If you are at this time in your life, normally around the end of your third year of undergraduate, you are probably trying to figure out the best way to go about this process. A good place to start is your faculty advisor or pre-health advisor for pre-optometry at your college or university. You will most likely start the application process through OptomCAS and a good reference about that process is here: http://www.optomcas.org/sample-page/how-to-apply. All optometry schools in the United States utilize OptomCAS for the application process. It’s also important to remember that each school may have their own supplemental application that you will have to fill out in addition to the Optomcas.org application.
At the website I listed above you will be able to find a list of all the optometry schools in America, and from there you can Google search the schools to find more information about each one. To be honest with you, you can only learn so much from a website, or from somebody else, like myself, telling you about a school. One of the best ways to decide whether or not a school is for you is to take a tour of the campus. Most schools will give you a tour the day of your interview, but if it is possible to tour before your interview, I would definitely jump at the opportunity. Overall, you just need to put in time and learn as much as you can about a school that you may be interested in attending. These were on my list of things to know about a school when applying; class size, curriculum, when do you enter clinic, and does the school operate on a quarter or semester system. I’m just going to walk you through my process of being accepted into optometry school. My story is not quite the average optometry intern story, but I did have to jump through the same hoops as everyone else.
My quest to become a Doctor of Optometry started when I was in high school. I had a passion to help people, and eyes seemed very interesting. My senior year of high school I sent a request to the Illinois College of Optometry for more information about the school. They sent me a little booklet that had the list of prerequisites and little tidbits about the school. At that time, I thought I would probably go to ICO if I had the chance.
So, after high school I entered my undergraduate at Iowa State University, my goal was a little different, I was going to get all the prerequisites done and then apply as fast as possible. I entered college with 23 credit hours, from college courses I took while in high school, so I was shooting to get into a school of optometry after my junior year of college. You should understand that every optometry school has different requirements for acceptance. Some require a bachelors degree, while others only require that you finish the prerequisites.
During the spring of my sophomore year of college, I shadowed my optometrist every Tuesday from 1:00pm to 7:00pm. I was able to see how a private practice functioned on a day-to-day basis, and asked many questions, to learn as much as I could. So, during Christmas break of my junior year of college, I took the OAT and received a 300 or 310 overall. I then began the process of applying. I used the optomcas.org website and submitted my application to four optometry schools, and submitted all the supplemental applications, directly to the schools. I heard back from ICO in February and set up my interview for March, when I was on spring break. I heard back from UIWRSO in April, and had my interview the same month.
My interview at ICO was not the best interview I’ve ever had, but I realized when they gave us a tour of the facility, that this was not the school for me. Please don’t take this as a knock on ICO; they have a great program there. The school just didn’t fit my needs. My interview at UIWRSO was completely different; I must have gained more confidence from my first interview because when I walked out of the interview I felt great. The school had top of the line everything, and the atmosphere was very welcoming, and friendly. I felt comfortable here. The faculty seemed very encouraging, and like they wanted me to succeed! A few weeks after my interview, I found that I had been put on the “waiting list.” If you are applying to optometry schools right now, you may know what this means, but if you don’t know, here you go; the “waiting list” is essentially a small list of students that have the credentials to be accepted, but are facing competition for admittance with other students with similar credentials. Some schools use the waiting list as a way to ensure the most qualified applicants are accepted when evaluating students who are not eligible for a direct admit.
As you can see, the Lord blessed me by moving me far enough up that list to be accepted when other people decided to go elsewhere. I had done it! I was starting my optometry career after 3 years of undergraduate! The thing is, I was not accepted until 1 week before orientation. I literally had a weekend to pack up, and move from Arlington, TX to San Antonio, TX. Talk about a hectic week, but it all came together and I was able to make the move and start optometry school. My path may not be “traditional,” but I knew what I wanted, and I went for it.
In a nutshell, make sure optometry is what you really want to do for the rest of your life. Get in with a practicing optometrist and shadow, or work for them. Try to understand what optometry is, and the role that optometry plays in the medical field. One thing I know faculty look for when interviewing students, is their passion for optometry, because when you and I graduate, we are the face of optometry, and we all want the very best representing our profession.