Pre-Optometry Studies: Application Process for Optometry School
The application process for optometry school, like being a pre-optometry student at Truman State University, is a journey. Care should be taken to plan your itinerary and identify the critical checkpoints and timelines. Many optometry schools offer acceptance on a first-come, first-serve basis. Therefore, the sooner you complete and submit the application, the better your chances of getting accepted.
It is a good idea to get to know your pre-optometry advisor, who can keep you up-to-date on deadlines and other information vital to completing the application. Advisors often have insider information about specific optometry schools and usually maintain helpful connections with area schools.
Additionally, check individual schools for supplemental application processes (some require an invitation to apply, some provide open applications processes).
Initial Application for Optometry School
Most students begin their applications shortly after taking the OAT during the summer just after their junior year. Ideally, one should aim to have the online application(s) complete and ready to submit before August 1 of the year prior to desired matriculation into optometry school. The most final deadlines for most medical schools range from December 1 to June 1. However, given the rolling nature of most admissions programs, the sooner you submit the application, the sooner your application can be processed and decided. In general, the most important and easy thing for you to do is to apply early in the application cycle. This matters much more than one would think. See more information about application timelines on the OptomCAS website.
All schools require applicants to fill out an online application through the OptomCAS website. Additionally, check each program in which you are interested to determine the existence and requirement for submitting a supplemental application. For example, UMSL College of Optometry requires both the OptomCAS and supplemental, with all supporting application materials to be submitted prior to February 15, this includes OAT scores.
What should I include in my application?
The online portion of the application includes:
- Personal and contact information
- Education Background (high school and college)
- Completed college courses (name, course number, type, grade)
- Completed OAT or date to be taken
- Work, extracurricular activities, honors, etc.
- Personal statement
- Schools you wish to apply to (see list of schools)
Note: OAT scores are not automatically released to OptomCAS or to your schools. You need to request each program to which you wish released information to be sent at the time you sign up to take the OAT.
How much does it cost?
Both application services charge on a per-school basis. There is a base charge for the first school plus an additional charge for each additional school.
How many schools should I consider?
There is no magic number. Obviously the more schools in your application pool, the greater your chances are of getting into at least one of them. An average applicant will apply to about 5 schools, but you may consider applying to more or less depending upon the strength of your application.
The personal statement is a great opportunity to distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicant pool. It is your chance to describe some of the events in your life that have shaped you and have given you the qualities that you possess. It is also the only chance you have to introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee before they offer you an interview. Although there are many ways to do this, many students relate their information through stories that illustrate their qualities and experiences. In other words, provide anecdotal evidence to paint a picture that allows the reader to draw conclusions about the type of person you are. Certainly tie in your motivations for becoming a doctor and provide the evidence for why you think you are qualified. As long as your personal statement allows the reader to know you before you go to an interview, you have done a great job at writing it. This is a chance to show the Admissions Committee members the type of doctor-in-training you are.
Secondary Application for Optometry School
Some programs send the secondary application after they have received your online OptomCAS application, but some allow all applicants to make this final part of the application. One of the biggest pieces of advice that many students echo is to complete these secondary applications as quickly as possible. Check the OptomCAS website to see if the programs in which you are interested has a supplemental and how they handle it.
This is the capstone of the application process. After receiving your secondary application, interested schools will notify you and usually allow you to choose from several interview dates. If possible, you should try to reserve the earliest spot when the school has not yet admitted many students (your chances of acceptance are better at this point). The purpose of the interview is for the admission panel to evaluate your character, personality, communication skills, and other attributes that may contribute to your success as an optometrist. Be yourself. Additional tips for success include:
- Dress business professional
- Be on time; give yourself plenty of time to make it to the interview; arrive early
- Arrive in town the night before to allow for relaxation before the big day; eat well the day before (avoid alcohol)
- Be familiar with the school and the city/town itself (be prepared to talk about why you think that school is a good fit for you)
- Be familiar with current optometric issues (stem cells for treatment of AMD, healthcare insurance and costs, use of injectables for optometrists, etc).
- Mock interviews (great interview feedback resource at Student Doctor Network) or through Calling All Docs at Truman.
Format of Interview Day
- Can last from 8 a.m. to possibly 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.
- Usually consists of one to three interviews; either panel or one-to-one
- Panel made up of faculty
- Tour of school and facilities. This gives you the opportunity to assess the facilities, students, feel and culture of the school. Remember you may have a choice in optometry schools, and you should take time to assess which school would fit best into your professional plans and philosophy)
- Avoid eating too much at meal time during the interview day to allow time to share your story; drink plenty of fluids (avoid alcohol)