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Peer Advice: Maintaining Motivation in Optometry School

A photo of a quote by Winston Churchill that reads "Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

First of all, we should all commend ourselves for being at this stage in life: getting into grad school and navigating ourselves through this difficult curriculum!

However, if you have ever met me or talked to me right before an exam or proficiency, you would have met a ball of doom and gloom and probably think I am the most pessimistic person on the planet. I think most people struggle with test anxiety to a certain degree and all of us will for sure struggle in some way in optometry school, whether it is the sheer amount of content that is dumped onto us or even just adapting to living in a new area. Whenever we are knocked down by our struggles, I feel that it is so important to remind ourselves why we are here and how we can keep ourselves going.

1. Remind yourself why you are doing this.

Personally, to stay motivated, I often just think back about why I am pursuing this degree and why I need to continue. I think everybody will have their own reasons, but I would think that most of us would have some degree of fascination about the field of optometry and that we can at least picture ourselves doing this job for the rest of our lives. I personally love the patient interactions in this job during the time I worked as a technician at a private practice and the eyes have always been fascinating to me as a long-term orthokeratology patient myself. As much as I don’t like proficiencies, I love learning every new examination technique in our ocular health procedures class. While at this point in my life, I might not be getting my perfect posterior pole view using BIO within a minute every time, I am pretty proud of how far me and my classmates have come along within our first year of optometry school! I am sure there are other realistic reasons why we need to push through optometry school such as the crushing student debt that most of us face and the prospects of a decent income after graduating. Whatever the reasons are, I feel that it is important to acknowledge them if they can guide us to pursue our dreams.

2. Know that you are not alone.

I think one of the biggest motivators in optometry school for me was just the fact that we are all going through this together. Whenever you feel like you are struggling, talking to others will help immensely because they are probably going through the same thing as you. It honestly really helps to just complain and rant with each other about the one assignment that everyone is struggling with. I can attest to the fact that ranting and validating each other’s stressors have definitely been helpful and ultimately we get to laugh it off once we get through it. One of the great things about MBKU is that there is a great community here and that everyone is super friendly with each other. For me, it is such a relief that I can reach out to fellow classmates, faculty, or an advisor for help because everyone is so willing to help each other out.

A photo of students standing in front of a building at Marshall B. Ketchum University and holding poster boards with their names and photos on them

3. Make sure to take breaks and reward yourself for a job well done.

I can’t stress how important it is to give yourself a break even though you might be 5 lectures behind with 2 midterms coming up. It is so easy to panic and lose yourself and forget why you are doing this when you feel completely overwhelmed and I have definitely been there. Sometimes even 5 minutes of break or a quick 15 minute nap can clear your head and reset yourself. I also feel that most of us forget to reward ourselves for the achievements that we have made throughout the quarter, and acknowledging the things you have done also helps to boost your mood and creates a more positive mindset. Take some time to make yourself a better meal or treat yourself to some boba after a midterm or proficiency because these are all small achievements that you have made and a step closer to getting through optometry school!

Good luck to everyone and remind yourself that you can do this!