A major deciding factor for me in choosing ICO is that clinical experience begins in the very first quarter. In the first year, this experience–all of it in ICO’s clinic, the Illinois Eye Institute–is called the Patient Advocate Program. During first quarter, our PAP experience includes familiarizing ourselves with the layout of the IEI, getting an eye exam and writing a report based on our own experience as a patient.
The eye exams at the IEI probably aren’t like others you’ve had. Before coming to ICO, I’d arrive at the clinic and a technician would perform most of the entrance tests like lensometry, OCT, fundus pictures, keratometry, autorefraction and tonometry. All of these tests would be performed with automated machinery, and they’d be completed in about 20 minutes. I’d then be directed to a waiting area, where I’d sit for 10 minutes or so. Then the doctor would see me for another 20 minutes. I’d be in and out within an hour, and I was never dilated.
As my fellow blogger Fatima has noted, spring quarter is upon us. It’s crazy to think that in two months I’ll be able to call myself a “second year,” and it makes me realize how fast the the school year as flown by. I’m already counting down to summer–our first and only summer off during our time at ICO.
We’re a four weeks in, and at about this time each quarter I find myself getting extremely overwhelmed with the course load. The amount of work we have seems unmanageable until I’ve gotten a few exams under my belt. Fortunately, we now only have two exams per week instead of three, as in the previous two quarters. Still, I already feel exhausted and ready for the next break (despite the fact that our last break ended only a month ago). Unsurprisingly, some of my classmates have made fun of me for this.
Chicago’s Michigan Avenue is famously home to the Magnificent Mile, the city’s toniest shopping strip. Go five miles south on Michigan and you’ll find ICO. Something else you’ll find: a plethora of great restaurants. Below, four of my favorite dining experiences on the Windy City’s best-known street.
My highlight of 2014 so far was a trip to Waffles! It’s a delicious retro-style diner just over two miles from campus in the South Loop. From campus, hop on the #4 bus headed north and you shall be there in about five to 10 minutes, closer to five. I ordered the red velvet waffles (served with an unbelievably good whipped cream cheese topping), and my friend had the Mexican chocolate waffles. Unfortunately I didn’t ask my friend for a bite so I can’t tell you how the Mexican chocolate waffles tasted, but it’s worth a trip back for the red velvet waffles alone! When I went on a recent Saturday morning, there was no wait–a nice surprise. And, the service was great.
When you’re accepted to ICO, the question of whether or not to live in the Residential Complex–the RC–comes up. There are numerous benefits to living in the RC, and there are many reasons why one would choose not to. At this point, I myself am very glad that I opted to live there!
Living in the RC is a very unique experience and I would encourage all new students to partake in this experience to enjoy the benefits of living right across the street from school. I think it’s an especially great experience for first years. The convenience of having the college and all of its amenities right next door is absolutely invaluable; in your first year of optometry school when you are extremely busy (you can’t imagine how busy you will be) you will have the fitness center, cafeteria, library and countless cozy study areas just two minutes away. Additionally, there are many upperclassmen willing to lend an ear to help you get through the stressful times, or to simply provide tutoring or test preparation advice.
For me, coming from Canada and never having been away from home, it was nice to know that I had a place to live already lined up before getting here. I can’t imagine how stressful it would have been knowing that I still had to find an acceptable place to live before classes started. This really helped with adapting to life in a completely new city, adjusting to optometry school expectations, and meeting and forming friendships with many, many new people.
It’s no secret that optometry school, like many other professional programs, is quite costly. With careful planning, however, one can manage to actually decrease their total amount of debt coming out of school. Although the savings may seem like mere drops in the bucket at the time, it’s certainly better than a kick in the butt.
ICO has an excellent financial aid office equipped with staff who are more than happy to help you obtain information regarding what scholarships, bursaries and grants are available. They recently gave a presentation about credit scores and how to build good credit. Even if you feel you’re good at managing your money, you’ll learn something–and it’s very important to come out of school with a good credit score, especially if you plan to purchase a practice or buy into one following graduation. The financial aid section on ICO’s intranet is continuously updated with new financial aid opportunities as they become available, making it even easier for students to find scholarships and apply for them.
If you’re a US citizen, there are a lot of federal student loans available as well through the FAFSA website. Canada also has a very generous student loan program available to post-secondary students, and I would highly recommend that those who are eligible apply for them. This money is interest-free until graduation, at which time interest will begin to accrue and monthly payments must be made. However, this will save you a lot of money in interest in the long run, so it is definitely worth applying. Canada also offers student grants which are primarily for independent students (students who live on their own), and can be up to $250 per month of study. I would also recommend looking into additional websites, like StudentAwards.com, to connect you with money for school.