New England College of Optometry (NECO) was the first optometry school where I interviewed. I traveled there not believing there was a real chance that I would attend. I thought I’d go somewhere closer to my home in New Jersey - and so did my family. I still wanted to go to the interview, though, and so I rode the bus ride and stayed over with friends the night before. I wheeled my bag into the building, ready to leave right after the interview ended. But I knew pretty early on that I was in trouble.
The building was just so beautiful – do schools really look that that? I had never studied in a building that looked that nice. When I walked in further and saw the rotunda and the ceiling and the stairs, I told myself to rein it in. Then I was greeted by the impossibly nice students and admissions staff. I can still picture myself in the room that I now know to be Clausen, listening to the speeches and reading the pamphlets, giving myself a speech about how I should not get too excited because it probably would not happen. It’s strange to look back on the specific moment that I began to adjust the picture I had in my head of what the next four years would look like.
Then my interview came and I was lucky enough to interview with a professor who would be my Anatomy and Physiology teacher in the fall. I don’t know how they assign the pairings for interviews at NECO, but they did a very good job. We spent most of the interview discussing the essay that I had written, and it was such an easy and free-flowing conversation that I truly did not feel like I was being interviewed. It was also fortuitous because one of my main concerns at the time was whether or not I should take Anatomy (a recommended but not required course) and who better to ask than the professor herself! I attended a large school for undergrad and then a smaller school for my post-bac, and with that contrast in mind, I placed a high value on personal relationships with teachers. I wanted teachers that I wouldn’t feel too intimidated to speak to and I was sure that I’d find that at NECO.
Everyone at the school was nice to me. I don’t think that that is something that should be understated or underestimated, because if you think about the number of hours you’ll spend in your school’s building, being surrounded by ‘nice’ people is pretty important! It may sound hokey to say that I had a good feeling about the school, but that’s really the truest way to describe it. I just felt good being there and ‘comfortability’ is another word that was important to me, even if it wasn’t as quantifiable as some other pros and cons on my list.
When I left the school at the end of my interview day, I strolled my little duffel down Newbury Street (wow!) and sat down at Trident Cafe for lunch and a book. Everyone there was nice too! It really felt like the universe was trying to tell me something…
But when I left Boston, I told my friends I had stayed with that even though I loved the school, it was unlikely that I’d be attending NECO because I couldn’t imagine changing course so suddenly. On my bus ride home and during the days and weeks that followed when I was accepted into the school and making my decision, I never shook the feeling that NECO was the right choice for me.
Ironically, I wrote my admissions essay for NECO about how in psychology there are two types of decision makers. I am a ‘maximizer,’ which means that I like to try every option before settling on a decision; this can be torturous! But I didn’t feel tortured with my choice of where to go to optometry school.
Ultimately, many factors went into my choosing NECO – the school’s warmth and environment, the clinical education curriculum, the professors, the physical beauty of the school, the city of Boston, and more! And while I wouldn’t downplay any of these items, when I look back on my choice, I think about the way I felt on interview day and that voice inside of me that knew almost immediately that this was where I wanted to spend the next four years.