A Student’s Perspective

large group of students outside on stairs wearing different colored tshirts for student event

Several students reflect on their experiences and perspectives of Optometry School throughout different steps of this journey. Their reflections give some insight into the mind of a current student and some interesting stories about optometry school. Thank you to those who participated!

During the Spring semester, students sent in their responses to key topics that many first-year optometry students encounter, as well as some surprising discoveries they were not expecting.

They started with the question, “What was the most surprising part of the first year?” Their responses had a common thread: the hours that it takes outside of class to be successful. It is true, Optometry school is a significant commitment and it likely takes more studying hours than undergraduate courses. Learning itself undergoes constant revision, not only for the information taught in the classroom but also relearning how you understand information and how you apply it outside of the classroom.  Prioritizing your study time and making it effective is a big skill that many learn in their first year. For more advice on study skills see these news articles, or visit CAPA for additional resources.

A second common topic was the living adjustment. For students from smaller towns or international locations, having to live in a city and learn public transit was a major adjustment during their first year, as well as the additional costs that come with city and grad school life. There are sometimes surprise expenses either for school or living, for example, students will need to update and gather equipment such as a diagnostic kit, new lenses, eventually contact lens fitting kits, etc. It is a good habit to keep in mind that possible additional expenses may come up during your first year of Optometry school.

The next question that students were asked was, “What has your clinic experience been like?” NECO commits to clinical training through labs in the first year and clinical placements starting your second year. Each student discussed how their clinic time was a big adjustment, but it was a great experience utilizing didactic knowledge to interact with patients and their clinic experience. Turning this classroom information into real-world patient care comes with a learning curve and over time, an ability to improve time management makes all the difference in the clinical setting. Each clinic experience has similarities, but differences are found in the patient population and location of the clinic.

“As a second year at South Boston Health Center, I’ve had the opportunity to see more ocular disease than I was expecting to have seen at this point in my career.”

Aubrey Gall, OD 2025

She continues, “It’s definitely a steep learning curve, but it has helped me appreciate the content we learn in class and form a deeper understanding of how to think or problem-solve through an exam.”

Clinical time increases over the course of the four years, starting with just a few times during each semester in the first year to the entirety of the final fourth year.

Next, students talked about living in Boston. As mentioned earlier, the move can be a big adjustment and different from what students are used to. However, many find that Boston is a great place to be, especially around NECO’s campuses in the back bay neighborhood of Boston. A good tip is to try and live close to public transportation or as Alexander Curreri OD 2025 stated,

“Boston is a beautiful city, highly recommend getting a bike. It’s a very bike friendly place and a good way to get out and see the city.”

This notion was backed by many other students and faculty. One way to keep studying fun or to take a break from it is to explore the city and fund the right spot that suits your needs. On the NECO website you can find places of interest or entertainment. At the bottom, there are many highlights of Boston and we encourage you to find your own and share them!

When comparing Undergraduate Studies to Optometry school, many felt it was quite different. However, there were some students who felt it was a similar experience, it was just how one must study that was different. Regardless of how a student studies, the big challenge is the hours one must put in.

Optometry school focuses on learning for the betterment of future patient lives. It is important not to lose motivation and get burned out and a great way to do this is to schedule out life. It is easier to stick to a schedule than to just complete things randomly. Increasing one’s efficiency and processing information slowly is better than cramming all at once right before an exam. During the first few weeks of the semester, it’s important to get comfortable studying what was just taught during class.

“I advise you to look at your options early [for studying] and try what you like best in your first few weeks of school! ”

Mariell Sabado OD 2025.

Resources and study tools change so much that it can be hard to stay on top of things, you just find what works best for you. Creating and maintaining good habits is paramount to being successful in Optometry school.

Finally, students reflect on the most interesting things they witnessed in clinic (so far). During the second year at NECO, students will have one to two days of clinic each week in conjunction with classroom lessons. The placement locations are around the surrounding Boston area and vary widely in patient population. Students are introduced to a wide array of cases that help prepare them to give eye care to all. The diseases ranged from Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, Herpes Zoster, and Ocular Albinism, to Unilateral NLP secondary to childhood trauma. These cases are all unique and extremely interesting to any practicing optometrist.

“The exposure to the profession at NECO has been my personal favorite part of the curiculum. South Boston Community Health Center gave me a wide patient base to grow.”

Noah Locke OD 2025

As a student training in the health care field, you really get to understand that every patient is unique and requires the utmost skill in not only clinical skills but listening and understanding as well. Students have the opportunity to interact with different individuals from many other circumstances, and many of them recognize the importance of this exposure early on in their education as making a tremendous impact on their careers and the way they practice.

Special thank you to all the participants – Alexander Curreri, Aubrey Gall, Mariell Sabado, Arthur Watson, and Helen Schwartz!