The path to entering optometry school is a rigorous and meticulous journey, yet it also can be one of your greatest memories! There are so many ways to showcase your talents and help distinguish yourself among several applicants during an application cycle. There also are several factors to consider when searching for the program that will be the best match for you. To help with your individual path to entering optometry school, here are a few ideas to consider before the time to apply comes around.
Understand the profession
Optometry schools want their applicants to be well informed about their program and school. Each school will be unique and researching the differences in each program can show great initiative! Additionally, shadowing an optometrist can help you learn about the profession and the multiple modalities within optometry. Expressing interest in the field to your optometrist can help you gain shadowing experiences. Another way to learn about optometry is by working as a technician. Technicians have various responsibilities mainly related to pre-testing patients and gathering primary patient concerns for the optometrist to further evaluate. Although pre-testing is a key task, a technician’s work may include contact lens fittings, conducting ocular scans, gathering information when ocular emergencies present and more. You will have an opportunity to learn about ocular diseases, work with various ocular imaging equipment, and familiarize yourself with eye drops and medications. This is an excellent way to gain first-hand experience and insight into life as an optometrist!
Learn about the school
With 23 optometry schools, there are many possibilities to explore! When exploring your choices of schools, touring the campus can be one of the best ways to really find out about the school. Tours can be set up by emailing the admissions office, and often they will schedule you to tour with an ambassador. When you visit the campus in person, you can also gauge the atmosphere of the program. Some schools have small class sizes, while others have larger. Some programs will be part of a university system, while others are their own school and program. Think about how you would feel in each setting because you will be studying in the program for four years.
Explore residence options and plan the budget
An important factor to research will be housing while attending school. Understand where housing is available and consider these questions:
- Does the campus have residence on or off campus?
- Where do you want your residence to exist: in the downtown area, suburb or as close to school as possible?
- Would there be a significant travel time to school?
The next key factor is cost. Note that some schools offer in-state tuition for out-of-state students, so contact your school of interest to learn about these offers. However, if in-state tuition is not a possibility, consider comparing the costs of several out-of-state optometry schools and understanding how they each compare. Planning and researching early can help save money for other equally necessary expenses such as equipment during the first and second years in school.
Build your leadership
Optometrists serve as leading experts in eye care in their communities. Therefore, leadership is highly valued in the profession and by admissions councils. One way to develop leadership is by joining the pre-optometry or pre-medical club at your undergraduate school. Most universities have these clubs so join early, volunteer in their projects and run for officer positions. Participating as an officer within the club can build skills in multi-focal communication, management and organization. Additionally, plan service activities for your club and learn these skills early on! Service activities can range from projects with your undergraduate campus to those with community organizations. One of the projects my undergraduate pre-med club and I contributed to our community helped children to learn about health care through simple science experiments. Becoming a leader can be a fun and creative experience to really show optometry schools your talents!
The journey to entering optometry school involves perseverance, dedication, and hard work. Nevertheless, always realize your potential and goals. Network with professionals, keep an open mind, continue learning about optometry, build new skills and, most importantly, have fun! Remember you are creating your own unique path to becoming an optometrist – one that could be your greatest memory years from now!