Building your credentials
Students prepare for a career in optometry by building credentials in scholarship, leadership, humanitarian/community service, and shadowing (largely with a 2-3 different practicing optometrists) in various settings of the profession. The optometry profession is very demanding and there a no guarantees of success. Many students do not get into optometry school the first time that they apply. The traits that predict success in the profession include, high academic aptitude, hard work, the ability to work well with others, and good judgment. Having good manual dexterity is needed as an optometrist must manipulate fine optical measuring devices and computer-controlled instruments.
There is no “best” major for pre-optometry students nor are there majors that will make a student “stand out.” Students are encouraged to pursue majors in which they are most interested. Optometry schools do want to see students earning good grades in the pre-requisite courses, especially the upper level science courses. Grade trends do matter, so if a student has one bad semester but their grades improved significantly in the sequential semesters, this shows strong consistent improvement. A student’s academic evaluation is based on overall GPA, science GPA (BCPM), college attended, degree progress, and course load difficulty. A bachelor’s degree is not required by some optometry schools but is strongly preferred. Most students major in the natural sciences in college (e.g., biology, chemistry) because the prerequisites for optometry school are science intensive. Again, prospective students can major in any degree discipline as long as they complete all of the prerequisite courses for optometry. Because each optometry school may have slightly different admissions criteria, it is strongly recommended that applicants contact all the schools and colleges to which they are interested in applying. Each school can provide information on specific application deadlines, additional policies and procedures, class size, grade point average (GPA), Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) averages, international requirements, and tuition and fees considerations. A complete listing of the schools and colleges of optometry is provided by ASCO at www.opted.org.
What do optometry schools look for when reviewing applicants?
- Academic record (both overall and science GPA (BCPM))
- OAT scores
- Letters of Evaluation (including two hard science faculty and an optometrist letter)
- Exposure to optometrist-patient interaction ("shadowing")
- Volunteering, as well as charitable/altruistic endeavors
- Research experience (only if you are interested)
- Leadership abilities
- Interpersonal communication skills
- Evidence of manual dexterity ("are you good with your hands?")
If a student is strongly motivated toward a health science career, enjoys working
with people, possess good manual dexterity and is willing to apply the self-discipline
and hard work necessary to maintain a competitive academic record, then the student
has a realistic expectation for admission to optometry school.
Check out Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Admission Requirements (http://www.optomcas.org/information-about-schools-colleges/school-college-prerequisites) to learn more about the perquisite courses for each school and click here (https://www.optometriceducation.org/students-future-students/resources/applicants-and-advisors/email-admissions-officers/) for a list of email address to each schools Admissions Office. Optometry school and college applicants are urged to make their own determinations regarding the suitability of a school or college including visiting the schools and colleges’ official websites and gathering information regarding applicant profiles, class size, prerequisite courses, NBEO pass rates, faculty-student ratios, pre-clinical and clinical training and other information. Accurate data which is provided by the schools and colleges can be found on the Data & Surveys webpage.
Note: Optometry schools may also require background checks of applicants before matriculation.