Pre-optometry is not a major and there is no "correct" major for pre-optometry. While most students major in a science area like biology, chemistry, or math, a major in science is not required. Optometry schools seek candidates with diverse interests who are capable of handling rigorous science courses. So the best advice is to select a major in an area in which you are interested and in which you can do well and can balance with the science and math courses required for application.
Every optometry school has a specific list of pre-requisite courses. It is important that you identify the schools in which you are interested and determine the courses required by each of them. The common set of required courses typically includes:
- 2 semesters of General Biology (Biol 141 & Biol 334)
- 2 semesters of General Chemistry (Chem 261 & Chem 262)
- 2 semesters of Organic Chemistry (Chem 353 & Chem 354)
- 2 semesters of General Physics(Phys 175 & Phys 176 OR Phys 205 & Phys 206)
- Microbiology (375/376)
- Psychology (Psy 201)
- English (Eng 101)
- Statistics (Stat 241)
- Calculus (Math 230)
We offer many other courses that will be helpful to your pre-optometry training and you should consider taking, including: Immunology, Histology, Comparative Chordate Anatomy, etc.
The grade point average (GPA) is an important component of the requirements for admission to dental school. It is not necessary to have a 4.0. The average GPA of successful optometry applicants in the US is around 3.45 overall GPA (on a 4.0 scale). You should strive to maintain a competitive GPA, but also focus on participation in extracurricular activities to demonstrate interests beyond academics. If you have a poor first year but steadily improve in the following semesters, you still have a good chance of admission to dental school. However, if you start strong and then fade, your chances for admission could be diminished.
The best advice is to start calculating your application GPA early. From your first semester in your undergraduate studies, you should be keeping a log of your GPA as it will be calculated by OptomCAS. you can find a description of the AADSAS calculation here. You can also access an excel spreadsheet set to calculate your OptomCAS GPA here.
Applications to optometry schools are made through the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) via the OptomCAS system; information can be obtained at www.aptomcas.org. The application cycle begins in May and should be completed early in the summer preceding the Senior year of undergraduate work.
The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is a 5 hour, computer-based admission test that should be taken in Spring after the Junior year of undergraduate study. Topics covered on the OAT include:
- Survey of the Natural Sciences (Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry)
- Reading Comprehension
- Quantitative Reasoning
Shadowing experiences are an important part of your pre-optometry training. Exposure to your chosen field is an important way for you to learn what Optometry is truly like. While many schools do not have minimum required shadowing hours, most schools do suggest it. It's important that you research the schools in which you are interested to identify specific requirements.
- Be sure all of the information you enter on your OptomCAS application is accurate. This includes the grades of every course taken at the college level and any courses in which you plan to enroll within the year.
- Request a transcript from all of your academic institutions and allow plenty of time for the institutions to process your request. All transcripts must be sent to OptomCAS.
- The personal statement is important. This is your chance to begin to portray who you are and to distinguish yourself from the thousands of applications each institution will review.
- Begin the process early! Many schools have rolling admission policies, which means slots are filled beginning in late summer to early Fall, until the slots are filled. If you wait until October or November to complete your application, you have missed opportunities for several slots. You should plan to submit your application as soon as the system opens.
- Give careful consideration before asking individuals to write letters of evaluation. Then allow plenty of time for them to write the letters so you aren't waiting until the deadline to receive them. When you ask for letters of recommendation, provide a C.V. or resume so the person writing the letter can reference what you have done outside of their contact with you.
- Knowing the specific requirements of the Optometry school(s) to which you plan to apply is also very important. Optometry schools profess that they want well-rounded individuals, not just one-dimensional students. That means get involved, balance school with other activities, because it is true that all work and no play makes you a dull individual!