Pre-Professional Advising CenterPre-Professional Advising CenterEnrollment ManagementUniversity of Cincinnati

Pre-Professional Advising Center

Pre-Optometry Frequently Asked Questions

What should my major be?

Most optometry schools do not require a specific major. Therefore, you may major in almost anything. You should consider a major which you enjoy, in which you will perform well and which may serve as a basis for further graduate work or employment should you choose not to apply to or are not admitted to optometry school. Admissions committees expect variety in educational programs, so you should take courses in a wide variety of subject areas, no matter what you decide to declare as a major.

What is so hard about being pre-optometry?

For many freshmen, the most difficult task is to acquire the study skills and self-discipline necessary to attain academic excellence. The success of your transition to college level work depends not only on ability, but also upon preparation, motivation, organization and how well you learn how to learn. It is important that you really learn the material, not just memorize it, as it is crucial to develop your critical thinking skills. The rigorous curriculum of a pre-optometry student demands tenacity and stamina. There will be "star" students in your classes and for the first time in your academic career, you may have to work harder than some students. This can be discouraging.

Is it difficult to get into optometry school?

Yes. The most recent statistics indicate that 2,822 applicants applied for only 1,370 available seats. There are many qualified people who want to go to optometry school. You must be well informed, well prepared and extremely determined and work very hard to gain admission. You should also actively explore alternative careers.

What are the minimal admissions requirements?

Generally, most optometry schools require one year each of general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics designed for science majors. At the University of Cincinnati, that translates to:

Biology I and II    BIOL 1081/1081L  and  BIOL 1082/1082L
General Chemistry I and II
   CHEM 1040/1040L and CHEM 1041/1041L
Organic Chemistry I and II
   CHEM 2040/2040L  and  CHEM 2041/2041L
General Physics I and II
    PHYS 1050/1051L  and  1052/1052L (*algebra-based, though calculus-based physics is accepted)

It's important to note that all of the courses above must accompany a lab, which is labeled "L".

Anatomy and Physiology  BIOL2001C and BIOL 2002C or BIOL 3020C Human and Comparative Anatomy

Biochemistry  CHEM 3040 Introduction to Biochemistry (one semester – taught spring semester)

Microbiology 

BIOL 2041C Microbiology for the Health Professions or
BIOL 2031C Intro to Applied Microbiology  or
BIOL 4011 and BIOL 4011L Microbiology and Lab (for biology majors or those who have had BIOL 2081C Genetics and Cell Biology)

*Meet with a PPAC advisor to discuss microbiology and biochemistry options.

Optometry schools also require calculus, psychology, English composition and humanities/social sciences.

Some schools require or recommend biochemistry, anatomy & physiology and statistics. You should consult the admissions literature for the specific requirements and recommended courses at each school in which you are interested. If you are interested in a particular school, you should learn as much about that school as you possibly can early on. Relevant information can be found at the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.

What is the OAT?

The Optometry Admission Test is a standardized test that measures aptitude and achievement in science, critical thinking and other areas related to the study of optometry. Optometry schools require that you take the OAT prior to admission. We suggest familiarizing yourself with the OAT as early as your freshman year so that you can plan for the test. Understanding the test can positively affect what you learn in class and how you choose to retain that knowledge.

There are four parts to the test: Survey of the Natural Sciences (Biology, General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry), Reading Comprehension, Physics and Quantitative Reasoning. Many students who love science courses seem to avoid courses that require extensive reading and writing. As you can see, some of the OAT focuses on reading skills. Stretch yourself in your general education courses at UC and by reading beyond class requirements. The training will serve you well when you take the OAT.

When do I take the OAT?

Generally, you apply to optometry schools before the beginning of your senior year (or a year before you plan to enter), so you should take the admissions test by the spring or summer after your junior year. If offered during the application cycle, you may repeat the test if you are not happy with your scores and you have a good reason to think your score will improve. However, we encourage you to be as prepared as possible the first time you take the test. Pre-professional advisors can discuss preparation plans with you.

What do optometry schools consider when evaluating applicants?

The criteria for admission varies from school to school, but usually include academic record (GPA), OAT, letters of recommendation, demonstrated knowledge and commitment to the profession and a personal interview. Personal characteristcs such as integrity and maturity are considered. Early in your college career you should initiate several hours of observation with at least one practicing optometrist.

What GPA do I need to get into optometry school?

This varies from school to school. However, the national mean GPA of first-year optometry students is 3.43. It is particularly important that you perform well in your science courses. It is important for those considering professional school to be realistic about the extent to which performance meets admissions expectations.

Is it all over if I have a bad semester?

Admission committees look at the "big picture" as they evaluate applicants. They realize that every student does not hit the ground running when they enter college. Admission committees expect an excellent academic record, but will make some allowances for a problem quarter, slow start or rough spot. If academic problems arise, you must bounce back and perform better than ever to show that the problem was an exception, rather than the rule. Utilize resources such as professor and T.A. office hours and the Academic Excellence & Support Services office.

So will I need letters of recommendation? 

Yes. Most schools require three letters of recommendation. Be prepared to secure a recommendation from at least one optometrist and at least one professor. Letters of recommendation are submitted via OptomCAS.

Is financial aid available?

Amounts and types of aid vary from school to school, as does the cost of your education. You should investigate the costs early in your undergraduate career by visiting the website of each school you are considering. Knowing that you are probably going to incur a substantial loan debt for medical school may affect the way that you borrow for your undergraduate education. Most applicants are eligible for government-originated loans. Apply during January of your application cycle, even if you are still waiting to find out whether or not you have been accepted. Apply for aid at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/

If you are a low-income applicant you may be eligible for a partial fee waiver to offset the cost of the OAT and applying to medical school. For more information, refer to the OAT Examinee Guide.

How can the Pre-Professional Advising Center (PPAC) help me? 

Preparing for admission to optometry school requires careful long-range planning and accurate information. The PPAC specializes in providing you with necessary information and helping you develop good planning skills. The staff of the PPAC provides you with help through each step of the way. PPAC provides services including course selection, career exploration, time management tips, information on individual schools, admissions test preparation advice, managing letters of recommendation and links to ways to get experience in health care settings.

What resources are available to pre-optometry students?

Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO)
American Optometric Association (AOA)
Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS)
National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR)

You probably have more questions. Please contact us to make an appointment. It is never too early to start planning.