Once you decide on optometry as your future career, you may start to wonder, “What are my next steps? How can I prepare myself to become a competitive applicant?” These are some of the questions I pondered as a pre-optometry student. Based on my experience, I have come up with some tips to aid you in your pre-optometry journey.
Educate yourself on what it means to be an optometry student, and later an optometrist.
When I first started to develop an interest in optometry, I read a lot of the blog posts by ICO students. This gave me a small preview into what the life of an optometry student is like, what I would be learning, and the wide range of specialties an optometrist can practice in.
Shadowing an optometrist or working in the optical field is also very beneficial to increasing your knowledge. It helped me to answer the question, “Can I see myself doing this for the rest of my life?” Not only will shadowing or working help you reaffirm your decision in optometry, but you will also learn more about yourself. These experiences will help you define whether you are a people person, your patience with others, and your ability to empathize. Just by observation, you can learn a lot about the profession, as well as what you see yourself doing in the future.
Complete the prerequisite courses required of an optometry school applicant.
Generally, most optometry schools have similar requirements, as far as courses that need to be completed before admission. It is a good idea to research a couple of schools of interest to make sure that all courses will be completed by their deadlines. The ICO prerequisite course list can be found here. These courses are meant to prepare you for the education you will be getting as an optometry student and are also some of the subjects you will be tested on for the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT). If you are an undergrad student, majoring in the sciences will help you knock down these courses, but being a science major is definitely not required. Feel free to major in whatever you are interested in, but make sure that all the prerequisite course requirements are met.
Prepare yourself for the OAT.
It is important to take the exam before you apply or during the early stages of the application cycle, as optometry schools require OAT test results as part of the application. The OAT is a comprehensive measure of your scientific knowledge and academic ability. It is important to make a study schedule for the exam and stick to it. Some preparation materials that I found helpful were Kaplan test prep books, OAT Destroyer, and Chad’s Videos. Doing practice exams, reviewing your mistakes and then altering your studying and test taking strategies will help you get the highest score possible.
Join your pre-optometry club on campus (or create one)!
This is mostly applicable for students completing their undergraduate studies. It can be very helpful to talk to others who are working towards the same goal because it allows you to either learn from upperclassman or share the knowledge you have with others. ICO has had a Pre-Optometry Quiz Bowl the past couple of years, which invites students from pre-optometry clubs across many schools. There were many fun challenges at this event where we learned more about ICO and optometry. The challenges included an OAT jeopardy game and clinical activities! It was great to meet new people, talk to current ICO students, and see what it is like to be an optometry student.
Lastly, don’t get stressed out!
Remember the end goal when you are going through the process. Everyone has gone through what you are going through right now. These are all just small stepping stones in the path to becoming an optometrist one day!