You’ll find more mystery in your first year as an optometry student, than in an Agatha Christie novel. Unfamiliarity is everywhere; from expectations to test-taking strategies, to “Do I really need to know that?” (Yes, you probably do). Like any good detective, you’ll need a strategy to navigate the mounting evidence thrown before you. Ok, too much theme there, but practice these tips and you’ll be the one controlling the “plot” of your first year.

Network with your classmates

If the characters on a crime show went back and talked to the EXACT same people in every episode for every case, they wouldn’t get anywhere new, right? Networking with your classmates works the exact same way. Building strong relationships within your class will benefit you while you are in school and long into your career. Say you want to run for a class election, maybe you need someone to practice on as a “patient”, or perhaps you are struggling to develop a skill that someone else has more experience with; these are some situations where your established relationships will prove fruitful.

Get involved early

I’ve heard the phrase “I’ll join when I have more time next year” far too many times. Unfortunately, that fictional time period never quite arrives, and the difficulty you experience will likely increase as you progress through school—not regress. Your interests peak in the beginning but as time goes on, how shall I phrase this, “the trail goes cold”. Without involvement, you risk missing out on information and connections that can’t be made up. Don’t regret it later, jump in now! Finding an organization that interests you from the beginning will serve as a great “detox” from schoolwork, while also benefitting your resume and overall experience in the end.

Ask for help; even when it ISN’T needed

Up until this point, you’ve probably been pretty good at making it on your own. However, in optometry school, the volume of material, long days, crazy practicals, and pressure that comes with being surrounded by the best of the best, may get the best of you. In these situations, utilize your resources preemptively, shelf the inner “Holmes intellectual ego”, and truly recognize and request help when it is needed. “Help” may come in the form of tutoring, office hours, mentors, or career advisors. When I caught myself slipping, I stopped in to talk to a professor, deciding to be carefree, honest, and open about my fallbacks. This casual approach not only resulted in valuable study tips, but a new mentor relationship that is strong to this day.

Branch out to upperclassmen

Upperclassmen are like your senior detectives. They’ve not only finished the novel, but they’ve written several themselves. They have the best insight and advice to things that are specific to your program, but don’t let their wisdom intimidate you! The vast majority are more than happy to point you in the right direction, so long as you build up your courage and ask. Plus, it’s always nice when someone who has made it through what you’re going through believes in you.

Attend conferences!

Cozy, detective, thriller, noir, private eye, crime, mixed: the classification of mystery genres goes on! Our profession too has what would seem like an infinite number of genre’s, better recognized as “practice modalities”. It’s never too early to explore the subspecialties in our profession and learn how a diverse set of people have successfully incorporated these into their practices. The networking opportunities at conferences are invaluable. In both crime and optometry school, one thing holds true: it always pays to know someone on the outside!

Even with these clues, you’re bound to experience twists and turns as your adventure unfolds. You’ll use rational, undergo character development, change scenes, and be in lots of suspense! The year will fly and soon enough you’ll look at patient encounters and be the one to say “case closed”. Then, you’ll prop your feet up (as I am now), open a new chapter, and dive into the sequel: Uncovering the Secrets of Second Year.