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Preparing for Optometry School

After completing her Chemistry degree at Huntingdon, Dr. Christina Vranich ’05 earned her doctorate in optometry 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 provides you with the knowledge, confidence, laboratory training, and communication skills to be successful in optometry school and in a variety of professional settings. Whether you plan to practice independently or work in a retail setting, you will be prepared for the path you choose.

Huntingdon’s challenging labs and courses, undergraduate research equipment, and opportunities for meaningful internships give you a competitive advantage for admission to Doctor of Optometry (OD) programs. In addition, letters of recommendation written by Huntingdon faculty who know you well 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.

What Does an Optometrist Do?

The American Optometric Association defines an optometrist as the primary health care professional for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system. They prescribe medications, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, and spectacle and contact lenses, and perform certain surgical procedures. Huntingdon’s Optometry Track program includes prerequisite courses for acceptance to OD programs, such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry (general and organic), biochemistry, physics, calculus and statistics. In addition, we help you find opportunities to shadow optometrists and to work in specific health care environments.

5 Steps to the OD Admission Process

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 students on the basis of major. However, because of the upper-level sciences that also serve as OD prerequisites, we recommend that students major in Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Biology, or Chemistry.

OAT (Optometry Admission Test)

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 professional school. The OAT is a challenging exam that requires extensive review and practice. You should take the exam in the spring or summer of the year you plan to apply to OD programs. Doing so will ensure that scores are available when you apply to OD programs in the fall.

The OAT has four sections:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences (Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry)
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Physics
  • Quantitative Reasoning (algebra, 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 sub-tests range from 200 to 400. 300 is considered an average score, but 320 is a competitive score. OD programs base interview decisions on OAT scores. For that reason, we recommend that students prepare intensely four months before the exam, and take at least six full-length practice tests. You should never take the OAT unprepared. Planning ahead is critical.

Optometry School Admission Requirements

Admission requirements vary from school to school. However, most programs require these courses:

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

*Required by some optometry schools

Timeline for Application

Begin your preparation for OD admission as early as possible. Your OAT scores, shadowing, volunteer experience, and most of your prerequisites should be completed prior to submitting your applications. You should apply to OD programs during the fall of your senior year.

The following timetable should help you as you prepare:

Freshman Year

  • Concentrate on doing well in your classes. Acquaint yourself with the Staton Center for Learning Enrichment to make sure you are taking advantage of your academic resources.
  • Begin taking your prerequisite courses for optometry school. Requirements vary greatly by program, so be sure to do your research. After researching, choose 5 to 10 optometry schools that interest you.
  • Learn more about joining student organizations from the Office of Student Development. This will not only improve your Huntingdon experience, 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 CCV Health Professions Fair, generally held in November, to visit with representatives from health professional programs.

Sophomore Year

  • Talk with 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 if you have questions about prerequisites.
  • Participate in open houses or campus tours at optometry schools.

Junior Year

  • Set up a volunteer or shadow experience in an optometry-related setting.
  • Request letters of recommendation from professors, supervisors from work and volunteer experiences, and counselors who know you well. As you receive them, copy your letters to the Huntingdon Pre-Health Professions Committee (HPPC).
  • Prepare for and take the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) in the spring. If the spring OAT score is not good enough, register for the next OAT during the summer.
  • Participate in CCV workshops.
  • In the fall of your junior year, begin writing your Statement of Purpose.

Senior Year

  • Check school websites for details, and apply between August 1 and February 1. Include recommendation letter(s) from the Huntingdon Pre-Health Professions Committee (HPPC).
  • Prepare for your interview. Most optometry school interviews take place during the late fall and in the spring semester.
  • Continue in pre-optometry extracurricular activities and courses.
  • Complete pre-optometry requirements 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.

Optometry Internship Sites

  • 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 Committee adviser Dr. Doba Jackson.

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