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  • Writer's pictureLFaits

Survival Guide to Interview Day

It’s that time of the year again where the OptomCAS application cycle opens and everyone is excited and stressed out about applying to optometry schools. Going through the application cycle is tedious, but once you’re all done with it, you can say with pride and dignity that you overcame one of the most significant obstacles to applying to optometry school.

If you have successfully finished the application process and received an interview from ICO, I would sincerely like to say CONGRATS! It’s definitely a great invitation to receive. To help future applicants out, I have broken down what happens during ICO’s interview day from my own experience during the 2014-2015 cycle. (Disclaimer: Anything written below can be changed or altered by the time a future applicant interviews at ICO!)

Applicant Host Program ICO provides an opportunity for applicants to stay on campus at the Residential Complex (RC) for FREE the night before the interview. This opportunity is on a first-come, first-serve basis. I believe this is one of the best opportunities to pursue because if you do decide to attend ICO after being accepted, you will most likely choose to live in the RC your first year. I understand every applicant’s situation is different, but if this option appeals to you and you don’t want to pay for a hotel stay in Chicago, I would suggest staying in the RC for a night. Every applicant will be assigned an RC Ambassador- a student who lives in the RC. They will meet up with you once you’ve arrived, give a tour of the RC, and answer any questions that you may have.

Typically, the entire interview day will be from 9 AM to 2:30PM.

1. WELCOME – Interview Day Group

Whoever is interviewing that day will all be brought into the “Welcome Center” room. The admissions faculty will discuss the schedule of the day, which will be outlined below. A piece of paper will be given to each applicant and guest to check off what they would like to eat for lunch later that day. There is also a coffee/tea machine if you need your daily cup of coffee before the day begins!

2. CANDIDATE FILE REVIEW – Individual with Admissions Team Member

The admissions team member will take you to their office and go over an admissions checklist. This covers if you’ll be getting a bachelor’s degree or not, OAT scores, completed prerequisite courses, transcripts from each school you have attended, and required letters of recommendation. Be prepared to explain any discrepancies with your grades on your transcripts as well.


A staff member from financial aid will come in and discuss what kind of financial aid is offered and how to pay for tuition at ICO. Another staff member from career services will also come in and discuss career services provided at ICO.

4. WRITING SAMPLE – Interview Day Group with Admissions Team Member The group will then go into a conference room to begin the writing sample. Everyone will be given 10 minutes to write out an answer to the essay prompt that is provided by the admissions team member. Many applicants in my group used the front and back of the paper while I only used the front. As long as you get your point across on the paper, you should be fine here. No preparation beforehand is needed for the writing sample.

5. ONE-ON-ONE INTERVIEW – Individual with ICO Faculty Member or Admissions Committee Member

Each student gets a different professor interviewer. The interviewer will take you back to their office and begin the one-on-one interview. Based off of my interview experience, the interview was laid back and very conversational. I would advise future applicants to be prepared by making sure they have answers to general questions such as, “Why optometry?” or “Why ICO?” Most importantly, be yourself and be sincere! You are here for a reason and you should show your interviewer why.

6. TOUR OF CAMPUS/LUNCH – Interview Day Group with Current ICO Students

The group is assigned two ICO students to give a tour of the campus. The tour is kind of lengthy as it covers the Lecture Center, the Illinois Eye Institute(IEI), RC, gym, cafeteria etc. so make sure you’re wearing comfortable professional shoes. If you have any questions for the ICO students, this would be a great time to ask them. After the tour is over, lunch will be provided.

7. WRAP UP – Interview Day Group

The admissions coordinator will come in and discuss what will happen next after the interview day. They will explain when the admissions committee will meet up to review every applicant and when you should be able to hear back from them.

Interview Day is not only for the admissions committee to review you as a future colleague. It’s also a time for you to see what the school has to offer and if it will satisfy your needs and wants when deciding what optometry school to choose. I hope my survival guide helps all you future applicants out there. Nothing good ever comes easy, but ICO does a great job at making every applicant feel welcomed! GOOD LUCK!!


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