Balancing Friends, OAT Prep, and Pre-Optometry Courses
March 17, 2017
From early childhood, we are taught the value of friendship. By the time you get to college, your friends can (and should) provide an vital support system, helping you release stress and unwind from a long day of studying.
As a hardworking pre-optometry student, however, you may also face the challenge of balancing friendship with other aspects of your college life—including academic work and OAT prep.
Keeping college friends in the balance
It’s important to remember that focusing on school has nothing to do with how you feel about your friends. It took some growing up for me to learn when to prioritize my school-related obligations over my social life. Life gets real in college, and your friends will need to understand that you might not be able to do all the fun things you could a few months ago.
At the beginning of college, very few of my friends were on the pre-health track. We were all going in different directions. It didn’t really affect our friendship at first because we had not yet started to take our specialized major courses—which tend to be more academically intensive.
The fact that we had different career paths was great at first, because we offered each other different perspectives. But once I hit my junior year, I could no longer study with my friends because they almost never needed to study as much as I did for my optometry courses. I also couldn’t go out with them every week anymore because I was either exhausted, working, or had to work on my OAT prep. My science courses were beginning to get really challenging, and my participation in ROTC was starting to make bigger demands too.
Setting pre-optometry priorities
The challenge of having to be disciplined with OAT prep or studying for pre-optometry college courses is that not all of my friends were understanding. Many of them would get upset with me and feel hurt because I wasn’t able to do the things that I used to. Some of them didn’t understand when I would say, “I can’t today, I need to study.” In their mind, all I ever did was study.
It took a lot of courage and self-reflection to realize that I’m the only one who knew when I’d studied enough. Only I knew if going out one night would mess up my study schedule or derail my OAT prep plan, and I needed to follow through on my goals. I had to learn to not feel pressured by my friends to study on their terms, but make sure that I was studying in the way that was most efficient for me.
Friends vs. OAT Prep
Junior and senior years were busy: I was juggling ROTC, a business major, my long-distance boyfriend (now fiancé), and OAT prep. There wasn’t much time in my schedule for anyone apart from my significant other. Then, I ended up taking an extra year of college after my senior year. I spent that summer prior studying for the OAT while taking biochemistry and trying to salvage some of my break. On top of all that, a close friend of mine was moving away and was trying to spend as much time as possible with me beforehand.
I finally had to come to terms with the fact that it is OK to say no to hanging out. My friend was focused on having the best summer of her life and making the greatest memories with people she would miss. I was focused on getting the score that I needed to get into the optometry school of my dreams. Our priorities were completely opposite, and our schedules just didn’t match up.
I had to remember that at the end of the day, whether or not we stayed friends in the future, it wasn’t her life that will be impacted by my choices, but my own. If I didn’t dedicate the necessary time for OAT prep and hit the score I needed to get into optometry school, I would have to shoulder that burden—not my friends.
Being thankful for the friendships that last
As I matured in college, so did my priorities, and these things took up more of my time. This meant that I had less time for my friends. I had to explain to them more than once just how hectic my schedule was. Sometimes I even had to break down my commitments so they understood just how busy I really was.
Many friends that I had during the first half of my college career did not stick around during my hardest of semesters. But several friends did, and these friends understood that what I was doing was important to me and that even if they couldn’t see me every single week (or even every month), they were happy to stand by my side and watch me get closer to my goal of getting into optometry school.
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