Learn how real students navigate their way through the graduate school admissions process and grad school itself with our What is Graduate School Really Like? series.
Meet Khanh, a student youtuber with a passion for helping pre-opts navigate their way to optometry school success.
Khanh, thank you for sharing your story with us!
What initially sparked your interest in optometry?
Khanh: Optometry has always been a field I wanted to pursue. The caring and professional nature of my optometrist ignited a desire within me to pursue primary healthcare.
Starting my junior year of high school, I immersed myself within the field of medicine; I began a clinical rotation program that allowed me to shadow surgeons in hospitals, physicians in clinical settings, and optometrists at their private practices. It never failed that optometry kept my interest and liking the most.
I initially fell in love with the relationships these optometrists were able to build. I recognized the time, care, and attention to detail they provided to each and every single one of their patients. Combined with good rapport, their extensive knowledge was applied to unique cases to increase the overall quality of care the optometrists could provide. During this time, I solidified my decision to pursue a career in optometry.
I dream of being an optometrist who provides the highest quality of care, while also fostering strong relationships with patients. I have completely devoted myself to this dream and I have continued to search for opportunities to shadow, volunteer, or learn more about this vast field.
How did you know the University of Houston College of Optometry would be a great fit for you?
Khanh: I only applied to UHCO! I went to UH for undergrad, absolutely love the city of Houston, and did not want to move anywhere else.
I understand you worked as an optometry assistant during undergrad. What were your responsibilities and what did you gain from the experience?
Khanh: I worked as a technician, so I worked the front desk as a receptionist, did preliminary examinations on the patients, took case histories, and helped patients find a good pair of glasses in the optical. I learned a lot about the business side of optometry during this time. When it wasn’t too busy, I would shadow the optometrist to gain some clinical experience.
How did you study for the OAT (Optometry Admissions Test)?
Khanh: I did the Kaplan self-paced class and had supplemental YouTube videos for extra help. I don’t recommend Kaplan as much anymore because I believe their questions are outdated and was nothing similar to the exam.
I dedicated an entire 2 months of the summer to the OAT. I knew that the biggest chunk that admissions looked at was the science courses, so I focused on that. Before sitting down and focusing on how to schedule my 2 months, I reflected on my strengths and weaknesses. I knew that Biology was my best subject, then Organic Chemistry, then Physics, then Chemistry. Because of that, I started with Chemistry first while I was most fresh.
Week 1: Chemistry
Week 2: Physics
Week 3: Organic Chemistry
Week 4: Biology
My days started from 8am, studied until 12pm, ate lunch and napped, started again at 2pm, and then finished around 7pm. Then I took a few hours to rest and then sleep and repeat. I gave myself Sunday off.
Then I took about 3-4 days off where I did nothing school related. I just hung out with friends and relaxed!
Then I came back and focused on practice exams and reviewing the questions I got wrong. I believe I had 9 practice exams in total. I would do a full practice exam, then go over what I got wrong, then spend the next day or two reviewing material, and repeat.
What do you love about being an OPT II? What are the biggest challenges of second year?
Khanh: I love all the skills we are learning in clinic and how interesting our classes have become. Everything we are learning now is focused on patient care, disease, pediatric care, and more. I like that we are jumping into what the field that I fell in love with really is.
The first semester of second year was really rough on me. All of our classes were at a faster pace than first year, a lot more challenging, and we were preparing for our clinical skills competency exam. Our days were 9am-9pm sometimes and it was really draining to go home and have to prepare for the next day. I felt burned out and exhausted all the time and it was really hard to get past that.
Do you have any study tips that sound crazy but really work?
Khanh: I SWEAR by this! Anytime I’m studying and if something doesn’t stick – like a drug name, their long list of side effects, a pathway, or just trying to memorize things in general – I’ll grab a piece of paper and just rewrite it like 10 times. I’ll continuously rewrite the pathway or the long list until it sticks with me. This way, during the exam when it shows up, I’ll just write on the side everything I can think of on the top of my head and hopefully one of the answer choices matches up! Haha!
By rewriting it many times, you get the muscle memory as well as the mental memory. When you can’t regurgitate something on the exam, you can just write what you can think of on the side! This might jog other memories or jog the answer.
How does your program divide students’ time between classes and clinical encounters? What does a typical day look like for you?
Khanh: As a second year:
- Monday: Class 9am-12pm, Lab 1-4pm, Class 6-8pm
- Tuesday: 8am-12:30pm Dispensary/optical/vision screenings, then classes 1-5pm
- Wednesday: Class 9am-12pm, Lab 1-4pm
- Thursday: Clinic 7:45am-12:30pm, Class 1-5pm
- Friday: Class 10am-12pm
There’s not much time between classes and clinic/lab unfortunately. We get a lunch break and that’s about it!
Your Instagram page and YouTube channel provide a wealth of information for pre-opt students! How do you find the time as a student in a demanding program to maintain these resources? How do you hope they will be used?
Khanh: I don’t upload photos as often as most Instagrammers do, but I update my stories very often.
When in school, I documented almost every new thing that I encounter. It was my simple way to share my experience with my followers and for them to get a glimpse of my school life. For YouTube, I try to film as much as I can during winter/summer/spring breaks and then edit them later to be uploaded. I don’t post many photos and videos unfortunately because I still find it difficult to film and edit.
The most rewarding aspect of this is how grateful students are when I help them with their problems. Whether it is from a frantic student freaking out about their grades or having jitters before an interview, a student asking for my advice on decisions that they are unsure about, or just simple questions that they aren’t able to find online, I love how happy and relieved they are when I give them an answer and insight.
Other than academic help, I was able to help students financially as well. I made a YouTube video on free resources for OAT prep and a lot of students have messaged me thanking me for that video because they couldn’t afford the Kaplan course.
When I receive messages from students telling me that they got accepted into optometry school due to my videos and advice, it feels absolutely amazing. I want my videos and content to inspire and give insight to my field as well as help students get to where I am!
What setting do you hope to practice in after graduation?
Khanh: We get exposed to the different types of practices in our third year of optometry school, but right now I’m interested in an ocular disease residency and working in a medical setting. I had the opportunity to work in one this past summer and I completely fell in love with it!! The practice was very fast paced and every patient who came in had a different case and I love how interesting it was.
What are your top three tips for pre-opt students?
- WORRY ABOUT YOUR GPA! Don’t worry so much about the extra things to boost up your resume until you have your grades solidified.
- Dedicate 2-3 months of studying for the OAT. Don’t get a job, don’t book a trip in between your studies, don’t do anything! Just dedicate those months to your OAT and follow the schedule you set out for yourself. The test is expensive and time consuming. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you would have to retake it.
- Focus on your mental health! It’s okay to take a gap year if you’re drowned in school and work. Everyone’s timeline is different and not a single person will look down on you if you start school late. We have people of different ages in our class and everyone gets along just fine!
Do you have questions for Khanh? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next What is Graduate School Really Like? post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
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