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Will Huntingdon prepare me for optometry school?

Christina Vranich

After completing her magna cum laude Chemistry degree at Huntingdon, Dr. Christina Vranich ’05 earned her Doctor of Optometry degree from the Southern School of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee. She owns and operates Fayette Family Vision Care in Smyrna, Tennessee, which has been recognized repeatedly as the best eye clinic in the region.

The Huntingdon College Optometry Track will provide you with the skills, knowledge, confidence, laboratory training, and communication skills to be successful in optometry school and in a variety of optometry settings. Whether you plan to practice as an independent optometrist or work in a retail setting your Huntingdon training will prepare you for any path you choose to take after optometry school.

Because of our challenging coursework, undergraduate research equipment, detailed lab assignments, and opportunities for meaningful internships, you will gain a competitive advantage for admission to optometry programs. Letters of recommendation—written by Huntingdon faculty who know you personally throughout your Huntingdon academic career—will strengthen your applications. Mock interviews, essay writing assistance, personal advising by faculty in Huntingdon’s Pre-Health Professions Committee, and our “Boot Camp” Optometry Admission Test (OAT) preparation course are part of the Huntingdon Optometry Track.

The American Optometric Association defines the doctor of optometry as the primary health care professional for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye. Doctors of optometry prescribe medications, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, spectacle lenses, and contact lenses, and perform certain surgical procedures. Huntingdon’s Optometry Track program includes prerequisite courses for acceptance to optometry school. Classes you will take include anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry (general and organic), biochemistry, physics, calculus and statistics. In addition, we will help you find opportunities to shadow optometrists and to work in specific health care environments.

In order to gain acceptance into an optometry school, you must accomplish five things:

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree (or at least 90 hours) in any major;
  • Achieve excellent grades overall and in the basic sciences;
  • Earn a competitive OAT score;
  • Get involved as a health-related volunteer; and
  • Obtain shadowing and research experience.

Optometry schools do not select on the basis of major, but because of the upper-level sciences that also serve as Optometry Track prerequisites, we recommend that students choose one of these majors: Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biology, or Chemistry.

OAT (Optometry Admission Test)

Chandra Williams

After completing her Chemistry degree at Huntingdon, Dr. Chandra Williams ’02 earned her Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Alabama-Birmingham in 2006. She practices optometry at River City Vision Center in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Optometry Admission Test is a standardized examination required as part of your application to optometry school. The OAT is a challenging exam that requires extensive preparation in the form of review and practice. The OAT is administered by ASCO with specific information on the exam available at www.ada.org/oat. It is recommended that students take the exam in the spring or summer of the year of application so scores can be available for early application to optometry school.

The OAT consists of four sections:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences (Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry)
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Physics
  • Quantitative Reasoning (algebra, numerical calculations, conversions, probability and statistics, geometry, trigonometry, and applied math word problems)

Your scores will receive a scaled (numerical) score and a percentile score for each of the individual sections. The scaled scores for the multiple-choice subtests range from 200 to 400. 300 is considered an average score, but 320 is considered a competitive score. The OAT is an important tool for optometry schools on which to base interview decisions, since it allows a standardized evaluation of all applicants. We recommend that students prepare intensely four months before the exam, and take at least six full-length practice tests. One should never take the OAT if not prepared. Planning ahead is critical.

Remember: a competitive OAT score is 320 or better.

More details: www.ada.org/en/oat; www.opted.org

Optometry school admission requirements

Admission requirements vary from school to school. However, most optometry schools have the same basic requirements:

  • 2 semesters of Biology with labs
  • 2 semesters of Physics with labs
  • 2 semesters of English
  • 2 semesters of Mathematics (*Calculus and Statistics)
  • 2 semesters of General chemistry with labs
  • 2 semesters of Organic chemistry with labs
  • 1 semester of Biochemistry

*Required by some optometry schools

Timeline for Application to Optometry School

It is important to start your preparation as early as possible. Your actual submission of the application should take place in the fall of your senior year. This means your OAT scores, shadowing, volunteer experience, and most of your prerequisites should have been completed prior to submission. The following timetable should help you in preparing to apply to optometry school:

Freshman Year

  • Concentrate on doing well in your classes. Acquaint yourself with the Staton Learning Enrichment Center to make sure you are taking advantage of your academic resources.
  • Begin taking your prerequisite courses for optometry school. Requirements vary greatly depending upon which optometry school you are planning to attend, so be sure to do your research. Pick 5–10 optometry schools that interest you.
  • Learn more about joining organizations in your student community from the Office of Student Life. This will not only help to improve your experiences here at Huntingdon, but also will show the admission committee that you are a well-rounded individual.
  • Sign up for the Huntingdon Pre-Health Professions Committee (HPPC) to receive updates on optometry-related events, including information on internships, workshops, boot camps, and professional events. You may also want to sign up for other categories that interest you. Go on field trips with Huntingdon faculty to visit optometry schools.
  • Find an opportunity to work closely with an optometrist. Experience with an optometrist is essential when applying to optometry school.
  • Attend the Health Professions Fair, generally held in November, to visit with representatives from optometry schools and other health professions programs.

Sophomore Year

  • Talk to practicing optometrists.
  • Research the field of optometry.
  • Look at the optometry application to determine what you will need.
  • Visit optometry schools’ websites and speak with an admission officer regarding questions about pre-optometry requirements.
  • Participate in open houses, information days or campus tours at optometry schools.

Junior Year

  • Set up a volunteer or shadow experience in an optometry-related setting (hospital, veterans’ hospital, retail store, etc.).
  • Request letters of recommendation from professors, supervisors from work and volunteer experience, and counselors who know your work and interest level; send letters to the Huntingdon Pre-Health Professions Committee (HPPC).
  • Prepare for and take the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) in the spring. Students are strongly encouraged to take the OAT in the calendar year preceding planned admission. If the spring OAT score is not good enough, register for the next OAT during the summer.
  • Participate in Center for Career and Vocation workshops related to applying to professional school.
  • In the fall of your junior year, begin writing your Statement of Purpose.

Senior Year

  • Apply during fall between August 1 and February 1 and check school websites for details. Include recommendation letter(s) from the Huntingdon Pre-Health Professions Committee (HPPC).
  • Start preparing for your optometry school interview. Most optometry school interviews take place during the late fall and spring semester.
  • Continue in pre-optometry extracurricular activities and additional courses to prepare for optometry school.
  • Pre-optometry requirements should be completed by the end of the spring semester of your fourth year.
  • Keep each optometry school admission office up-to-date with completion of requirements and any changes in course plans. When you receive word that you have been granted an interview, contact the Huntingdon Pre-Health Professions Committee immediately to schedule a mock interview session.

Huntingdon Optometry Track students have worked or interned at the following:

  • Baptist East Medical Center
  • Montgomery Eyecare Associates
  • Local optometry practices
  • Walmart Optical
  • American Optical Co.
  • Veteran’s Administration Hospital

For more information on the Huntingdon College Optometry Track program, contact Pre-Health Professions adviser Dr. Doba Jackson.