Students interested in becoming optometrists have numerous obligations including the development of a strong science foundation and involvement in diverse extracurricular activities such as shadowing, patient exposure, service, leadership, and research. It can be a bit daunting, however, it is possible to do everything you need to do by starting now and working consistently throughout your undergraduate years.
Please read the basic information we have provided while recognizing that the majority of support the Prehealth Advising Office provides students is through face-to-face advising appointments. You are welcome to set up an appointment with us to discuss any questions you might have as you prepare for optometry school.
Optometry graduate programs do not require or favor ANY specific major. We encourage you to consider a major that interests you and one that will provide you an alternative pathway if you change your mind about optometry as a career. There are many facets to being an optometrist and ideally your undergraduate degree will prove functional with whatever career you pursue. For example, if you wish to run your own practice as an optometrist, a degree in business would prove useful. No matter what you choose to major in, you will be most prepared if you counsel with both your major academic advisor and your pre-health advisor on a regular basis.Find a Degree Major Exploration
Many students ask, “What classes do I need to take to prepare to apply for optometry school?” This question is complicated to answer because each school varies slightly in their academic requirements. Below is a table of the common requirements. Please note: this table is NOT all encompassing. You will need to investigate specific schools to see what courses they require. ASCO (Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry) publishes a chart and a booklet that you can look at to determine what courses each school and will be valuable in helping you decide where you want to apply. Make sure to thoroughly do your research!
A common misconception students have is that optometry schools focus only on your GPA and OAT score when making admissions decisions. While those metrics are certainly an important part of your application, they are not enough on their own to earn you a place in optometry school. Your extracurricular preparation is a vitally important aspect of your application. To help you best prepare, we have broken down extracurricular activities into the list below.
Do you know how much paperwork is involved in the daily life of an optometrist? How can you help a patient who is anxious about eye exams relax? Do you feel comfortable with the closeness in which optometrists need to interact with patients? Shadowing provides you with important and realistic exposure to an optometrist’s profession and can help you answer some of the important questions listed above- plus, it is highly recommended for admission to optometry school.
Many students ask, “How do I get started with shadowing?” Start with people you know. Do you have any family members or friends that are optometrists? Use your connections. If you don’t know any optometrists, don’t worry! Many students call offices directly to find shadowing opportunities, and generally optometrists are happy to support the up-and-coming healthcare workforce by allowing students to shadow them.
Oh no- the “R” word! Typically, optometry schools don’t require research experience for admission. However, we feel that research is a great way to distinguish yourself because it demonstrates that you have an intimate understanding of the scientific method. Being involved in research will help you develop critical thinking skills and will allow you to be an informed consumer of new research studies that will be presented to you as a OT. Plus, there’s no better way to solidify concepts you learn in class than actively applying them in the lab. (And it’s fun, too!)
Becoming a successful optometrist includes developing a service-oriented outlook. Because of this, optometry schools are looking for how you have developed this character trait through various activities. Many health professionals will tell you that service plays an imperative role in their influence on the community and their ability to help their patients.
Your service and volunteer repertoire need not be limited to clinically-related exposure; rather, find things that you are passionate about and be mindful of volunteer and service opportunities that arise.
All health professionals are leaders to some degree and optometry schools appreciate students with these skills. There is no one way to gain leadership experience, but some common ways are getting involved in a club and participating in club administration, student government, working as a tutor, TA, SI, etc. Remember, demonstrating leadership doesn’t always come with a “title”! You can demonstrate leadership many different ways and through many different activities.