Optometry School Admissions Tips
Improving Your Chances
Every optometry school has its own criteria and requirements on admissions into its Doctor of Optometry program, and the majority are pretty competitive. Many applicants are not even asked for an interview. For example, the entering class for 2009 at the Illinois College of Optometry, less than half of the 922 applicants were offered an interview. There are plenty of ways to improve anyone’s chances of getting accepted into the school by following some tips listed below. The first goal should be to make it to the interview on time and the second is to ace the interview itself.
A big mistake that many applicants make is to delay their applications and with the use of OptomCAS and online applications there is just no excuse for this. Most optometry schools use rolling admissions. This means they look at applications on a first come first serve process and setup interviews and enroll students in the same manner. Optometry schools have limited class sizes each year and applying late could be a costly reason to be denied.
Knowledge of Optometry
Before even applying for or deciding on optometry as a career, anyone interested should definitely take the time to learn more about the career by reading our optometrists article, joining a pre-optometry club, or shadowing an optometrist to see if it is a lifetime career. There is a lot more to being an optometrist than just examining the eyes of patients all day long. Optometrists look for diseases, they participate in research, run their own practices, review case studies of patients to determine if something is wrong and there are plenty of other duties and paths.
For individuals who have already decided that optometry is their field of choice, the next improvement area is in college academics. All optometry schools have pre-requisite courses that must be met with plenty in the sciences like Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Calculus, and others. Thus, a higher overall GPA and a higher pre-requisite work GPA are factors that can be improved through class re-takes or more focus on those classes. Some schools do ask the reason for the re-taking of a class, so be ready to explain as well. Some optometry schools do not accept junior college courses, while others set minimums on credits counted. All optometry schools set a minimum GPA that all applicants should at least meet.
Improve OAT Scores
The Optometry Admission Test (OAT), is a very important deciding factor for most optometry schools, and a higher All Academic and Total Science score can improve admission chances. The OAT allows students to retake the test after 90 days, and the last 4 scores and total number of tests taken will be submitted to the optometry schools of choice. Applicants should make sure they are ready for the test by taking sample tests and having taken all necessary courses. Applicants that do not do well should compare the class profile for the past year of the optometry schools they wish to attend. Looking at this data can tell if it is more or less likely that an individual will be accepted. Aim for a score of at least 320 or more depending on the school. Some optometry schools have minimum OAT scores for applicants, so check these requirements before wasting money on an application fee.
A few optometry schools already require a minimum amount of hours that applicants must shadow, or follow, an optometrist around in order to comprehend daily activities, job duties, and to see if the applicant is still passionate about the career. By following around a few optometrists and getting to know them, it not only improves the schools view on the applicant, but the applicant will also be able to discover their role in optometry, if there is one, and can convey this feeling on the personal essay, statement, or supplemental form as well as during the interview. Having a letter of recommendation is also a huge bonus.
Letters of Recommendations
Letters of recommendation are required by all optometry schools, as these items are used to help the admissions committee get a picture of the individual before the interview. Most optometry schools have specific individuals who should write the recommendations and it is the applicant’s role to know this and obtain a favorable one. Usually these recommendations cannot come from friends or family, but an optometrist, professor, or advisory committee, so preparation is important.
Improve Outside Areas
Optometry schools also look at an applicant’s value as a professional through their extracurricular activities, leadership, and community involvement. College is a great time to become involved in clubs and societies, and to become involved in the community through services offered by many schools. Although these factors are not necessary to get in, for applicants with lower GPA and OAT scores or in an applicant pool with very high candidates, it could be the difference.
Optometry School Interview
All the optometry schools have different processes, people, and requirements during the interview process. This could mean anything from being grilled by a five man group, or a one-on-one with a professor or advisor. Applicants can improve their interviews by checking the school’s methods, interviewers, types of questions asked, appropriate attire, and much more. This extra preparation will help applicants be ready and look professional instead of like a deer caught in the headlights.
The Illinois College of Optometry offers a fantastic guide on their process. The school mentions some topics of discussion including study habits, preference in teaching styles, academic strengths and weaknesses, and career goals. Not all schools provide as much information but even the smallest bit of information can make a huge difference. Applicants can also call the optometry school and ask an advisor as to what to expect at the interview, and learn more about the school’s history as well because nobody should answer the question “Why did you choose our school to attend?” with the answer “It was my third choice and close to home.”