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The Grad School Application | Figuring Our Your Identity & Letting Your Uniqueness Shine Through

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“Oooooooh – I want that! I was first, so now it’s mine!” my brother exclaimed during the TV commercial between our favorite Cartoon Network shows. When we were young, my brother and I had this tradition of being the first to call dibs on random products, primarily toys, advertised on TV. This was one of the many “competitions” we shared. Although it was simple to share the glory, we never wavered in our decision to have a victor.

Growing up as an identical twin, I never wanted to share anything with my brother. We were always seen as a packaged deal, one entity, or nature’s clones. Ironically, the friends we shared collectively referred to us as “the twins,” and you could never invite one brother without asking the other. Additionally, our parents were not excused from linking us together. If one brother had trouble in class, it was the other’s duty to help him. They bought us the same clothes, kept our hairstyles the same, and even introduced us to the same hobbies. Some identical twins I know can’t fathom being apart, but not me. Don’t get me wrong, I am always here for my brother through thick and thin, but growing up with him was difficult. Many people would find it exciting to have a twin, but it becomes a struggle when finding your own identity.

It wasn’t until I started college at UC Riverside (WHOSE SIDE!?? R’ SIDE!!!) that I defined my values, reflected on my interests, and made my own choices. Considering this was the first time I was away from my home (and brother), it was a struggle when putting myself out there. The implication behind being a twin was that my brother made it easier for me to make decisions, and we were codependent when pursuing new things. For example, I would often ask myself, “Do I love hiking because my brother hates it?” or “Am I friends with this person just because he was friends with them?” Therefore, I determined which qualities were important and how these qualities made me unique from my twin. One of these qualities was my passion for pursuing a career in optometry and helping the underserved communities in the Inland Empire. This became a defining characteristic that separated me from my brother and something that I did not have to share with him. I joined organizations such as my pre-health professional co-ed fraternity, Delta Epsilon Mu, California Lions Friends in Sight, and pre-optometry club, Precision for Vision, to expand my support system, surround myself with like-minded individuals, and further my interests.

Now, I am sure you are wondering what this has to do with optometry school admissions. During your optometric journey, you will be doubting yourself A LOT and comparing yourself to other applicants, friends, and strangers, who may have better or worse statistics than you. You will read many stories and seek validation from other applicants in person, on Reddit, or Student Doctor Network to an unforeseeable end. In the case of me and my brother’s relationship, comparison often resulted in diminished feelings of self-worth and prevented me from remaining confident in my abilities. Therefore, some techniques I used to stay confident during my application process were limiting my usage of the sites mentioned above, confiding in friends and family (especially upperclassmen optometry students), reliving successful milestones to be proud of, keeping my expectations low, and manifesting acceptance. Through these techniques, I gradually learned to be more apathetic toward situations outside of my control, and it helped establish a positive mindset. To reiterate, the personal experiences of other applicants can be an excellent framework for your application process but be sure to take that advice with “a grain of salt.” Everyone is different in their own unique way. Just because John Doe is “good on paper” with a 400 AA OAT and 4.0 GPA, it DOES NOT define if you’re going to get into optometry school.

SCCO reviews applications holistically, meaning the admissions committee interprets the bigger picture rather than focusing on that bad grade you got on a test in the fall of your first year. They want to see who you are as a person. Maybe you started a swimming club on campus or worked a part-time retail job during school. Talk about that. Ironically, I was more confident in myself and my application when discussing experiences and accomplishments unrelated to optometry. For example, I am a big proponent of selfexpression (tattoos, dyed hair, piercings, etc.) and find professionalism to be subjective. Being “comfortable in your skin” can help you be more confident overall. I’ve gotten compliments from patients for my blue hair and piercings on several occasions. Also, during undergrad, I learned I was much more extroverted than my brother, and I love to talk. Therefore, I joined numerous clubs and attended various community service events, social gatherings, and office hours to improve my social and conversational skills. This later helped me become more confident when engaging in conversation with strangers, especially during my interview. Sometimes we need to give ourselves more credit for how much we can accomplish without external validation. If you’re a well-rounded individual wo can depict your uniqueness, involvement within your community, and passion for optometry, then there’s no need for comparisons.

At the end of the day, you are the only person who can ask yourself if you’ve tried your hardest. I am by no means the most confident person in the world. However, my upbringing with my twin has helped me become more self-aware of who I want to be as a person. Someone who is confident in their abilities and does not need to compare themselves to others to know they can do the job. I am grateful for the experiences I shared with my twin, and I would not be the person I am today without him. In a way, he helped me form my identity, and I helped him develop his. Besides the tribulations, I realize now that the best part of it all was having a “built-in best friend.”

So, stop comparing yourself and start becoming more confident! Give yourself more credit. Don’t let the success of others overshadow what you are capable of. Most importantly, have fun! You are only in undergrad once! If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me at

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