White Coat Ceremony Speaker Provides Student Perspective

Kristen Zulliger, Class of 2022 President at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, delivered the following speech at the White Coat Ceremony in May.

Kristen Zulliger speaking at the 2019 white coat ceremony

I would like to take you on the journey that brought us to this special day. Several years ago, like many of you, I stepped into Fry 33 at my first Ohio State Optometry Visit Day as only a high schooler with my parents. I remember thinking it was going to be nearly impossible to balance the expectations of earning good grades, getting a high OAT score, gaining leadership involvement, and accumulating shadowing hours. As we fast forward to our time as undergraduate students three to four years ago, we were deep into chemistry, biology, and physics classes. When the long nights of studying grew difficult, I reminded myself about the ultimate goal– Optometry – to give me that extra boost to do the best that I could. At the same time, we spent several hours shadowing optometrists which fostered the growth of our curiosity and passion for optometry. Just over two years ago, many of us were in the process of studying for and taking the OAT. We filled our brains with information from numerous prerequisite classes. Stepping into the testing center, I once again reminded myself of the simple word – Optometry – to make the impossible seem a little more possible.

Less than two years ago, we submitted our applications and began receiving our interview day invitations. The interview day was full of both excitement and nerves. We got our first taste of the nurturing atmosphere created by the faculty, staff, and students of the college. Although the walk to the interview room was intimidating, Dr. Earley quickly made us feel at ease by telling a few jokes as we climbed the stairs.

The part we had control over was now finished – but next, we had to wait, wait for the phone call that would determine our path for the next four years. With the acceptance call, a weight had been lifted off our chests. We had done the nearly impossible! We were going to optometry school!

Little did we know that the most rewarding part of the journey was about to begin. We stepped into Fry 33 for our first day of orientation on August 17th, just 266 days ago. We were eager to meet our new classmates and be given our schedule for the first semester. Our identity as Optometry students was established on the second day as we had our class pictures taken and as we represented our future occupation in a room full of other professional students. The first few weeks of school were full of many unknowns – many of us went back to simple questions like how do I study? How much should I study? Do I have time for fun?

The first round of exams gave us our first glimpse at the reality of professional school. We got into a rhythm of taking tests, breathing, and then taking more tests. Amongst the chaos, we strengthened our bonds as classmates and friends through football tailgates at the EYE house, late nights at the library, at our class Friendsgiving, and through SocialEYEs events with our group professor.

Before we knew it, our first finals week had arrived. Although it seemed like the longest week of our lives, we did it. And we did it with smiles on our faces as we ended the semester with a class gift exchange in our ugly Christmas sweaters. We had survived our first semester of optometry school!

After a relaxing and refreshing winter break, we returned to school just 123 days ago, ready to tackle the second half of the year. This semester started with excitement from the Epsilon Psi Epsilon fraternity recruitment. Through numerous laughs and funny memories, many of us continued to strengthen our bonds as classmates by competing in a group scavenger hunt all around Columbus. We celebrated the end of recruitment with initiation and welcomed new relationships not only within our class, but with upperclassmen. As the academic load picked up, we were a little stronger this time around and slowly jogged through the marathon of exams – 21 to be exact – every week from the end of January all the way up until last Tuesday. The end of finals brought a new week of learning through Keystone, where we began to use our basic science knowledge to solve patient cases. By passing our Keystone exam yesterday, we proved that we are capable of moving on to the next stage of optometry school.

Congratulations! We have made it through the most academically challenging year of our lives. But we couldn’t have done it without the amazing support and love from our fellow classmates. When the going got tough, we had Lauren’s inspiring and motivational Monday morning messages to get us through the week. We had Elton and Spencer to ask the questions we were all thinking in our heads. We had our friends, like Fareedah, to not only get us to go to the library, but to make our time spent there a little more enjoyable. We had our roommates, like Brittany, to answer our late-night optics questions and to make sure we had everything we needed for class.

Class of 2022 at their 2019 White Coat CeremonyBe proud of yourself for this amazing accomplishment. But also, be proud of our classmates. Be proud of them for stepping up and making this difficult year enjoyable and fun for all of us. As we celebrate our white coat, we can appreciate the incredible amount of information we have learned during our first year and the valuable relationships we have formed, but we can also look forward to all of the knowledge we have yet to gain as clinicians who can diagnose diseases and change the lives of our patients. And as you move on to new challenges, just remember – Optometry – to get you through it. Congratulations, Class of 2022 for earning your white coats. We finally did it!

Inside Optometry Admissions Interview Day

By Jennifer Bennett MSEd, Director of Student Affairs

Maddie Howland

“[The ambassadors] went above and beyond and I could see myself in them.” Maddie Howland (‘21)

More than a year after her admissions interview, Ohio State Optometry student Lauren Schneider (‘22) remembers feeling a sense of “excitement and anxiety” as she arrived on campus. Looking back on that day, Lauren realizes now that she was “searching for the place I will become the person I’m going to become.”

After applying to multiple schools and colleges of optometry, Lauren’s first interview was with Ohio State. After interviewing with six other schools, Lauren chose Ohio State ultimately because she saw “the mentors I want to have” in the faculty members sitting around the table that afternoon.

Fareedah Haroun

“They acted like we were going to be colleagues someday.” Fareedah Haroun (‘22)

Today’s admissions interviews are not only an opportunity to meet and holistically assess the potential of a candidate. The interview day has evolved into an important piece of the prospective student recruitment process. Given that we admit the top candidates in the country, those we interview will receive offers of admission from multiple schools and have many factors to consider in their decision-making process. Given this, our interview day is designed to showcase our academic, research, and clinical strengths as well as leverage the benefits of belonging to the engaging and dynamic Ohio State optometry community and living in Columbus.

Nationally, the optometry application cycle kicks off at the beginning of July each year when the centralized application opens for all schools and colleges of optometry. During interview season at Ohio State, which begins in July and wraps up in April, we welcome candidates to campus nearly every Friday. Because we use a rolling admissions process, we typically extend our first offers of admission in early August and continue until the class is full. The interview day schedule includes a college tour, detailed information about didactic courses and clinical training, lunch at the Blackwell with current student ambassadors, and a formal interview with the admissions committee, chaired by Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Mike Earley (OD/MS’88 PhD’92). The day provides multiple opportunities for candidates to ask questions of faculty, staff and current students to learn what differentiates Ohio State from other schools.

Lauren Schneider

“[I saw] the mentors I want to have in the faculty members sitting around the table.”
Lauren Schneider (‘22)

During the formal interview, a panel of admissions committee members engage candidates in a conversation about their exposure to the optometry profession, leadership skills, resiliency, and unique personal characteristics. Fareedah Haroun (‘22) remembers the admissions committee interacting with her “like we were going to be colleagues someday… they asked for my opinions. I really appreciated that Dr. Earley asked about my background in public health and that he and Dr. Davis (Jackie Davis, OD’81, MPH) were even talking about how this interest could fit into my experience in optometry school.”

Interaction with the current student ambassadors often contributes to why candidates choose Ohio State for optometry school. Jaime Antonio (‘22) recalls that during his interview day “I was really impressed by the student ambassadors … having them reflect on their first year was impactful. They helped us see the dynamic between students.” As the president of the current student ambassador group, Maddie Howland (‘21) is motivated by the opportunity to impact the optometry school decisions of future students. When Maddie arrived for her interview day, she was leaning toward attending another school. Her interactions with the ambassadors caused her thinking to change, “They went above and beyond and I could see myself in them.”

Jaime Antonio

“I was really impressed by the student ambassadors … having them reflect on their first year was impactful.”
Jaime Antonio (‘22)

We want our candidates to get as much as possible out of their interview experience. Jaime Antonio (‘22) would suggest that candidates, “Experience the city, take advantage of the student ambassadors, and see if you can connect with them after the interview.” Fareedah Haroun (‘22) would tell future candidates to, “Study yourself, be able to talk about strengths and weaknesses, really know why you want to go into Optometry … how would you fit in, what do you bring that’s unique, not just to the school but to the profession.”

When asked if her first year of optometry school met the high expectations that were created during her interview day, Lauren Schneider (‘22) said with an enormous smile, “I could not be happier.”

Original article from the Spring 2019 BuckEYE Magazine.

Why Opt Is opt for Ohio State

by Erlein Tacastacas ’21

As the 2018 fall semester wraps up, we check in with some first-year students from the class of 2022. They share why they ultimately chose to attend The Ohio State University College of Optometry, their tips for the application process, and thoughts about their first semester of optometry school and living in Columbus.

Why did you choose OSU?

First day of optometry school


Natalie Wong (above): I chose OSU because I was impressed not only by their program, but also by the quality of the interactions I had with everyone when I was exploring my options! When considering OSU’s program, I particularly appreciated their comprehensive curriculum and extended learning opportunities such as the school’s optometric organizations and the option for a combined OD/MS in Vision Science. I was also drawn towards the opportunity to work with other medical professions on campus as well as the continual improving of OSU’s clinic facilities. Plus, whenever I visited OSU, the students, staff, and even alumni were all incredibly approachable and welcoming! It made me feel very comfortable, and after spending some time here, I do not regret joining this wonderful community.

Jaime Antonio (above): I first heard of OSU through working at a private practice in California that specialized in myopia control. Looking to expand my understanding of myopia progression, I visited several optometry colleges in California and asked what I should be doing to learn more about it. The overwhelming consensus was to read the research published by Ohio State’s own, Dr. Walline, and that piqued my interest in OSU. In 2016, Justin Griest and Dr. Earley came to my pre-optometry club and sealed the deal. Their enthusiasm about comprehensive eye care and the emphasis on accepting students on a holistic evaluation aligned with the type of optometrist I sought (and continue to pursue) to become.

Megan Overberg (above): I chose OSU for multiple reasons. First, I knew it was among the best schools in the country and on the day of my interview that was confirmed. I would also be in state and I would still be able to keep the “big school” feel I was used to in undergrad.

Thomas Krainz (above): Growing up in Northeast Ohio, I don’t think applying to any other Optometry school was ever an option. A lot of my early exposure to the profession came from several OSU grads who helped form my notion of what a health care professional “par excellence” looked like. This in addition with my experience at a visit day and the close proximity to home made it my top pick.

Cynthia Lenhoff (above): OSU school of optometry’s record of turning out great doctors was what made me want to apply. This school consistently has one of the best boards passing rates, and their students have gone on to become leaders in the field. Every single student and alumnus I met had nothing but great things to say about their time here.

What tips do you have for those applying to optometry school?

Natalie: Applying to optometry school is a lot of work! I was overwhelmed at first, but if you just take things one step at a time, you’ll make it through! I would say to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) and notify your Letter of Recommendation writers as soon as possible to give you some leeway in case things don’t go as planned. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to any current optometry student ambassadors or optometrists for advice! They all want to see you succeed and join them in the profession!

Jaime: Take all the opportunities to talk to optometry students, professors and staff! Their experience can give you valuable insight into a program that a website or admissions officer may not include in their presentation. Are students enjoying their time in school or do they feel stressed because juggling the clinic scheduling and commute takes away from their ability to study? Do students feel like they are building meaningful relationships with their classmates and faculty that will help them in the future? Do they feel like they are adequately prepared to take boards or do their classroom experiences leave something to be desired? Do staff members feel like they contribute to a positive student experience?

Thomas: Never stop expanding your optometric experience. One of the temptations that comes with a list of prerequisites is simply completing the minimum requirement. I found this especially true when shadowing in optometric offices. Every attempt to familiarize yourself with the practice of optometry will augment discernment of how you want to practice in the future.

Cynthia: Grades are not everything. The committee is looking for well-rounded students that have something to add to the community. Make sure to get good letters of recommendation from people who know you well, and present yourself well at the interview.

What’s one word you would use to describe your first semester?

Natalie: Adjustment. There are many new things to adjust to – whether it be a very heavy course load, class dynamics, or a new city – but there is so much to learn and gain from it all!

Jaime: Unbelievable – I often wake up in disbelief that I have the privilege to study at a world-class institution like THE Ohio State University.

Megan: Marathon. When I think of a marathon, I think of something that is long and hard. You get tired at times, but you keep running. You prepare and train hard for it (like our schooling up to this point) and when you finish it, it’s a HUGE accomplishment. You feel proud and confident that all your hard work paid off. 

Thomas: Encouraging. I had a lot of preconceived ideas regarding the difficulty of professional school and whether I was going to succeed. Optometry school definitely comes with its challenges, but it also helps to know that there is tremendous effort being invested by professors, administration, and fellow colleagues to ensure that you’re qualified to be called “doctor.”

Cynthia: Hectic. There is always something to occupy your time; from schoolwork to extracurriculars, to Columbus events.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Columbus?

Natalie: I like going to the Arena District, because there’s always something fun going on there! 

Jaime: Favorite thing to do is definitely visiting all of the amazing cafés! There’s a great coffee culture in Columbus and they are great for studying. I always run into a classmate or two at them, too! 

Megan: My favorite thing to do in Columbus is to hang out with my friends and explore new places…I also enjoy cheering on Ohio State Football and attending church with my friends. 

Thomas: Definitely running and biking. The Olentangy trail was great for when I was training for the Columbus Half Marathon and biking on campus is a great way to explore (and can also be faster than driving). As a good supplement to these, I enjoy trying new foods. You could throw a stone fifty feet in any direction and hit a restaurant, bistro, café that you’ve never tried. I suggest the Short North.

Cynthia: Columbus is a growing center of culture. There are museums and art shows, and a growing music scene. A lot of places feature live music almost every night.

What has been your favorite memory from first year so far? 

Natalie: My favorite memory from first year so far was a wine night I had with some friends after the first round of midterms. We were exhausted from the past few weeks, but it was really nice to relax together!

Jaime: My favorite first-year memory has to be the opportunity to attend my first American Academy of Optometry meeting in San Antonio, TX. In addition to enhancing my understanding about vision care and eye diseases, I was able to celebrate and witness my classmates, colleagues and professors’ achievements presented on an international stage. The Buckeyes took home the victory at the Inaugural Essilor Academic Challenge, too! It was also my first opportunity to reunite with my friends and colleagues from California since moving to Ohio. To see the fruits of all of their hard labor on display will be one of my biggest inspirations for continuing to work hard through the rest of my career.

Megan: One of my favorite memories so far this year has been studying for the histology practical. I enjoyed it because we were all in it together. Everyone was tired and on study overload, but the late nights and early mornings in the lab turned out to be a great time to work together and also bond with each other.

Thomas: In the beginning of the semester, members of NOSA (the student branch of the NOA that provides eye care to under-served communities) had the opportunity to aid in vision screenings at OSU’s Healthy Community Day. Although my participation as a first year wasn’t deeply involved, it was rewarding to step outside the classroom and serve the Columbus community.

Cynthia: My favorite memories thus far have been hiking and kayaking with my SocialEyes group. It was fun to be outdoors getting to know a group of people I had not talked to much before.

Building a Support System

How do students adjust to the demands of optometry school? Professional school can feel new and intimidating; classes are rigorous; and many students are living far from friends and family. Below, Lauren Schneider, a first year from New Jersey, explains five key ways she has begun building a support network during her first semester.

Lauren writes:

Choosing to come to The Ohio State University College of Optometry was the best decision I could have made to advance my career for many reasons.  However, the excitement of deciding where to pursue my degree was quickly followed by the fear of figuring out how I would make a place for myself in a completely new city and at a completely new school.  I am from New Jersey and went to a small liberal arts school, Siena College.  At home and at college, I had such an amazing support system of family and friends and I was nervous to move away from all of them.  Almost finished with my first semester, I can confidently say I have begun developing another great support system within OSUopt and because of that I have been able to thrEYEve, not just survive!  Here are the top 5 facets of OSUopt that can help you build your support system, too!

  1. Your previous support system(s): Even if you do move far from home, or maybe just down the road, your previous support system will always be there to help you and to serve as the foundation for your future endeavors.  A phone call, Skype call, FaceTime, or text is all that separates you from the support you need, whenever you need it and that is a really comforting thought.
  2. Your Faculty: Truthfully, the best way to describe the OSUopt faculty is that they are “aggressively helpful.”  Each and every one of them is here to help us succeed as students and as professionals.  On the very first day, they welcomed us as colleagues into the profession, and they take that to heart when you see them in office hours or outside the classroom.  Their support and belief in us really helps to get us through the woes of school for four years!
  3. Your Administrators: Jen, Becca, Shawn, and Justin are not just here to help recruit each incoming class; they are here for the long haul with all of us.  Their doors are always open for questions and concerns, ranging from academic issues to social difficulties and everything in between.  They are here for you in whatever way you need them, so you can definitely count on them to be a part of your support system!
  4. Your Bigs (and any upperclassman, really): Here at OSU, we have a Big Sib/Little Sib program where second year students are paired with incoming first year students to answer questions and help ease the transition into optometry school.  Their advice and encouragement is super helpful, but it’s not just the second years that are willing to help.  All the upperclassmen I have met so far have been just as supportive because they were in my shoes not too long ago.  OSU’s family mentality means you have an entire support system of future colleagues cheering you on at all times!
  5. Your Classmates!: Last but not least, your classmates are all uniquely bright and talented individuals that you have the opportunity to sit in a room with for 8 hours a day.  Nothing brings people together like mutual experiences and your classmates are right there in the trenches with you.  The unconditional support we give each other is genuine because again, as future colleagues, we want to see each other succeed!

Regardless of where you choose to attend optometry school, surrounding yourself with a solid support system will take time but it is absolutely essential in order to succeed and truly enjoy your time in school!

Remote Area Medical trip

Last weekend Lauren Schneider (Opt I, below) traveled with 18 other OSU optometry students to Charleston, W.V. for a 2-day service trip as part of the RAM Volunteer Corps. While there they provided eye care for nearly 425 underserved patients. Lauren describes the experience below:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
   —Mahatma Ghandi
I believe it is safe to assume that most of us decide on a health professions career path because we enjoy helping others. I think it is an equally safe assumption that we decided on optometry because providing vision and ocular healthcare is of the utmost importance, and we want to change people’s lives one eye exam at a time. Despite our best intentions, it is super easy to lose sight of our “whys” when we spend seemingly endless hours in the classroom during first year. Even though we are gaining valuable knowledge that will help us in the exam lane in time, it can be hard to keep our perspective while studying hard. Luckily, there are some awesome opportunities to help us remember why we are here in the first place. On October 20-21, I attended a Remote Area Medical (RAM) service trip to Charleston, West Virginia.  RAM provides medical, dental, vision and veterinary services to underserved and underinsured communities. I joined 4 of my classmates, 14 members of the class of 2020, 6 undergraduate pre-optometry students, and a host of other volunteers to provide comprehensive eye exams to nearly 425 patients! We provided refraction, ocular health assessments using slit lamps, and new glasses made on site. There were 775 patients seen throughout the entire clinic, accessing all the care they needed! This was an amazing opportunity for us to get exposure to all different kinds of people coming from all walks of life with different levels of ocular and systemic health. As a first year, it was also an excellent opportunity to get a taste of clinical pre-testing and procedures before we get to shadow in clinic next semester. This service opportunity reminded me why I chose this profession in the first place and was a great break from the weekly routine of optometry school!
     –Lauren Schneider

Grilled Cheese for a Cause

Last week started to feel chilly and fall-like here in Columbus, and the OSU Lion’s Club celebrated the season by hosting a soup and sandwich fundraiser for the first time. The event was well-attended, with students lining up after class for a turn to grill their own sandwich and help themselves to a variety of homemade soups.
The event was a “huge success,” says Club President and OSU third year Megan Hafner. It raised $365, which will offset costs for OSU students to volunteer next summer at Campabilities, a recreational sports camp located in Alaska that serves visually impaired and blind children. Jaime Etterling, a second year at the college, attended Campabilities last summer along with 4 other optometry students. She describes the week there as “busy and active,” consisting of activities like tandem biking, swimming, roller blading, rock climbing, archery, and hiking with the campers. During training, volunteers tried out all the sports with their eyes blindfolded to better understand their campers’ experiences. Interacting with the athletes at Campabilities was meaningful for Etterling. “It was amazing to see how much these kids don’t let their loss of sight hold them back,” she said. “Their athleticism and skill really shone through in all of the sports.” Serving as a sighted guide for the week taught her “to be very descriptive when communicating and guiding.” Her favorite part was watching the athletes “try new things such as jumping off the diving board or roller blading for the first time. . .to see how much they trust in themselves and how much fun they have in the process!”

The OSU Lions Club chapter was founded in the 90’s, and provides opportunities for optometry students to volunteer in the community and raise funds for various causes. Some of the causes are vision-related, such at Pilot Dogs Inc., which trains guide dogs for the sightless, and an organization that purchases white mobility canes for the blind and visually impaired. Other upcoming Lions Club activities may include making birthday cards for people in nursing homes, collecting box tops for a local elementary school, and writing thank you cards to veterans. Lions Club members come up with fun ways to raise funds, such as the Optometry Students v. Professors kickball tournament (which the professors are “really looking forward to” this year, says Hafner). Keep an eye out for all the Lions Club activities to come!

First year bloggers!

What are the first couple of weeks of optometry school like? Check out our newest student bloggers–as well as Opt II, III and IV bloggers–at https://go.osu.edu/optblogs!

(Left to right): Joan, Emily and Araba are in their fourth week of classes.

Q&A with SVOSH trip participant


This summer, the OSU College of Optometry sent a team of students from its SVOSH club to southern Ghana. SVOSH is the student chapter of VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity), which provides eye care to underserved populations internationally. This year the group of 14 students and 3 doctors volunteered at St. Theresa’s Eye Hospital in Akim Akroso, Ghana for one week.

Sean Cushman (’21) introduces himself and answers some questions below:

My name is Sean Cushman, and I am a current second year student. I did my undergraduate education at Hope College in Holland, MI. I am interested in private practice and hope to [focus in] ocular disease. I am very passionate about mission/service trips having been on several in the past and am one of the co-president elects of SVOSH. I also enjoy rock climbing, hiking, and guitar.

How did you get involved with SVOSH?

Missions/service trips are one of my biggest passions, so I knew I wanted to get involved with SVOSH coming in. I attended the first meeting of the year to learn how I could get my volunteer hours sorting glasses and took off from there.

How did you prepare for the trip?

In order for a student to go on their first SVOSH trip, they must complete 65 hours of volunteer hours for the club. I completed my hours first semester and continued my involvement second semester. I was elected one of the co-president elects as well. During the summer, we had a few meetings to learn about what we would be doing on the trip and the area. There was also a big packing party to pack all the glasses, drops, and equipment that we brought.

What did a typical day look like?

Our usual day started with us eating breakfast from around 6-7am. We would then wait for our bus which usually left much later than we were supposed to. Our group split in half for clinic, each group going to a different village each day. We set up clinic in different churches or pavilions and started seeing patients mid-morning. We then saw patients until about 5 or 6 pm seeing about 100 patients per day. At night, we did grand rounds with the doctors going over some of the interesting cases from the day.

What kinds of problems did patients present with, and what kinds of services could you offer them?

We saw lots of severe cataracts and glaucoma. We were able to refer the cataract patients for surgery with the head of ophthalmology at OSU who came with a team the week after we left. We also were able to give some drops to try to help the glaucoma patients. We also gave drops for patients dealing with dry eyes or irritation. Some of the [less common diseases] we saw were toxoplasmosis, Burkitt’s lymphoma, sarcoidosis, bullous keratopathy, thyroid eye disease, sickle cell retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa.

How did the trip change how you think about optometry?

It taught me how valuable optometry is for a person’s overall health. Through the work and different systemic diagnoses we made on this trip, it showed me how big of an impact we can have on a person’s life, not just abroad but in our everyday practice. We not only save vision but have the potential to save lives as well.

How can incoming OSU students get involved?

If you want to get involved, come to our first meeting of the year to learn more about the club, how you can volunteer, and to get your name on the mailing list. It is super easy to get involved and anyone is welcome to join.


Answering admissions questions

We ❤️ answering your admissions questions! Today, Justin Griest talks testing, giving the scoop on the OAT. #OSUopt #optometry #optometrystudents