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!