How Did We Get Here?

The application process for optometry school is a long and overwhelming endeavor. I began thinking about a career in optometry junior year in high school. I knew there was an entrance exam and an application, and that was the extent of my knowledge about the application process.

Recognizing that the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) was science-based, I chose to pursue a degree in biology entering college. I was involved in my school’s pre-health organization and one of my favorite events that was held was an annual preview day one of the local medical schools would host. It included application tips, a student panel, a tour of the facilities, and my favorite part: the mock interview. One of the most important opportunities for you to stand out as an applicant is your interview. Yes, your personal statement gets your foot in the door, but your interview is where you bust the door wide open.

TIP #1: Do as many mock interviews as you can

The amazing thing about mock interviews is it is a low-pressure interview. You can get the nerves out early and become familiar with the kinds of things you will get asked. In total I did about four mock interviews, and I learned so much through each one. Each interview was a completely different style; I have done mock individual, partners, and group interviews. The group interviews were the most interesting because you were able to listen in to what other people had to say about certain topics. I was asked personal questions, light-hearted questions, and even presented with ethical cases in which I had to state what action I would take.

Not to worry, I am here to assure you that the interview at UIWRSO is different, and even enjoyable. The interviewer wants to get to know you and answer any questions to help you determine if this program is a good fit for you. It is more of a conversation than a high pressure question and answer setting. Your visit to UIWRSO is more about you assessing the program for fit, and has been constructed to introduce you to the culture. The interview itself is one-on-one with a faculty member and is closed file.  The faculty  interviewing committee consists of current professors who you will encounter throughout your career at UIWRSO.

TIP #2: Make a timeline

Since elementary, I have always carried my trusty planner detailing my schedule, events, and to-do list. That being said, I know not everyone has to write down their day-to-day schedule; however, you should have a timeline outlining your plan of action for the years leading up to optometry school. There are many resources that share a detailed outline of what should be done and when. I had Pinterest boards full of helpful timelines to keep me on track towards optometry school.

Everyone’s journey to optometry school is different. Some take gap months, years, or graduate early. Modify your timeline to whichever way fits your path.

TIP #3: Shadow different optometrists

It’s great to shadow your local optometrist, whom you’ve been going to since elementary school, but I encourage you to span out and reach out to different optometrists and shadow as many as you can. Shadow optometrists in different settings: private practices, retail optometry, group practices, M.D./O.D. practice, etc. There is so much variability in each patient exam and each optometrist practices to his/her specific method; being able to take in as much expertise from each one of them will definitely give you more knowledge coming in. Also, let’s not forget you will be needing a letter of recommendation from an optometrist so it wouldn’t hurt to mingle with a couple and get their support. Even if you don’t ask for a letter from them, it is nice to have someone who has been through optometry school rooting for you.

Good luck and happy planning!

Class of 2022 beginning their journey to becoming O.Ds.

Hi, Nice To Meet Me

Second year students attend a school vision screening

“Hi, it was nice to meet me,” says my dad jokingly in his thick Spanish accent every time he is introduced to someone. My dad: the reason why I was surrounded by medicine growing up. My father studied medicine in Mexico and moved to the US as a newlywed to complete his residency. My mom did not know any English, and my father was barely conversant. Imagine the shock of getting married and moving to a new country to start a family while learning a new language! I am forever astonished by my parents and what they accomplished. I am the youngest of three; I was born and raised in Laredo, TX, a border town with a population of around 250,000. Some of my best memories are of racing my siblings down the long hospital hallways on roller chairs while we waited for my dad to get off work, here sparked my interest in medicine.

I had been to the optometrist several times but never thought twice about a career in optometry. Early on, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, I just did not know what kind.

Fast forward to high school. I attended a public high school that offered a Magnet program for health science, meaning we took extra health-related courses in order to jump-start our career in medicine. Junior year was the year everyone looked forward to; it was the year you had a clinical rotation class where you shadowed different clinics and practices in order to find the career that fit you.

After rotating through several clinics, I panicked when anyone asked me which one I liked the best. “To be honest, none,” I replied, as none of the options really appealed to me. Halfway through the year, and I still had not found the career for me. It was not until I rotated through my very last office which was the optometrist’s. Needless to say, something clicked that day.

I set out for college with my eyes on optometry and the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). I studied Biology at Oral Roberts University and midway through my senior year, accepted my seat in the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO) class of 2022.

I am now a month into my second year at UIWRSO and look back with appreciation for my family and for all the guidance I have had in my life that resulted in me being here today.

If you were to ask me what the best decision I have made (thus far), choosing optometry and UIWRSO would arguably be my top answer. Why? Keep following this blog and as the weeks unfold the answer will become obvious. I am grateful for this opportunity to share my story on this blog and continue to share my experiences at UIWRSO.

As my dad says, “It was nice to meet me!”

My Application Process For Optometry School

optomcaslogo1Oh, the days of applying and preparing for optometry school!

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.eyeball

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.

Andrew Yoder

I am a 3rd year intern at the UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry. I was home grown in Dyersville, IA. I have a brother and sister, of which I am the youngest. My hobbies include playing ultimate frisbee, basketball, tennis, and anything else my friends want to play, and jamming out on my guitar.

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