Sydni Davis, an incoming first year at UMSL College of Optometry, shares her insight on the dreaded optometry school application essay! She’s got some great gems in here that anyone applying to optometry school should take to heart to nail the essay and get that coveted interview! – Peter Jacques, Editor-in-chief
- Be specific. You are allowed about 4,500 characters to write your essay. This does not leave much room for generalities about your life. Jump right into a story. Describe how an experience made you feel- how it changed you in some way. Highlight your strengths and how you have overcome your weaknesses. You are more than a character in the story, so just write yourself into a real person!
- Show your personality – talk about what makes you different. This essay is one of the first glimpses that the application committee has into your life. You have to write in a way that literally gives them a mental image of what you look, sound, and act like. This doesn’t mean you should describe your physical features or voice, of course. Just as you would for any character you write about, though, write about your experiences, but also about how you react to and think about things.
- Show passion. You’re applying to optometry school. The application committee will want to see that you not only know what an eye doctor does, but that you actually love the profession! They intend to accept applicants that show interest in the field, are prepared to handle the rigor of the school work, and have potential to make a difference in the profession. If you describe specific experiences and skills that show your passion for optometry, then you can convince them that you are prepared for the work and trials that lie ahead.
- Be honest. This essay is one of your first opportunities to paint a picture of yourself, and you want it to match the person that they invite in for an interview! If you write about extravagant experiences that are false or inaccurately depicted, the truth is likely to come out eventually, and it will taint your reputation. Even if you think your life is uninteresting on paper, write about the moments that define you and your passion!
- Demonstrate high quality writing skills – find the balance between formal and creative. You’ve been writing for a majority of your life now, so you should know the difference between a good essay and a bad one. Spell things correctly, use correct grammar, and make sure things make sense. However, this is not an essay for your English class. You want to be creative and use your unique writing style.
- Don’t try to tell your whole life story. This easy mistake goes right along with being specific. As stated above, you get approximately 4,500 characters to convey who you are to your readers. They do not need to know about your childhood, or how you managed to make it through the tough middle school dramas. They do not need to know your favorite class, teacher, band, food, or any other favorite thing. Talk about the experiences that got you interested in optometry, that show your true character, and that demonstrate how you can succeed when given a challenge.
- Don’t spend too much time on academics. You get to put all of your classes you’ve ever taken during college on the application. You also get to write about a lot of these experiences when you list your extracurricular activities. Show that you can be a hard worker, and highlight moments of your education that are important to you, but don’t waste time listing the classes you succeeded at or honors you received unless you intend to elaborate on information that is not given elsewhere in the application.
- Don’t state things that can be found elsewhere in your application. This goes right along with number two. Write about the honor societies, sororities, clubs, and volunteer work in the parts of the application where you list them. If there is a specific experience from an extracurricular activity that you think demonstrates an important part of your character or inspiration, then write about the event; but do not try to summarize your resume in your essay.
- Don’t talk about someone else’s experiences. It’s all about you! You can write about how a friend or family member went through a terrible experience, overcame it, and that it inspired you, but that shows nothing about YOU. Talk about HOW things affect you, what part you have to play, and your goals. Be sure to help your readers get to know you, not just WHAT inspires you, but WHY and HOW.
- Finally, don’t over think it! You want to present a well-written essay that gives specific evidence of the person you are, but it is not the only variable in the committee’s decision. You show your academic success through your GPA and OAT score, your extracurricular involvement and achievements on the activities page, and your reference letters help to give an outside perspective of you. Use your 4,500 characters to say what isn’t already in your application—especially why you love optometry and why you want to spend the next four years studying it!
Other helpful tips for your application: