OPTOMETRY

Optometrists promote eye health and counsel patients on how general health can affect eyesight. For example, they may counsel patients on how quitting smoking or losing weight can reduce vision problems. Optometrists identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

Some optometrists spend much of their time providing specialized care, particularly if they are working in a group practice with other optometrists or physicians. For example, some optometrists mostly treat patients with only partial sight, a condition known as low vision. Others may focus on treating infants and children.

You must earn a Doctor of Optometry (OD) from a college that meets accreditation standards set by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). Most schools of optometry require that students complete a bachelor’s degree before pursuing their OD.

Profession Overview

Profession Overview


Optometrists typically do the following:

  • Perform vision tests and analyze results
  • Diagnose sight problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, and eye diseases, such as glaucoma
  • Prescribe eyeglasses, contact lenses, and other visual aids, and if state law permits, medications
  • Perform minor surgical procedures to correct or treat visual or eye health issues
  • Provide treatments such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation
  • Provide pre- and postoperative care to patients undergoing eye surgery—for example, examining a patient’s eyes the day after surgery
  • Evaluate patients for the presence of other diseases and conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, and refer patients to other healthcare providers as needed
  • Promote eye and general health by counseling patients

A Doctor of Optometry (OD) specializes in:

  • Performing vision tests to check for sight problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness
  • Checking for eye diseases, such as glaucoma
  • Prescribing eyeglasses, contact lenses and medications
  • Providing other treatments, such as vision therapy or low-vision rehabilitation
  • Providing pre- and postoperative care to patients undergoing eye surgery
  • Evaluating patients for the presence of diseases such as diabetes and refer them to other healthcare providers as needed
  • Promoting eye health by counseling patients

Important Qualities:

  • Decision-making skills: Optometrists must be able to evaluate the results of a variety of diagnostic tests and decide on the best course of treatment for a patient.
  • Detail oriented: Optometrists must ensure that patients receive appropriate treatment and medications and that prescriptions are accurate. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.
  • Interpersonal skills: Because they spend much of their time examining patients, optometrists must be able to help their patients feel at ease. Optometrists also must be able to communicate well with other healthcare professionals.
  • Speaking skills: Optometrists must be able to clearly explain eye care instructions to their patients, as well as answer patients’ questions.

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook Optometrists

Learn more about Pharmacy:

Admissions Criteria

Admissions Criteria


Coursework

This is a list of common optometry school prerequisites and the Kalamazoo College course equivalents. The course prerequisites vary across programs. This list does not include all courses that may be required by optometry schools. Additionally, schools have differing policies for accepting AP/IB credits to fulfill prerequisites. Students are responsible for verifying the prerequisite coursework and policies of the schools to which they plan to apply. Helpful resources include the OptomCAS School Specific Requirements and individual school websites.

BIOL 123 while this course is not an optometry school requirement, BIOL 123 is strongly recommended to first-year students, as it includes physiology and is required for the Biology major.

** BIOL 222 and *** BIOL 376 may not meet the admissions criteria of your intended program. If the program you are preparing for has prerequisites that K College doesn’t offer, most commonly human anatomy and physiology, you may take them at Western Michigan University under our inter-institutional enrollment arrangement. Please contact the Registrar’s office a K College for the policy, procedure, and forms. This is done on a space-available basis so plan ahead and make your arrangements early. The cost is included in your K tuition and the grades will appear on your K transcript and be calculated into your K GPA.

GPA and Extracurricular Experience

In the 2018-19 application cycle, the average cumulative GPA for matriculating students was 3.44. Additional data on applicants and program cohorts, including average OAT scores, is available from ASCO.

Competitive applicants should also have experience working with an optometrist, whether through shadowing, volunteering or paid employment.

Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)

Students are required to the read the OAT Guide before submitting an application to test.In addition to satisfying pre-optometry course requirements, applicants must submit test scores from the Optometry Admission Test (OAT).

Length: 4 hours and 50 minutes

Sections: Four sections:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Physics, and
  • Quantitative Reasoning

Scores: Scores range from 200-400.

Cost: The registration fee is $450 which includes the exam and scores sent to the optometry schools listed during registration (up to 5). Sending scores to additional schools after the initial OAT application costs $36 each. Requests for Partial Fee Waivers can be made starting on January 1 each year and applicants should apply ASAP.

OAT Prep Resources: There are a variety of OAT prep resources, each differing in both cost and teaching style.

The Natural Sciences, Reading Comprehension, and Quantiative Reasoning sections on the OAT and DAT are very similar. Students may utilize DAT resources for these sections to prepare.

School Selection

School Selection


Number of schools: Students typically apply to between 5-8 optometry schools.

Factors to consider:

  • Location I: Students have the best chance of admission at the public optometry school(s) in their state of residency. Outside of your in-state school(s), consider private schools and other state public schools that accept a reasonable number of out-of-state residents. 
  • Location II: Urban vs. rural setting, proximity to family, recreational opportunities, cost of living, etc.
  • Mission Statements: You should look for schools with mission statements that fit with your own goals.
  • Curriculum: Seek out information about the curriculum and consider how it fits with your learning style.
  • Cost: Consider tuition and type of financial aid available

Additional resources for school selection:

Application Overview

Application Overview


Application Timing

All schools and colleges of optometry participate in OptomCAS. Applicants who apply through OptomCAS submit a completed web-based application comprised of biographical data, colleges and universities attended, academic course history, letters of recommendation, work experience, extracurricular activities, honors and a personal essay. OptomCAS typically opens in late June/early July. Application deadlines vary, and it is your responsibility to know the deadlines for each schools to which you apply. Apply well in advance to have the best chance of admission.

Applications for OptomCAS are reviewed on a rolling basis. We recommend applying as early in the cycle as possible. 

Primary Applications

Optometry Primary Application:

  • Centralized Application Service: OptomCAS – Optometry Centralized Application Service
  • Number of Participating Schools: All 23 optometry programs in the U.S. participate in OptomCAS
  • Cost: $165 which includes one optometry program designation. Each additional school is $65.
  • Fee Assistance? No fee waivers for OptomCAS are available at this time.
  • Personal Statement Prompt: OptomCAS essay prompts may be different based on the individual program. However, the main essay prompt for most optometry programs is: “Please describe what inspires your decision for becoming an optometrist, including your preparation for training in this profession, your aptitude and motivation, the basis for your interest in optometry, and your future career goals.” – 4,500 character limit
  • Application Timing: Students will apply in the summer of the year preceding their planned matriculation. The OptomCAS cycle opens late June.
  • Resources:

Secondary Applications

Almost all optometry schools require a secondary, or supplemental, application. Some schools will require you to submit a supplemental application and fee directly to the institution, while others may give you access to the secondary material immediately after you designate them in OptomCAS. Secondary applications for optometry school often involve one or several essay questions and a fee. A two-week turn around on secondary applications is recommended from the time your receive them. You should research the requirements of each individual school to determine if they require a supplemental application and if there will be any additional application fees.

Recommendation Letters

Optometry schools typically require between 3-4 recommendation letters. At least one of your letters be from a science faculty member and one be from a PI or research supervisor (if you participated in research). Some programs may require a letter from a optometrist. The other letters should be made up of professional references who can write compellingly about your personal qualities that will contribute to a successful career in optometry. Students should check each school’s requirements to ensure you have the required letters. See the OptomCAS Programs Letter Requirements page for individual program requirements.

Interviews

The interview is one of the most important elements in the healthcare professions application process. When a school invites you to an interview, they are indicating an interest in selecting you for their school based on your application. The interview gives both of you the opportunity to exchange information to determine if you are a good “fit” for each other.

Pharmacy schools require personal interviews with applicants to assess qualities such as self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and ability to overcome challenges. Be prepared to discuss why you wish to pursue a career in pharmacy and the experiences that have motivated you. 

What to Expect at an Optometry School Interview

The interview is one of the most important elements in the healthcare professions application process. When a school invites you to an interview, they are indicating an interest in selecting you for their school based on your application. The interview gives both of you the opportunity to exchange information to determine if you are a good “fit” for each other.

Pharmacy schools require personal interviews with applicants to assess qualities such as self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and ability to overcome challenges. Be prepared to discuss why you wish to pursue a career in pharmacy and the experiences that have motivated you. 

How to Prepare

Your interview prep should be different based on the type of interview the school employs. In general, you should always:

  • Review your application materials (including activities log, personal statement, and essays) and be prepared to discuss them in detail.
  • Brush up on current events in healthcare and in your profession specifically.
  • Research the school. Do an in-depth review of the school’s website and any additional materials you have. Remember, the interview is your chance to show them why you are a good fit for that particular program.

Resources