anyone was willing to share. Zebin Dholasaniya, a second year, gave some practical advice by saying that tables allow him to visualize relationships between related or opposing concepts and that color-coding material surprisingly makes recollection of material easier. Some other interesting study methods people reported included teaching others the material, walking around while talking through the material, and spaced recall. 

Brandon Le, another second year said that “[everyone] has different methods. Not one thing works for everyone. It’s important to realize that especially when giving advice; you don’t want to project your own experience onto someone else as gospel. What works for me might not work for others; everyone learns differently and it’s ultimately up to that individual to figure out what works best for her or him.  

 As much as I hate to take someone’s advice about giving advice, I had to agree with him. There’s only so much that data can do, but if anything, it’s a place to start. From this I have started to incorporate more study methods to see what works for me. This was also a good reminder that as challenging as school can be, reaching out to classmates who are going through the same struggles can help.  



Student Success & Residency

A Timeline To Boards

“This is the most important test you’ll take in your career.” These words that have been spoken to me time and again always bring a sense of anxiety and stress. However, it’s always been a “future Meredith” problem to address, and I was fine letting her deal with that burden. The semesters have quickly sped by and now as a freshly minted third-year optometry student, I’m tasked with boards Part I, II, and III preparation. I initially had no idea where to begin, and since I have not taken or prepared for boards yet, I have sought the guidance of many current 4th fourth-years and recent graduates to summarize a timeline approach for boards preparation. Students should initially visit the NBEO website to learn what is expected on Part I, II, and III of boards. Specific registration dates will also be provided via the NBEO website.  



Student Success & Residency

Was My Residency Really Worth It?

Deciding whether to do a residency came down to one burning question: Would I regret not doing one? I exhausted every resource, talked to every person I could and even asked my mom what I should do. At the end of the day, I knew that I would regret a decision not to pursue a residency … so I finalized my rankings and hit submit. I have not regretted that decision for one second. My residency has given me my current job in a practice setting in which I love; and I’m indebted to my residency experience for that. 

For whatever reason, the applicant pool of potential residents has decreased year after year, and I don’t understand why. Optometry is becoming a more medical profession and the residency experience puts you in the throes of said contemporary model. We as doctors of optometry are not simply refractionists, we are medical providers and I wanted to be the most prepared medical provider I could be. What I learned over the course of one year is leaps and bounds more than I would have learned over the course of my first few years in practice straight from optometry school. As they say, “residency is five years of experience in one.” I believe that. Without my experience as a resident, I don’t think I would be nearly as prepared as I am to see patients on a day to day basis. 

Yes, you can certainly graduate optometry school and go directly into practice. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I was told during one of my residency interviews that doing a residency can only open more doors for you. Certain jobs you seek after graduation (i.e., some optometry schools, VAs, or even OD/MD practices) place a preference on residency trained doctors. When the time came, I didn’t want me not doing a residency to determine whether I got the job I wanted. I wanted to leave no stone unturned and pursuing the extra year of training has allowed me to be where I am today. I am confident that my decision to pursue a residency has made me a better doctor, and that’s all I can be grateful for. 

If you’re interested, I can give you some quick guidelines and important dates. First, start asking for letters of recommendation now from your professors and your attendings. If you’re on rotations or even if you haven’t started yet, think of who would be an asset in writing a letter of recommendation for you. Start putting together your CV if you haven’t already and have more than one person proofread it. On Oct. 7, 2020, the ORMatch opens and you can register for the service and eventually submit residency rankings. There’s a fee of $350 to register ; it’s not a small amount by any means, but if you’re on the fence I would at least try your best to at least register and keep the option open because the recommended deadline to register is Dec. 31, 2020. Then on March 19, 2021, you have to submit your final rankings and about 10 days after, your match results are emailed to you. If you go to you can find a more specific list of dates so you can ensure you’re on time for everything. 

Lastly, I think the most important thing you can do is talk to people. Talk to professors and students in classes above you who did and did not do a residency to find out why. See what each individual says so that when the time comes, you are making a decision with as many resources exhausted. You can view the ASCO Residency Directory and reach out to programs to inquire about what they offer and even get in contact with current and past residents for their input. If you’re zeroing in on a list of places to pursue a residency, ask as many people who trained there as residents what they did and did not like about their program. Ask about the extra work involved, as most programs require publishable papers and some formal presentations. Get a firm grasp on each site as you narrow down and solidify your rankings. And most importantly, do not rank a site you wouldn’t be absolutely thrilled to go to. The scramble isn’t a death sentence if you don’t match plenty of my colleagues ended up in the scramble and loved where they ended up. At the end of the day, things work out how they are supposed to! 

To end, I don’t know if anyone has ever done a residency and regretted it. All I can speak of is my own experience, and I truly feel that choosing to pursue a residency has prepared me for the “real world.” Honestly, who could regret that? Not me.  

Pictured: Co-residents Brittney Schieber, OD and Hyder J. Almosawy, OD at the Providence VA Medical Center