Pre-Optometry at Behrend

Pre-Optometry at Behrend

What do Optometry School Admissions Committees look for in an applicant?

  • Can the student handle the academic rigors of optometry school?
  • Why does the student want to be an optometrist? Do they want to be in the profession for the “right” reasons and know the dedication the career entails?
  • Do they have a diverse set of skills necessary to be an optometrist?

How does Penn State Behrend help the student to succeed?


No optometry school specifies an undergraduate major. “Pre-optometry” majors at other institutions are repackaged biology degrees. All optometry school programs require a specified set of pre-requisite coursework that we offer at Penn State Behrend. Due to the advanced biology requirement at many optometry schools, a biology or biology related major is often pursued. Prerequisite courses for most optometry programs include:

  • General Biology: BIOL 110 and BIOL 240W
  • Microbiology: BIOL 230W
  • General Chemistry: CHEM 110/112
  • General Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 111/113
  • Organic Chemistry: CHEM 210/212
  • Organic Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 213
  • Biochemistry: CHEM 472 and B M B 402
  • Anatomy BIOL 421
  • Physiology BIOL 472
  • Physics: PHYS 250/251
  • Calculus: MATH 140/141
  • English (3 -6 credits): ENGL 15, 202C

Although not required, many in the optometry profession run their own practices. Business courses (3-6 credits) are strongly encouraged!

Our Pre-Health Option of our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology covers all of these pre-requisites. However, other biology, chemistry and physics degree programs can easily be customized to meet these requirements. At Penn State Behrend, you will have a dedicated, personal Pre-Health Adviser who will guide you through the process!


The more rigorous the academic preparation in the sciences, the more prepared students are for advanced coursework in an optometry school program. The student must demonstrate a consistent and high GPA as well as perform well on the OAT.

A strong candidate for optometry school:

Applies to 4-7 schools with a mean GPA >3.3 and a minimum OAT score of 320 or better in each category. The candidate also has 100+ hours of shadowing or work experience in an optometry setting. 

The minimum GPA considered on average is 3.0.

Shadowing and Volunteering

It is vital to have optometry related experiences for your application. Work or volunteer in places such as an optometry clinic in various settings (retail, hospital, etc.). Keep a record of the time you spend in each experience and keep a journal about type of knowledge you gained from it. Working with an optometrist directly will also help you decide if the career is right for you. Make sure at least one letter of recommendation is from a O.D. whom you observed/worked with.

Opportunities for Leadership and Scholarship

To determine if the candidate has a diverse set of skills necessary to be a optometrist they look for evidence of leadership, involvement in professional organizations and participation in scholarly activities like research.

Penn State Behrend is one of the few schools that combine the small class size of a liberal arts college with the research facilities of a larger university. You will have opportunities to conduct research with a faculty mentor who is an active researcher in his or her field of expertise. Many of our students who participate in undergraduate research present their work at local and national conferences.
Our campus has a vibrant and diverse set of student organizations that offer leadership opportunities. We have the Scrubs Club and the Behrend Chapter of the American Optometry Students Association for students interested in health degrees. These and our other clubs and organizations organize and participate in many philanthropic activities that you can become involved in.

Helpful Links

Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO)

Optometry Schools in U.S. and Abroad

Optometry College Application Service (OptomCAS)

Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)

American Optometric Association (AOA)

American Optometric Student Association (AOSA)


Pre-Health Adviser of Optometry: Jonathan Hall, email: Behrend Prehealth

Coordinator of Pre-Health Advising: Todd Cook, email: Behrend Pre-Health