- General Information
- Planning the Program of Study
- Admissions Process
Optometrists provide general eye and vision care; however, optometry involves more than just prescribing and fitting contact lenses and glasses. According to the American Optometric Association, “Doctors of Optometry are independent primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures, as well as diagnose related systemic conditions.” Optometrists perform comprehensive examinations of both the internal and external structures of the eye, diagnose problems and diseases, and prescribe appropriate treatment. Optometrists also evaluate vision, diagnose visual abnormalities, and prescribe appropriate corrective treatment. In addition, many systemic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes often involve the eyes in the earliest stages; optometrists can detect these changes and refer the patient for further medical evaluation.
Approximately 2/3 of the country’s eye care is delivered by Doctors of Optometry (ODs). Optometry is one the nation’s largest independent healthcare professions, and typically offers regular working hours, minimal emergency duty, and geographic mobility. There is an increasing demand for ODs, due in part to the aging of the U.S. population, and the vision requirements of an increasingly mechanical and technological society.
Most schools of optometry require at least 3 years of college work (90 semester hours) to be eligible to apply to the optometry program. Several schools require completion of a bachelor’s degree. Following the undergraduate years, accepted students must complete 4 years of study at an accredited college of optometry. There are nineteen schools of optometry in the continental U.S., and one in Puerto Rico. There is one school of optometry in New York:
- State University of New York College of Optometry
- For a complete list of U.S. Optometry Schools, visit
College Major: The large majority of accepted students have completed a bachelor’s degree by the time that they enter optometry school. Most students major in biology or chemistry, because the prerequisite courses for optometry school are science-intensive. However, there is no requirement for a science major; students can major in any area as long as they complete all of the prerequisite courses for the optometry schools that they intend to apply to.
Prerequisite Courses: There is a similar “core” of classes that most all optometry schools require. Beyond this core, each school may have additional classes that they require or highly recommend. A complete listing of schools, websites, and prerequisite courses is available HERE.
Course Prerequisites for Optometry Schools
Prerequisites for the State University of New York College of Optometry are summarized below. This is only a starting guide. The schools’ websites should be consulted regularly for updated requirements, course options, and for specific explanations and information pertaining to the courses:
State University of New York College of Optometry Requirements:
|General Biology-one year||BIO 166 & 167 (with labs)|
|General Chemistry-one year||CHE 166/167 & 168/169 (with labs)|
|General Physics-one year||PHY 166 & 167 (with labs)|
|Organic Chemistry-one year||CHE 232/233 & 234/235 (with labs)|
|Calculus – at least one semester||MAT 175/155 & 176/156 (with labs)|
|Statistics – at least one semester||ENG 110 & 120|
|English – one year|
|Social Science- one year (History, Humanities, the Arts, Philosophy, Religion, Sociology, additional Psychology, etc.)|
|General Psychology- one semester or quarter|
|Statistics- one semester or quarter|
* A laboratory is required
# Biochemistry may be substituted for one term of General or Organic Chemistry
- Microbiology- one semester or quarter
- Biochemistry- one semester or quarter
There are 3 basic steps in the application process (see discussion below):
- Take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
- Complete an OPTOMCAS application and submit supporting materials
1. Optometry Admission Test (OAT)
The OAT must be taken by all applicants. The test measures academic ability and comprehension in the following areas:
- Survey of Natural Sciences: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry
- Reading Comprehension
- Quantitative Reasoning
Coursework in biology, general and organic chemistry, and physics should be completed before attempting the OAT. The usual time to take the OAT is in spring of the Junior year (or summer between Junior/Senior year), however, the schools specify deadlines for OAT scores. Refer to the school websites for deadline dates, or see the table available at www.opted.org.
Detailed information about the OAT is online at https://www.ada.org/oat/index.html. This site describes the test content, fees, application process, and has a sample test available. This is also the site used to register for the test.
The test is multiple-choice, computer format, and is available year round at Prometric Test Centers. You must first register for the test at the website above, and when you are approved, you can schedule the date and time directly with the Prometric Test Center where you prefer to take the test. Test results are given to you immediately upon completion of the test; schools receive official score reports within 2 weeks.
You may take the OAT as many times as you wish, but must wait at least 90 days between testing dates. Your scores will be reported to the optometry schools for the 4 most recent attempts.
2. Complete the OPTOMCAS application
There is a new centralized application service for optometry schools (OPTOMCAS ). All schools now use this service for applications. The application becomes available online in mid-summer, for matriculation in fall of the following year.
Students should consult each school's website for specific instructions on letters of reference, supplemental essays, and other additional materials.
The application season opens in the summer and closes during winter for entry into the following year’s fall class. In other words, you apply almost a full year before you actually wish to enroll. Each school sets a final deadline date for receipt of all materials. It should be emphasized that many schools now use a “rolling admissions” system, where applications are processed and reviewed as they are received. Therefore, the longer you wait to apply, the fewer seats will be available to you. Apply early!!! Remember that an application is NOT complete until ALL materials are received by the optometry school.
Be sure to submit the application forms early!!!
After review of all application materials, each school’s admissions committee will narrow the applicant pool down to a group of top candidates. Those candidates will be invited for a personal interview. The interview is the final step in the admissions process.
What makes a competitive applicant?
Many factors are involved in selecting candidates for optometry school. Admissions committees make the first “cut” (selection) of applicants based primarily on academic record (GPA), admissions test scores (OAT), clinical experience, and extracurricular activities. Personal attributes are judged by letters of recommendation, the personal essay, scope of extracurricular activities, and the interview.
Student profiles for each school of Optometry (includes GPA and OAT data) can be found HERE .
Optometry schools are interested in “well-rounded” students who have excelled not only academically, but also outside of the classroom. Participation in clubs, organizations, and community service are highly desirable.
Especially important is clinical exposure to the field of optometry. Students should obtain volunteer (or paid) experience working or observing in an optometrist’s office or clinic. This experience should ideally involve more than 1 optometrist in more than 1 office/clinic setting. Clinical experiences should be fairly regular, to demonstrate devotion and interest in the profession. Students should also become familiar with issues and current topics pertaining to the practice of optometry. A letter of recommendation from an OD will be expected by most schools at the time of application.
- Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry
- Information for prospective students
- Links to all professional schools of optometry
- Information/Registration for the OAT
- American Optometric Association
- Main professional organization
- News and current events in the profession
- American Optometric Student Association
- American Academy of Optometry
- Scientific and research meetings
- Links to research organizations
- Review of Optometry
- Online magazine for optometrists and students
- Optometric Management
- Business and practice management online magazine
- National Board of Optometry
- National Eye Institute
- National Optometric Association
- World Council of Optometry
Last modified: Nov 28, 2011