Signing Up to be More Than an Optometrist

green stone necklace on black and white photo

“…and when should I start getting my application materials ready? Because I don’t want to do it too early if I haven’t finished some of my classes yet, but I also don’t want to submit too late. Wait, is there a such thing as ‘too early?’”

My friend looked at me with the same eager face I wore just over a year ago as she rather quickly marched a parade of questions my way. She was getting ready to apply to ICO and I had “been there, done that!” It’s not shocking that I quickly became Piper’s* very own living, breathing, Applying to Eye Doc School for Dummies book.

This proved to be especially useful to her after she got accepted into ICO. She could scour the What Not to Do Your First Year chapter and learn/ laugh from my mistakes. There were days my thumbs got a serious workout from scrolling through the lengthy text messages we would send each other. I wove advice throughout our correspondences, using each “thank you” from her as fuel for the next text-book I would write (pun intended).

I started to realize what my mentorship meant to her after she had gotten asked by ICO to come in for an interview. Prior to the big day, her question-laden text was replaced by a dressing room mirror selfie: “I’m slightly nervous the necklace is too much.” I reassured her that the marbled turquoise baubles complemented not only her simple black blazer, but her smiley personality. That was it; her doubts about the necklace were gone, and she wore it proudly come interview day.

The necklace stood as a symbol of trust for me. It was one thing for her to rely on me for logistical application/ interview advice, but relying on me for her first impression outfit? OK, we’ve taken this mentor thing to a whole new level! Apparently, the interview went great, because instead of asking me questions about applying to ICO, now she’s asking me what she can expect when she sits in lecture hall 1203.

The unique friend/mentor dynamic I’ve developed with Piper has reminded me of the community we all become a part of when we commit to ICO. When I signed up to become an optometrist, I knew I was going to become a teacher and a mentor in a lot of ways to my patients. What I didn’t realize was I would be integrated into this amazing network of familiar faces, colleagues, veterans, rookies, and friends. They care just as much about the “clearer 1 or 2?” question as I do, and are there when the answer isn’t as black and white as the question leads it to be.

Just a couple weeks ago, I sat with Piper at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants and spilled the (refried) beans on how many mentors she could expect to have at ICO. I sipped my lime on the rocks, salt around the rim, margarita. My rant went a little something like this:

“Your fellow classmates are going to become one of your biggest resources. I cannot tell you how many times we studied in groups for exams or bounced potential exam questions off of each other, hoping one of them would stick in a few hours at 8 a.m. as we filled out our scantrons.”

“The second years, i.e. my class, are gonna be a great go-to. We just got done with first year so we aren’t too far removed from the madness, but we are experienced enough to give some killer advice.”

“And of course, the profs are arguably the most valuable of the mentors. And guess what? They actually want us to succeed in optometry school. They are fantastic. Use them.”

In case you were wondering, I can assure you everything I was telling Piper that day was me speaking, not the margarita!

As I prep for my second year at ICO, I imagine this web of mentors will be as strong as ever when I step foot onto campus. I’m thankful for the emphasis ICO puts on mentorship as it was an integral component to a successful first year for me. So, to each of you newbs being added to the network, Welcome to ICO: the developer of the great optometrist, and arguably, just as great a mentor.


*name has been changed so it doesn’t give away my friend’s identity (just the identity of my summer Netflix series obsession)


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