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You’re In Optometry School… Now What?

Dr. Emily Stephey, of Marshall B. Ketchum University, has advice to help get your career in health care off to a strong start.




You’re In Optometry School… Now What?

(Editor’s note: INVISION Magazine has partnered with Marshall B. Ketchum University to examine the field of optometry. This column is the fourth installment in the monthly series.)


You have completed the arduous process of applying to, interviewing at, and accepting an offer from an optometry school. This alone is an accomplishment, and it represents the starting point of a journey to what should be a long and rewarding career as a health care professional.

But first things first. Now that you are ready to begin your life as a student of optometry, there are several steps you can take right away to help ensure your success.

As someone who graduated from optometry school relatively recently and now works as an Assistant Professor at their alma mater, I believe I am uniquely suited to shed some light on the subject!

Check out these five tips:


1. Join a Club

Getting involved in one or more clubs on campus is one of the best things you can do to engage with your new community and classmates, and the larger profession of optometry.

I remember being surprised by how many clubs were available to me in optometry school, and how many options I had, depending on my interests, to find a club that would help prepare me for my chosen path in the profession. For instance, you can:

  • Get involved in the student chapter of a large optometry organization, such as the American Academy of Optometry.
  • Join a club that connects you with optometrists who run successful private practices.
  • Connect with a club or an organization that sends students overseas on medical missions.

These are just a few options of many! Utilize the clubs to connect with people and expand your experiences as an optometry student.

2. Establish a Strong Support Group

Ideally, you’ll have family and friends that you’re able to lean on as you embark on this, sometimes challenging, journey. But it also is important to connect with classmates and establish a good, core group of people for support within optometry school.

You will need people you can trust and depend on since you’ll be spending a ton of time together navigating the same lecture courses, exams, and clinical skills.

In those times when things are more difficult, it’s imperative to have people in the same boat as you to fall back on, ask for advice or seek support from.


3. Study Habits and Review Sessions

Optometry school is a lot of information doled out at a robust pace. Many students – even the high-achievers in undergrad who are typically admitted into a competitive optometry school – discover they must adjust their routines to keep up.

One of the best ways to achieve, and maintain, success on this level is to embrace every opportunity for review or practice that your institution provides. This includes learning labs, sessions with teaching assistants, and review study groups.

That extra effort and time undoubtedly will pay off. I recall that even though I felt like I had a good grasp of the didactic information I was learning, these review and practice sessions really helped me to solidify concepts that I thought I understood and gain an even deeper understanding!

4. Faculty Are a Resource

Engaging with faculty inside and outside the classroom is an extremely effective way to promote your own success. Go to them for general advice or for help with a specific course. The faculty members at your institution are a resource at your disposal. Use them!

Here’s a great example. Say you’re thinking about going into private practice or you are planning to do a residency someday. These can be tough career decisions to make on your own. So why not ask trusted faculty members what it was like for them? They once were in a similar position, navigating a similar path, contemplating similar career options. Listen to their stories. Listen to their advice. They may help shed light on your situation.

Just don’t be intimidated by the thought of reaching out to faculty. It is part of our job to help students. In fact, it’s worth noting that many of us faculty members went into education because we are seeking, and thoroughly enjoy, that connection and collaboration with students.


5. Commit to Being a Pro

It is important to maintain a high level of professionalism throughout your time in optometry school. And that starts at the beginning.

How you carry yourself, how you act, and how you treat others while you’re in optometry school can sometimes be a determining factor with future opportunities. Optometry is a small world! It’s not uncommon for employers looking to hire an alumnus to reach out to faculty members to get a more complete understanding of an applicant.

So, even though your time in optometry school is not an extended interview, people will remember how you treat classmates, faculty, and staff.

Final Thoughts

Starting your journey as an optometry student is a remarkable achievement in and of itself. And the path that stretches on before you holds great promise for your future as a health care professional.

As you enter this exciting phase of life, remember the valuable advice and experience you gain along the way. Embrace this opportunity with enthusiasm, dedication, and a commitment to excellence!


About the author: Dr. Emily Stephey joined Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) at Marshall B. Ketchum University as a full-time faculty member with clinical and laboratory teaching responsibilities in the Primary Eye Care and Ocular Disease service in 2020.

You’re In Optometry School… Now What?

Dr. Emily Stephey, OD, FAAO at Marshall B. Ketchum University

She is a dedicated member of the American Optometric Association and California Optometric Association.

Dr. Stephey received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from California State University, Fullerton and graduated summa cum laude with her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) at Marshall B. Ketchum University in 2017.

Dr. Stephey completed a residency in Primary Care and Ocular Disease at HuHuKam Memorial Hospital in Sacaton, AZ. After residency and before joining MBKU, she worked for a retinal specialist in Torrance, CA.


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