Student Life Blogs | Southern College of Optometry
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I cannot wait to get started!

Hello! I’m a 1st-year contributor to the SCO student blog and I am so happy to be able to lend my experience to those who are considering optometry school and Southern College of Optometry. Here in my initial blog post, I will tell you why I chose optometry and why I chose SCO. There are many career options out there for those who appreciate medicine and there are many options for where you can study to be an optometrist. Deciding where I wanted to go to school after my undergraduate education was tough- every school that I considered (about 10 schools in the US) were incredible! My decision to go to SCO involved a very long pro/con list and many plane tickets across the US, but ultimately, came down to an overall impression that I experienced at SCO. More about this in a moment, I would like to explain what experiences led me to pursue optometry school and how I overcame a less-than-perfect condition that culminated in a happy ugly-cry phone call that changed my life.

One of my first shadowing experiences was following a well-established optometrist in my hometown. In fact, after shadowing this practitioner, I encouraged my mom to consider making this optometrist her primary eye doctor. Within a year or so, the optometrist found a quickly-developing stromal ulcer in my mom’s right eye that resulted in a responsive treatment schedule and ultimate remission of the ulcer. My fascination with the eyes and optics became my purpose as I was inspired by this optometrist and other clinical experiences over the years. From that point, I went out in search of job openings in the optometric field and landed a position as an optometric technician. I gave myself the opportunity to back out if I didn’t like working in the practice or if I found that optometry wasn’t for me.  However, there was no doubt in my mind- I absolutely loved it! I found that optometrists can help people see their world clearer in many different clinical environments.

Like so many other students, I was overworking myself and not putting in the time required to stay around the 3.5 GPA that most optometry schools expect from undergrads. I contacted every admissions director of the 10 schools to which I was applying. I received very specific instruction from each director to make my application “more competitive”. I would encourage anyone considering optometry school to reach out by phone call to the admissions office for personalized advice! After I knew what I had to do, I increased my GPA by completing a biology masters and I increased my score on the OAT using OAT destroyer, the Kaplan OAT practice tests, and “Chad’s videos”/Coursesaver. The first admissions phone call that I received was from SCO - I was admitted into SCO for the Class of 2022! It is still surreal being able to say those words. If you think that your application isn’t “good enough” for optometry school, reach out to those who can help you and never allow yourself to give up.

I am so excited to start my education in optometry, and particularly, at SCO. I was drawn to SCO because of the Eye Center, the external clinics, the diverse clinic-centered curriculum,  the Hayes Center, and the unique student experience. The Eye Center is the community and research clinic on campus that cares for about 40,000 patients a year and houses every nearly subspecialty of eye care. Walking through the clinic, you know you are somewhere special. I knew that clinical studies were going to be the focus of my education at SCO when I looked at which classes were offered in the first year. I feel so welcomed by the students, staff, and professors at SCO. I cannot wait to get started!

at 7/13/18

Boards Part 1 is Done!

One of the biggest hurdles (if not THE biggest) that 3rd year optometry students face is Part 1 of National Boards. For optometry students, it’s “The Other Big Dance” in March, and it tests on almost every classroom subject covered within the first 3 years of school. With the massive amount of material that the exam covers and the extensive studying that’s required, there’s little time or energy left for much else during the months leading up to March. If you were to approach a 3rd year student around, say, March 10th earlier this year and ask them what their favorite place to eat in Memphis was, they would probably spew off a list of medications that are required to be taken on an empty stomach. I had classmates tell me that they couldn’t even escape the exam material by watching a Netflix show without having one of the main characters develop some sort of disease that was a risk factor for dry eye disease, glaucoma, retinal venous occlusions…. you get the idea.

However, as much preparation as there is that goes into the weeks and months leading up to the boards exam, the one thing that I learned the most from the exam itself was that the majority of boards preparation began at day 1 of year 1. The boards prep materials were fantastic ways to review and solidify knowledge, but upon completion of the exam, I realized how much I already knew from countless hours spent in the classroom, lab, and clinic. I had the privilege of learning from some of the best and brightest minds in optometry, and I owe much of my success on Part 1 to their skilled instruction.

I share this because there is a lot of apprehension that students undergo leading up to boards exams. Some of this apprehension is good because it keeps you motivated to study hard and strengthen areas of weakness. But I also think that many SCO students don’t know how much preparation they’ve already had in the years leading up to the exam. Please don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying you can breeze on into the exam thinking that sitting through class is enough. But what I am saying is that it’s important to not discredit how much just getting through the curriculum prepares you to not only pass boards, but to become a skilled doctor. It’s a long process, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.

I distinctly remember the feeling of inadequacy I had on my first day of lab my first semester of SCO. I remember thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m over here just barely learning how lenses work and I’m supposed to be a full-fledged doctor in 4 years! How is that even going to happen!”

As avid outdoorsmen, my wife and I love ascending mountains. I don’t mind a hike to a waterfall, or even just a loop trail through the woods. But by far the most rewarding hikes are those that give you a view at the top. The effort required, though, seems to have a linear relationship to how good the view is from the peak. My wife and I have an unspoken rule about climbing mountains, especially large ones. When we’re on the hardest bit of elevation gain, we don’t look up. We look around, we take water breaks, we’ll even sit and rest for a bit, but it does us no good to look up only to be discouraged by how steep the terrain is. Instead, we dig deep, we set our minds on the top, and we keep moving forward.

hiking the Fiery Gizzard trail near Chattanooga

The ascent to Part 1 of boards is tough, but it’s achievable through consistent, long-term effort. SCO has the curriculum and tools to make that happen and I’m incredibly grateful for the preparation that it’s offered. There will be many more peaks in my optometric education to ascend, but for now the view is great!

at 5/23/18

Looking Forward…

Hi Everyone!

Well, as hard as it is to believe, this is my final blog post, as I will be graduating in less than two weeks! During my first semester at SCO, I truly thought I’d never get to this point. Looking back, the time really does fly!

This semester has been a wonderful one for me. I have been doing my final rotation at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Since I am about to enter a military marriage, being around active duty members of the military has been a really great experience. Not to mention, the USAFA campus is absolutely stunning—I get to drive past gorgeous mountains every day on my way to work. I have truly loved being in Colorado and will miss it here when it’s time to leave. When we first started hearing about all of the different externship sites across the country I was a bit skeptical about branching out and being somewhere so far away from my comfort zone, but it has been so fun exploring a new city by myself. I have been able to spend my weekends hiking, brewery hopping, and just exploring the sites! That being said, make sure to take advantage of the many externship opportunities that SCO provides! I could have gone anywhere in the country, and I know I still would have gotten a great clinical experience.

I’ve talked a lot over the past few years about not knowing exactly where I’ll end up after graduation. That’s still the case—I’ll find out over the summer where my fiancé will be stationed and where we’ll be living for the next few years. Until then, I’m fortunate enough to be able to move back to Pennsylvania and work part-time at an OD/MD practice doing their post-op exams. After that, I’ll begin a job search for something more permanent. As stressful as it is to not have a black and white plan, I’m confident knowing I can get a job wherever we are stationed.

I can’t believe that in a week I will be reunited with my classmates, some of whom I haven’t seen for an entire year! I’m grateful that we’ve gotten to share this journey together and that we will be able to come together once more before splitting off into the various areas of the country. I’m thankful that I have been able to share the SCO community with so many people, and I’m excited to see what the future holds!

Wrapping up second year and looking ahead to third year!

Hi everyone!

A lot has been going on in my second year of optometry school. I have to say, it’s been a very exciting, yet very challenging year. The courses have been extremely rigorous, but at the same time, the material has been much more clinically relevant and therefore, it’s been a little easier to study for. One of the exciting parts about second year is that we’ve been shadowing fourth-year students in the clinic, as well as participating in school screenings around Shelby County. Both of these opportunities have been so helpful in preparing us for clinic in the very near future. With that being said, I just completed and passed pre-clinical checkouts which means (drum rolllll)… I can officially see patients now!!! I am so excited about that! And, there is actually less than a month left of this semester, which leads me into talking about what I’m most excited for and nervous about with regards to third year. 

I honestly can’t believe that in just a short amount of time, I will officially be a third-year student. I am not kidding—time FLIES in optometry school! It feels like just yesterday I was at orientation of my first year. Don’t get me wrong, the days definitely feel long but I think the fact that we are so busy, all the time, makes the semesters go by in the blink of an eye. The most exciting part, to me, about third year is finally being able to see patients! It’s been a long time coming and a lot of preparation up to this point. I feel ready but am also quite nervous about not knowing “everything” (which sounds a little silly, I know). I have learned so much in the first two years but I’m not sure I can remember it all. However, I was reassured just a few days ago by a professor of mine, that most people share this same fear when beginning in clinic, but soon find out that it really is okay to simply ask for help or look it something up! I felt much better knowing that I wasn’t the only one with this concern. But seriously, I can’t wait to finally see patients and to apply all that I’ve learned thus far.

Now, one of the most nerve-wracking parts of third year is preparing for and taking the first part of national boards. Luckily, there is still a little bit of time before I need to actually begin worrying about that portion of third year, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it. Most students begin studying during their fall semester of third year and the exam is taken during the spring semester. I’m sure you all will hear from me before then and I can update you on how that’s going! On a much better note, I’ve heard that fall semester, though studying for boards begins, is one of the best semesters in optometry school because there are fewer classes to keep up with… so, that’s really exciting!

Thanks for reading and I hope to write again soon!



at 4/3/18

From a Small Town to a (Not So) Big City

Hi, all!  My name is Makayla and I’m a first year.  I’d like to talk a little bit about the biggest reservation I had when considering the move to Memphis. Coming from a small town of less than 4,000 people, I thought I was about to become a small fish in a big pond. As someone who likes to be involved in the community, how could I possibly make a difference in a town of over 652,000?


SCO White Coat Ceremony

Now that I’ve been in Memphis for over a year, I can say with confidence that this town will let you make of it whatever you want. If you want a big city, there are millions of things to do here. I probably won’t even get to do all the things I want to get done during my time here (but I sure will try). If you want a small town, you can find some truly amazing, welcoming small communities to get involved in. 

For example, I found a group of friends I never expected to have at the local dog park. Once moving here, after finally having a house with a backyard, my husband and I finally got a dog. In doing this, I was becoming a part of a community I didn’t expect to find. Now I get to hang out with friends that also have dogs and have come to know a lot of great people just by hanging out at the dog park.


My dog, Ace

Not only does Memphis welcome you with open arms, so does SCO. I have made some life-long friends and joined groups that I know will make an impact. In undergrad, I didn’t feel like I was part of anything meaningful my first year. At SCO, it’s so easy to find groups that interest you and become involved. I have never been made to feel like I was insignificant just because I was new to a group or didn’t really know what I wanted to be involved in. Everything at SCO is very low pressure.  You can be super involved and make a huge difference, if that’s what you’re in to. If you’re more of a helper, and not so much a leader, that’s okay, too. SCO has something for everyone. 


SCO Eyeball 2018

Overall, I couldn’t have picked a better school to attend.  Memphis has become my home, and SCO has become my family. 

at 2/23/18