Timeline for Pre-Optometry Students
*This timeline was developed for those students planning to apply for optometry school admission immediately after graduation. It is also very common, however, for students to take a year or more off after graduation and then apply. If you are considering taking a gap year (or more) after graduation, some of the suggested activities can be postponed until later in college.
- Let your advisor know that you are interested in going to optometry school.
- Complete first year pre-optometry coursework (usually English Composition, Math through Calculus, Introductory Biology, and General Chemistry courses).
- Visit the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Site: http://www.opted.org/ (come back often over the next couple of years to keep an eye out for any changes).
- Begin to look over practice OAT exams. Although you will not be ready to take this exam for a while, looking over practice questions frequently will help you identify concepts in your coursework that often appear on the OAT. It will also help you get a feel for the level of conceptual detail and critical analysis you will need to eventually reach in order to get a good score on this exam.
- In the summer between your freshman and sophomore years, consider doing volunteer work in an eye-care setting.
- Explore campus extracurricular activities. Remember that quality is more important than quantity - choose activities that you are passionate about and that you could possibly eventually take a leadership role in.
- Keep in mind that getting into optometry school is competitive. Even students that have good grades may not necessarily get in. Thus, everyone should have a "Plan B" in mind that they can also work towards at the same time, in the event that acceptance to optometry school does not occur immediately after graduation. Be sure to discuss your "Plan B" with your advisor so that he/she can recommend any additional coursework that might help you out with your backup plan.
- Complete second year pre-optometry coursework (usually includes Genetics, Organic Chemistry, and other major/GE courses).
- Continue to participate in extracurricular activities. If you notice that you are having trouble keeping your grades up though, you will want to pare back on this somewhat.
- Continue to look over OAT practice exams. Begin to develop an OAT study plan for your junior year.
- Sophomore year is a time period when students who had initially performed well in science courses may sometimes start to struggle, as the level of the material becomes more rigorous. Be sure to get help from your professors and the tutoring center early and often.
- Start exploring research and internship possibilities for your upcoming junior year.
- Complete third year pre-optometry coursework (usually includes Physics, upper-level Biology electives, and additional GE/major coursework).
- Junior year is often a good time for directed research projects and study abroad experiences.
- You should also plan on shadowing a optometrist this year (either during the school year or the summer before and/or after your junior year). This can be done for academic credit - if you want this credit, please see your advisor for information on how to register.
- This is the year that you will focus very intensely on preparing for the OAT exam. It should be taken as soon as possible after you have completed all of your OAT pre-requisite courses (Introductory Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics). Please note that these pre-requisite courses should be considered a minimal level of preparation for the OAT exam. Additional advanced courses are also recommended, such as Genetics, Animal Physiology, etc...). At a minimum, you will want to obtain several OAT prep books/software packages. While more expensive, you may also wish to consider taking a formal OAT prep course (offered in many larger metropolitan areas and/or online). For more information about the OAT exam, please visit http://www.ada.org/en/oat.
- Once you feel that you have prepared as much as you can - take the OAT exam! Usually this is done after the completion of your junior year classwork.
- Begin to work on your online application (via OptomCAS) during the summer between your junior and senior year. The homepage for OptomCAS is http://www.opted.org/about-optometric-education/professional-o-d-programs/optomcas/optomcas-website.
- Begin to work on your personal statement. Be sure to have several of your professors review this statement before you submit it. You want this statement to do a good job of promoting your candidacy based on your personal experiences and attributes and to also be very well written (i.e. free of grammar, style, and spelling issues).
- Set up a time for your interview with the Pitt-Bradford Pre-Health Professions Committee. The interview can be done either at the end of your junior year or beginning of your senior year, but preferably AFTER you have received your OAT scores and finished your personal statement.
- Finish and submit your online application if you haven't already done so.
- Participate in your pre-health professions committee interview if you haven't already done so.
- Complete any secondary applications that are required.
- Prepare for optometry school interviews. Having an interview with the pre-health professions committee will help with this.
- Travel to medical school interviews. Be sure to save up your pennies in advance for travel expenses.
- Keep your fingers crossed! You may find yourself wait-listed at one or more optometry schools. This is not necessarily bad. Sometimes students are selected from the wait list as late as mid-summer after graduation.
- If you are not accepted, first have a pint of ice cream or your other favorite comfort food, and then begin to work on your "Plan B". For some students, this may involve considering other career options. Your advisor and the Career Services center can help with this. For other students, it may involve doing some post-graduation activities that will improve your candidacy for optometry school, such as graduate programs in eye health related fields.
- If you are accepted, be sure to start working on the financial aid paperwork as soon as possible. Optometry school is expensive!