Sydney Mathias, IU Class of 2024

POSTED ON 07.08.21

Student Experience

What I Wish I Knew: 1st Year

Optometry school is the next exciting part of your life. You are one step closer to reaching your goals. Here are some things I wish I would have known my first year of optometry school.  


  1. Patience is essential. It is incredibly important to be patient with yourself. Optometry school is not only a major change in the level of academics but also a major transition in life as well. Don’t get down on yourself if things aren’t going perfectly right away. It takes time to adjust and balance to all of the new challenges you will be facing, in school and out of school.
  2. Comparison hurts more than it helps You are in optometry school! That in itself is amazing! You are surrounded by likeminded people who are all very smart and have the drive to be successful. It is okay to not get an A in every class or the highest grades in your friend/social groups. You are learning and will be utilizing the same information that they are and you are earning the same degree. Be the person who lifts others up, and don’t let others bring you down. 
  3. Find balance Optometry school keeps you busy. You must find a balance between school and life. Restarting hobbies you may have had when you were younger is one example; making time for yourself to relax needs to be a priority. Take the time to go for a walk, hike or to watch that Netflix series you’ve been dying to start. Spending even an hour or two away from classwork can totally rejuvenate your mindset and will make your experience in optometry school much more enjoyable. 
  4. Be open to new study tactics. In undergrad, I studied by myself. Study groups have been a miracle worker for me since starting optometry school. The volume and difficulty level of this material compared to your undergraduate studies can be overwhelming. Many times, the methods that worked for you before simply don’t work now, and that’s okay! Studying with classmates and categorizing material have been two of the key changes I have had to make. There is no shame in admitting you might need to switch up your tactics. 
  5. Use your resources. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Utilize information from upperclassmen, professors and mentors. These people were in your shoes not too long ago, and they understand what you’re going through. They will have so many helpful tips and things to tell you. Also, take advantage of any tutoring and counseling opportunities that your school may offer. Reaching out for help, whether it be for school or your mental health, is always an honorable thing to do.
  6. Find a support system. Having somebody to vent and talk to, whether it is a best friend, roommate, family member, mentor or even a pet, is essential. There are bound to be moments that you feel totally overwhelmed or just need to rant and get something off  your chest. Find the people in your life who can be there in those moments and remember that they are rooting for you!
  7. Be involved. You will have so many different opportunities to get involved in your school from clubs to research to social events. Finding a group and purpose through school will make your experience even more enjoyable. Now is the time to find out what you are interested in, so do it!
  8. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Now is the time to make mistakes. You are in an amazing learning environment, and one of the best ways to learn is through the mistakes you make. Take those failures and allow yourself to grow from them, that’s how you will find the most success.  
  9. Keep up with your lectures. Cramming the couple days before an exam may have worked for you in the past, but that strategy is nearly impossible in optometry school. One of the best ways to not let yourself fall behind is to review your lectures daily and try to learn the information as you go, instead of the day before the exam.
  10. Be adventurous and open to change. Some people may start optometry school with a direct goal in mind while others have no direct path in mind. Either is completely okay. Take advantage of the amazing academic opportunities available to you and try different things; volunteer for research opportunities or local eye care clinics. One of these opportunities may offer you a new perspective of optometry.