The fall months in the year preceding optometry school are full of the unknown for many anxious applicants. Not only is filling out the OptomCAS application stressful, but even just deciding which schools to apply to can be overwhelming. These months are also filled with interviews and acceptances for many students. Students are often unsure of what sort of timeline to expect for submitting their application, receiving interview invitations, attending interviews, and hearing back from schools. Optometry School may be an entire year away at this point, but these months can be very busy. I know this because I just went through these very experiences myself. In this article I hope to offer a timeline of my experiences in the fall months in the year preceding optometry school.
I highly recommend starting the application process as early as possible. This doesn’t mean you need to rush to fill out your OptomCAS application all in one day, but the earlier you start your application, the more time you have to deal with unforeseen obstacles. It takes several weeks for your transcripts to be verified on the OptomCAS website. It also takes time for OAT scores and letters of recommendation to be submitted. I suggest asking your professors or employers about writing a recommendation letter several months before you even begin your OptomCAS application. Not only is it courteous and respectful to give these individuals plenty of time to complete your letter of recommendation, but it gives you time to look for other letter writers in case something doesn’t work out with your original selections. Once you begin your OptomCAS application, it is a good idea to enter your letter of recommendation information as soon as possible. Your letter writers will be sent an electronic link where they can submit your letter of recommendation. Your personal statement is another important piece of your application, and is something that should be carefully crafted. By giving yourself an ample amount of time to submit your application, you can take your time when writing the personal statement. I began working on my application in early July, and submitted it in early August. Over this time, I carefully entered my information into the application and reworked my personal statement until I was satisfied with it. I was taking a summer class, doing a directed study research project, and working a part time job during this time – but because I started my application early, I was able to manage my time without being overwhelmed. Two weeks after I finalized and submitted my application, it was mailed in late August to the schools I had designated on the OptomCAS website. Overall, my application process took almost two months.
The next steps in the process are interview invitations, scheduling interviews, and attending interviews. I received email correspondences from the schools I applied to confirming the receipt of my application within a few days after it had been mailed. I received my first interview offer the first week of September. Over the course of the month, I received an interview invitation from each school that I applied to. Traveling to multiple interviews can be expensive when you consider hotel rooms and transportation costs. Missing classes and/or work can also be an issue for some students. This is the time to again seriously evaluate the schools you have applied to. Some students choose to interview at each school where they are offered an interview, while others choose to narrow down their options and decline interview invitations at some schools. It is a good idea to politely inform the school if you have chosen to withdraw your application and not interview there. I scheduled my interviews in late September and October. Toward the end of September, just a few days after my interview, I received an email from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University stating that I had been accepted into their program. I received a formal letter of acceptance in the mail within the next week. I had a very positive experience at my interview at PCO, and was overjoyed to receive my first acceptance. At the time of my first acceptance, I had scheduled one other interview, and I chose to attend the other interview that I had scheduled. Not all schools send that email acceptance before the formal letter in the mail. It can take a few weeks to hear back from schools after attending your interview. I was fortunate to be accepted to each school that I interviewed at, but this left me with a difficult decision. I decided on the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University. I am excited to be a member of the Class of 2017, and to begin my optometry school journey.
I hope this timeline will be useful to future optometry school applicants, and that knowing what the general series of events in the application process are will be helpful. I’ll be writing a series of “Eyeing the Future” articles for OptometryStudents.com documenting my experiences in the year leading up to optometry school that will include making your deposit once you decide on your optometry school, filling out financial aid paperwork, looking for roommates, looking for apartments, etc. I look forward to sharing my experiences with other students interested in pursuing the rewarding profession of optometry.