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 prerequisite coursework that is offered 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
- Molecular Biology: 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 402/403
- Anatomy: BIOL 421
- Physiology: BIOL 472/473
- Physics: PHYS 250/251
- Calculus: MATH 140/141
- English (3-6 credits): ENGL 15, 202C
Students interested in the health professions are encouraged to take SC 201: Medical Professions.
The purpose of SC 201 is to:
- Provide students with an overview of the various health professions
- Enhance their understanding of potential career options
- Discuss the academic preparation for specific professions
- Review the application process for admission to health profession schools
Although not required, many in the optometry profession run their own practices. Business courses (3-6 credits) are strongly encouraged!
The Pre-Health Option of our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology covers all of these prerequisites. 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!
Please note, the student needs to check the specific requirements of the individual programs for which they are applying.
Benchmarks & Standards
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 (mean GPA >3.3)
- Perform well on the OAT (minimum OAT score of 320 or better in each category)
- Apply to multiple schools
- Perform and record 100+ hours of shadowing/work experience in multiple optometry settings
Shadowing and Volunteering
To answer the question of “Why do you want to be an optometrist?” it is necessary to do the following:
- Observe an optometrist at work for as many hours as you can schedule. Most optometry programs are taking a holistic “whole candidate” approach to admissions. Simply having a high GPA and OAT score is no longer sufficient for acceptance.
- Keep a record of the time you spend in each experience and the type of knowledge you gained from it.
- Shadow multiple optometrists directly also will help you decide if the career is right for you.
- Ensure that at least one letter of recommendation is from an O.D. whom you observed/worked with.
- Work (or volunteer) in places such as an optometry clinic in various settings, such as retail, hospitals, etc.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to show your dedication to helping people, and it also sets your application apart! Finding volunteer opportunities will require some research on the student's part. Here are some local options:
- Nursing homes
- Schools for children with special needs
Opportunities for Leadership and Scholarship
To determine if the candidate has a diverse set of skills necessary to be an optometrist, admissions committees look for evidence of leadership, involvement in professional organizations, and participation in scholarly activities like research.
At Penn State Behrend:
- Students have access to the small-class size of a liberal arts college with the research facilities of a larger university.
- Students 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.
- Students have access to a vibrant and diverse set of student organizations that offer leadership opportunities. We have the Behrend "Scrubs" Club for students interested in health degrees.
- Other clubs and organizations organize and participate in many philanthropic activities that you can become involved in.
As you start your journey toward optometry school, it is highly recommended that you visit the following links where you will find guidelines for the application process, statistics on application and acceptance rates, and strategies to become a competitive applicant.
- American Optometric Association (AOA)
- Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO)
- Optometry College Application Service (OptomCAS)
- Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)
For questions, please contact the Pre-Health Committee at [email protected].