Hindsight is always 20/20 (pun intended). Looking back at my Optometry school experience, there are so many things I would tell my first-year self.
Whether academically or socially, here are things I would have done differently If I had to go back in time.
- Don’t dwell on your shortcomings: Didn’t do as well as you expected? Don’t sweat it. Welcome to grad school! You are bound to make mistakes and not do as well as you planned. Take the time to learn what you did wrong and accept constructive criticism. Always ask to see your mistakes on quizzes (if permitted and necessary) because you never know when those topics will show up again. If you didn’t do well on an assignment, ask your professor for feedback on how you can do things better. Don't be afraid to ask your classmates for advice. Mistakes and shortcomings are the best way to gain experience and knowledge. Don’t miss an opportunity to correct yourself and move on. Dwelling on one exam or experience will bring down your performance for the rest of your exams and assignments to come.
- Stop saying “no” to social events: Though studying is very important, it is also important to know how to moderately take some time to destress. Sometimes taking a break and attending networking or social events can help with your pace and momentum. Use these events as a reward as you study and prepare for exams during the week. Isolating yourself can take a toll on your performance. Learning to make time for family and friends will allow you to take a break and then get back to work with a fresh mind. However, be responsible and don't overdo it! Getting back to studying after a tiring social weekend can be exhausting.
- Don’t compare yourself to others: It’s always tempting to notice people doing better than you think you are or to think that some people just have things a lot easier than you do. Everyone’s situation is different. Don’t compare yourself and your performance to your classmates. Everyone has a different pace and different commitments. Don’t let what you think is someone else having it easy bring you down. This leads to negative self-talk and is detrimental to your grad school experience.
- Learn to study without really studying: In practice, I have noticed that my best-recalled knowledge comes from things I've researched or experienced myself. I always tell students to find ways to study without studying. Whether it’s reading about a condition and its treatment online or in a textbook, or going through practice questions, start doing something other than what’s assigned to you in class to further expand your knowledge! It’s also a good idea to sign up for Dose of Optoprep to get board-style questions delivered to your inbox with explanations for free! Using resources like this and others will solidify your knowledge base beyond the classroom. Even if it’s a new topic you have never covered in class, it will help when the time comes!
It’s always easy to look back and think of all of the things you would do differently. Hopefully, my experiences can help you through the first year and beyond!