A series of articles written by SCCO Student Ambassadors.
Why Opting Out Of A Gap Year Was The Right Choice For Me
by SCCO Student Ambassador, Mireya Tapia
Before submitting my optometry school applications, I asked myself an important question: Do I want to maintain the momentum and endurance I’ve built during undergrad or pump the brakes and take a rest stop before starting a new four-year program?
The answer to this question is personalized to every student and their own experiences; therefore, the motives I share here are also specific to my experience. But if you find yourself in similar circumstances (or not), then here are my helpful insights!
Considering that I found my love for optometry early on in my undergraduate education at UC San Diego, I had very few concerns about skipping gap years before starting graduate school. I remember being a freshman in college and seeing my graduating pre-optometry friends thrilled about their acceptances to optometry schools from all corners of the country. Seeing their excitement motivated me to continue working hard, knowing my turn was just around the corner. However, having a passion for optometry was just one piece of the puzzle to maintaining this momentum.
A critical lesson to learn, although not very fun, is that we all have a limit. This limit may look different for everyone, but nonetheless, it is our body’s natural way of telling us when it’s time to take a break from our ventures and prioritize our well-being. This lesson came to me during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic during my junior year of college. By this point, our classes were moved to a fully remote platform for nearly a full academic year, and I struggled to feel motivated about completing my assignments and studying for exams. The content of my classes had become more difficult, but that was a challenge I had faced in previous years without struggling as much as I was during this time. The main difference I noticed from these contrasting experiences was a lack of a consistent source of support and a loss of community.
Before the start of the pandemic, I had paid little attention to the role that community-building played in my academic and personal success. Having a group of like-minded and ambitious friends or classmates profoundly affects my motivation and mental well-being. This may not be a challenge to everyone, and that’s totally okay, but the most important thing is to pay attention to your own needs and understand the conditions that you work best at.
Although I couldn’t see many friends often because of the pandemic, I prioritized finding new ways to connect with them because my overall well-being depended on the strength of my support systems. From my personal experience, staying involved in extracurriculars while finishing the school year from home made accomplishing my goals much more attainable and improved my mental health exponentially. Understanding this fact about myself became a turning point in my academic and personal life, which are tools that I have brought with me into optometry school and will continue to implement into my daily life.
My overall advice to any students who may not want to take a gap year is to take time for reflection and be honest with yourself about your goals and limitations. Entering optometry school right after completing an undergraduate education is not impossible and is not as uncommon as you may think! With the right mindset and dedication, you have the potential to thrive in this new environment!
Categories: Student Ambassador Blog Articles