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!

(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

How to find a pre-optometry club at your undergraduate institution

Shawn Gilbert, assistant director of admissions, loves answering questions about the #OSUopt process. In this video, he talks about how to find a pre-optometry club at your undergraduate institution.

In-Sight into the Class of 2021!

Welcome Prospective OSU Optometry Students!

The following series of questions answered by members of the Class of 2021 provides some insight about what it is like to be a First Year Optometry Student:

  1. What is it like to live in Columbus, OH?

Living in Columbus is a lot of fun! There are people all around the city and it is full of plenty activities and events so there’s always something to do on the weekends and even during the week. At the start of the semester, it was extremely overwhelming to be here because my hometown is much smaller and slower in comparison to Columbus. But I have learned to appreciate the hustle-and-bustle of Columbus; simply embracing the busy moments. My friends have been fantastic as it relates to helping me acclimate into the city! Many of my classmates are open to traveling and exploring together. They definitely help make me feel like I’m not making this transition alone. And lastly, I love the immense diversity of the city and how wonderful the food is!

Audree Davis-Bass

  1. Is professional school a lot different than you expected from undergraduate?

With Optometry school being more professional/clinical based material, it’s much more enjoyable than undergraduate school because we get to actually learn material that is directly meaningful to us. It’s also comforting and motivational to have all your classmates sharing similar desires and goals so I feel more connected with my classmates than I did during undergraduate school. After finishing up the first round of midterms, I realized that professional school requires a different approach to the material because the professor’s expectations are higher for us to master the material. All the material we learn in Optometry school has to be memorized and applied to real world clinical actions, while in undergraduate school the professors didn’t expect that much of us. So unfortunately, there is no brain dumping after the tests!

Ethar Arkan

  1. What made you pick OSU for Optometry school?

I chose OSU because it was the best school for me! It has a very established program (over 100 years old) so they have been educating excellent optometrists for a long time and their board pass rates prove the success of the program. What comes with such an established program is a world renowned faculty! OSU professors have multiple advanced degrees in research, decades of experience, and are experts in the field of optometry. I knew choosing OSU would give me the best education and surround me with the best professors to help make me the best clinician I can be. In addition to OSU being a great school, Columbus is a cool city that has a true college town feel! So if you want to experience the Buckeye nation and be apart of a fantastic alumni network, then you should definitely choose OSU.

Josh Curtisi

  1. What is it like to live in a house full of Optometry students (i.e Eye House)?

Being able to live at the EYE House (Epsilon Psi Epsilon) has been extremely rewarding!  It has given me such a special opportunity to be able to look across the hall and ask any classmates or the upper class for help with questions about school or just to hang out and take a break from studying. We are a family at the OSU College of Optometry and, because I get to live in the EYE house, I have been able to learn more about not only my classmates but the upper class man too. Being able to live with other optometry students has definitely enhanced my experience at OSU and given me a unique perspective on how to conduct myself while being apart of the OSU Optometry family.

Auston Hood

  1. What is like having family and balancing professional school?

This is a great question, and was something I was curious about prior to starting school.  I graduated from undergrad a few years ago, and have since gotten married and had a baby – who is now a toddler. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect entering Optometry School, but I’ll share what I have experienced so far.  Being an Optometry student is a lot of work – with or without a busy life outside of school.  There is a lot of material coming quickly, and it takes time and work to keep up!  Physically being in class takes up a majority of the day, so studying really has to happen “after hours,” which is where the school/family balance gets tricky.

For me, the end of the school day meant the start of the mom/wife evening.  So far, I have tried little things like running necessary errands as a family, and finding ways to involve the whole family in chores at home to maximize my time spent away from studying.  The other thing that has been an adjustment is the way that I study.  Being a mom and a wife means I don’t get too much time on my own, so sometimes studying has to happen while my daughter is watching a cartoon or while we’re upstairs in the playroom.  I’ve even started listening to audio flash cards while folding laundry and driving to school.  There have been plenty of times that I’ve had to stay up after my husband and daughter have gone to bed for the night, or wake up a couple hours before they do in the morning to squeeze in some extra study time; and sometimes I fall asleep and miss out on the extra study time.  The other aspect of having a family while being in school is I haven’t had the flexibility to be very involved in student organizations.  There are many that meet after school, and some that meet over lunch, which hasn’t worked into my schedule very well right now, but will hopefully be an option in the future.

There is a great advantage, however, about having a family and balancing professional school.  Whenever I’m feeling stressed about exams, or excited about something I’ve learned, my husband and daughter are there, cheering me on, every step of the way.  Having a family and balancing professional school is an adjustment, and I’m still learning, but the rewards are so great I wouldn’t have it any other way.  This is a journey for all of us, and I’m so grateful I can make my way through with my husband and daughter along side me!

Lisa Reyes


Genuine first impressions of the #OSUopt experience

Kirsten and Audree, members of our Class of 2021, share first impressions of optometry school in this short Instagram video.