When I first chose Illinois College of optometry I pictured my future with my nose in the books and an extreme amount of debt. Studying to be the best student I could be, I had a one-track mind and saw no deviation from my plan. I focused on becoming the only type of optometrist I knew of: a primary care optometrist. What I did not know then, were the many opportunities I would be given to expand my interests and involvement to move beyond just a student. Since completion of one year at ICO I have become a beginning clinician, teaching assistant, mentor, writer, ambassador and valued asset to the pediatric department.
ICO not only provides you with exceptional knowledge and clinical skills to succeed as a scholar, but also provides you with endless opportunities to become a well-rounded doctor. As a mentor and ambassador, I have learned how easy it is to teach others about what makes ICO so outstanding. Our Illinois Eye Institute, alone, gives us complex cases that push the boundaries of what we learn in lecture. No two patients come in with the same complaint to allow for limitless clinical learning, starting year one. To step into clinic and practice on patients right from the beginning, first years get a taste of what the future holds. Early clinical preparation is unique to ICO, making their students better prepared and well practiced for high volume, multifaceted settings.
Hearing success stories from various ICO alumni at social gatherings, office hours, and club meetings, made it clear to me that ICO shapes and builds doctors that thrive in the real world. After networking and listening to numerous guest speakers, my plan to be a primary care optometrist diminished. I was exposed to the multiple routes optometry can lead you to. Getting the invitation to become involved in the pediatric/vision therapy department was something I will never forget. It opened my eyes to all that is out there to pursue. I was able to see how important vision therapy can be for growing children, chat with various attending doctors, and become familiar with the equipment necessary for a pediatric exam. Still open to understanding more specialty areas of optometry, I am excited to learn prescribing contact lenses and ocular disease in my upcoming second year.
One thing, in particular, that makes ICO special is our faculty. All the professors at ICO are brilliant minds that have a passion to teach. Their intellect and expertise help each and every student get an incomparable education. The most important thing they do is prepare us for realistic encounters. The faculty are always changing the curriculum to make our education current and the most beneficial. Just recently students were notified of an improved practice management program, allowing us to better understand the pieces of optometry we are less familiar with. ICO is always centered on the students, constantly refreshing and renewing things to make your four years worth every penny.
If there is one thing I wish I would have known when choosing an optometry school, it would have been that no sum of student debt could ever amount to the happiness, knowledge, and experience you receive when choosing the school that is right for you. I am so lucky to have the chance to be “made at ICO.”