Building your credentials
To prepare for a career in optometry you will need to build credentials in scholarship, leadership, humanitarian/community service, and shadowing (largely with a 2-3 different practicing optometrists) in various settings of the profession. 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.” You are encouraged to pursue majors in which you are most interested.
The Numbers Matter and so do Grade Trends
If you wish to enter an optometry program you need to have a strong science and overall GPA. Admissions committees also look for trends on your transcript—so all is not lost if you stumble your first semester or two, as long as you show substantial improvement each subsequent year. However, they will also notice negative trends such as consistently withdrawing from or performing poorly in hard sciences or is completing them away from your home institution. While an instance or two is not a deal-breaker, a pattern of behavior will be. You must demonstrate the ability to handle difficult scientific content.
Your academic evaluation is based on your 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 it is strongly preferred. Many students major in the natural sciences in college (e.g., biology, chemistry) because the prerequisites for optometry school are science intensive. However, you can major in any degree discipline to which you are interested as long as you complete all of the prerequisite courses for optometry.
Because each optometry school may have slightly different admissions criteria, it is strongly recommended that you contact all the schools and colleges to which you 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
Check out Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Admission Requirements to learn more about the perquisite courses for each school and click here 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.