Optometry is an exciting field with a large variety of opportunities for an individual to influence and affect the life of the patients and society on a whole. There are currently 20 optometry programs in the United States and Puerto Rico and two in Canada which will be accepting applications for the upcoming year. The schools are competitive, but it is a great profession to pursue.
Courses required for admissions to optometry schools are similar, although each optometry school sets its own requirements. It is very important that you check the individual schools requirements as you near the application time (http://optomcas.org/). The optometry schools belong to a centralized optometry association called the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). Optometry schools require applicants to have completed the pre-optometry curriculum prior to application. The minimum science preparation courses for admission into optometry school, with a few exceptions, include the following:
- Principles of Biology I and II (lectures and laboratory)
- Introduction to Chemistry I and II (lectures and laboratory)
- Principles of Organic Chemistry I and II (lectures and laboratory)
- Physics I and II (lectures and laboratory) - prefer engineering physics
- Calculus I
- Psychology and Behavioral Science courses
In addition to these courses stated, most optometry schools require or recommend even more science courses than the ones presented. It is in your best interest to research the individual schools about their requirements.
For the student who expects to complete a degree in four years and go directly into optometry school, the pre-optometry curriculum must be completed by the end of the junior year of college. These courses serve as a common denominator between applicants and are also the foundation upon which students build once in a professional school. As noted above, the pre-optometry curriculum given above should be considered the minimum science preparation for a health professions school. You should strive to take additional upper division biology and chemistry courses to strengthen your background in the sciences, especially if you elect a major in the humanities and social sciences.
Optometry schools are stressing a broad, general training at the undergraduate level. The CORE requirements of the College of Arts & Sciences at Saint Louis University include courses which satisfy non-science requirements. These courses include General Psychology, Composition and other courses which develop communication skills. Take more than the minimum CORE requirements in humanities and social sciences.
General Academic Preparation
Optometry school admissions committees recognize the importance of a liberal arts education which includes a strong foundation in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and development of excellent communication skills.
Although the completion of a college degree may not be specifically required by an optometry school, there is an expectation that the applicant has pursued some discipline in depth. The successful applicant typically has a four-year degree, thereby studying a discipline in depth. Skills are developed through many avenues of study, such as in the natural sciences, in the humanities, and in the social and behavioral sciences. Development of effective written and oral communication skills are especially important for optometry school applicants.
Selection of a Major
Professional schools do not select students based on the undergraduate major. The process of selecting a major should include consideration of interest and your individual strengths and weaknesses. The most important aspect of major selection is a consideration of what careers, other than an optometry career, the major prepares you to enter. Think of the major as a backup plan.
Successful Saint Louis University pre-optometry students have completed majors in many disciplines, both in the sciences and the non-sciences. However, it is necessary for the pre-optometry students to do well in their science courses to be adequately prepared and viewed favorably by the admission committees of dental schools for entrance into optometry school.
Click here to see sample curricula of majors.
The Successful Applicant
Any applicant to optometry school will need to complete an application to that individual school. There are 20 optometry schools in the United States and Puerto Rico and all of the schools currently participate in OptomCAS, a centralized application service. You can obtain information about the schools and their applications through the OptomCAS website at http://www.optomcas.org.
Diversity within an entering class is considered highly desirable by optometry schools. Avoid the common misconception that admissions committees seek some ideal combination of characteristics in the applicants they select for admission. What is important in the admission process includes:
- High level of scholastic and intellectual potential. These are measured by academic averages, both overall cumulative average and overall math/science grade average, the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) scores, and an evaluation from the Pre-health Professions Committee on Evaluations.
- Personal Qualities. Does the applicant have the leadership skills, motivation, perseverance, social maturity, curiosity, and sense of commitment deemed important in an optometrist?
- Knowledge of the profession. Has the applicant demonstrated an interest in the optometry profession and developed a knowledge of the profession? Experience in a health care setting, which you can get by volunteering, awareness of current events related to the optometric profession, and interaction with health care professionals provides evidence for this interest and knowledge. We encourage students to join SLU's Pre-Optometry Club.
- Demonstration of a commitment to helping people. Participation in community and service organizations or working at a shelter for the homeless demonstrates the applicant's degree of commitment to being of service to others.
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