The National Board Examiners In Optometry and the Canadian Assessment of Competence in Optometry exams were always a mystery to me. Until perhaps two months ago, all I knew was that I had to write some sort of exam that’s going to determine whether I get to practice my passion for the rest of my life. Although I’m Canadian, I chose to take the American boards to give myself more options when I graduate. Those of us taking the NBEOs begin the exam on March 19.
The most influential factor in my decision to come to ICO was the board exam pass rates. I scoured the internet forums, talked to optometry students, and went on program websites to understand how students from each school perform on board exams. ICO’s amazing pass rates were reason enough for me to brave the cold winters of Chicago. After all, the whole point of getting an optometric education is to achieve this one goal: obtain a license to practice optometry.
As a prospective student, I was always curious to know how externship selection worked. All my life, the best everything was awarded to those with the highest grades (or “marks,” for my fellow Canadians) or standardized test score. Personally, I think they deserve it. I expected externships to be no different–students would be ranked by their GPA, clinical skills, perhaps leadership involvement, and then allowed to select accordingly. The top-ranked students would get to choose whatever their heart desired. Seriously, if you have a 4.0 at ICO, I think you freaking deserve top choice, you smarty pants, you. Actually, I’ve heard rumors that this is how it happens at some other optometry schools, and even at ICO in the past.
But that’s not how it happened for the class of 2015. So friends, get ready to hear all about the most draining, complicated, twisted mind game ever invented. As blogger Michelle once observed, it’s almost like a fantasy football draft. Except this affects your future for the next year, and possibly longer, depending on the type of experience you have.
Disclaimer: This guide reflects the experience of my class only. It may change for your class, depending on what style you vote for and ideas from your class reps. Here’s a neat little diagram in case you get lost:
When you live in Chicago, it’s bound to happen that friends and family will visit you. The city is lovely, and I tell everyone to come and take advantage of a free stay. You’ll notice, however, that after a while, you are bound to re-visit the same Chicago tourist attractions time and time again. I could try and fit an entire itinerary in this post, but instead, I think the Shedd Aquarium deserves it’s own.
Shedd gift shop with a giant octopus that blinks
After being here for a good few years now, I learned some neat things about Shedd that might save you some money. As the blog’s coupon queen, I think it’s pretty helpful to know that Shedd has Illinois Resident Discount Days, which are designated days you can bring proof of residence in the state and visit the aquarium (not including special exhibits) for free. What about all your friends from out of town, you ask? General admission is just $8, and residents get $3 off admission if it’s not a resident discount day. (Note: General admission is not really advertised anywhere at the ticket booth, but trust me, there is such a thing!) I know you’re probably thinking, ‘Well, their other regular packages go up to about $35, what on earth am I missing here?’ I think the main attraction that I’ve noticed missing from general admission access is Stingray Touch, Jellies, the Aquatic Show, the Oceanarium and the 4-D movie. If you’re really looking for a fancy time, you can meet the penguins and belugas and everything for a premium price. If you’re tight on time or money, or if you’ve already visited everything once, $5 is a great deal.
From what I hear, after the summer quarter of Retina, our focus as third years will shift towards boards. But before that time comes, our class reps Alex and Jenna coordinated a trip to Six Flags Great America so we could let loose and have fun. We got a coach bus that took us directly from the RC to the amusement park and back. We just had to bring extra money for food inside the park.
I’d never been to Great America–or any Six Flags park, for that matter–before. As a Canadian, I’d heard how amazing it is and how “itty bitty” it makes Canada’s Wonderland look. I was really excited to finally have the chance to go!
The first ride of our outing was the Viper.
As Fatima recently wrote, every year we’re required to help out at least once at a vision screening. It’s really up to us which one we want to do, but I personally enjoy getting things out of the way before my schedule gets too crammed. So for my third year, I decided to participate at the Special Olympics’ Opening Eyes vision screening, sponsored by the Lions Club. The event took place over two days in Normal, Ill., about two hours from Chicago. Those of us who stayed both days were provided with a hotel room, as well as a delicious dinner at the end of the first day. Some people just participated on just the second day; everyone received a T-shirt and a box lunch.
The cool thing about doing a vision screening is that you get to work alongside faculty members, as well as residents that you may not have had a chance to work with, such as Drs. Goodfellow, Trachimowitz, Allison, Block and Gabriel, and even some of the opticians from the IEI’s Eyewear Center. Dr. Allison brought her lovely little daughter along to help out as well. Together, we screened about 240 athletes.
Dr. Goodfellow doing retinoscopy