Like any endeavor worth pursuing in life, it takes careful preparation to become an optometrist.
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There are several important steps to take to increase your competitiveness as an optometry applicant.
Submitting your application early, providing all required documentation, securing transcripts and letters of recommendation in a timely manner, and meeting other requirements will set you apart from others in a highly competitive pool of prospective students.
Due to the rolling admissions process, early application is strongly encouraged.
SCO received 812 applications for the 136 entering positions available for the 2020 entering class. OptomCAS begins accepting applications around June 30, more than a year in advance of when students would begin the program the following Fall.
The best time to apply is during the months of July, August, or September. We begin the interview selection process in mid-August and students are invited for interviews starting in September.
Acceptances are granted on a rolling admissions basis. If you wait until December to apply, the number of available positions will be small, and competition for the remaining seats will become very intense.
Optometric experience and exposure will benefit you in many ways. You must be sure that optometry is the profession for you.
Get to know the daily activities of your local optometrist. Spend time shadowing and volunteering in the optometrist's office.
Talk to your optometrist about the legal boundaries of the profession. Not all states have uniform optometric laws, so these boundaries can differ from state to state.
Gaining exposure to different modes of practice and different specialty areas within optometry is especially helpful. The SCO admissions committee likes to see students shadowing in three or more optometry offices, preferably in different modalities. While there is no required minimum number of hours of shadowing, 30 or more hours is preferred.
If you are selected for an interview, numerous questions will surround how much exposure and knowledge you already have of the profession. Be sure to detail these experiences when writing your essays for the application.
We recommend that you thoroughly prepare for the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)—it is not a simple test. You can use an OAT study guide to familiarize yourself with the subject areas covered by the examination, as well as the format of the various sections of the test.
The Kaplan Review offers an OAT preparation program. Also, practice tests are available on the OAT Test Preparation webpage. There are many additional review guides available for the OAT. Most bookstores will be happy to order a guide if they do not have one in stock. They may also be ordered at online bookstores.
Chad’s Videos® online lecture series has also been highly recommended by students to assist with OAT prep. Their video lectures on General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, General Physics, Physical Chemistry and Elementary Biochemistry are currently free to view; monthly/bi-annual/annual subscriptions are available to access advanced lectures and materials.
Review your notes and other materials from the General Chemistry, Physics and Biology courses you have completed. The test covers the basic principles you may not have seen for a few years.
Keep in mind that the OAT is a timed test. Various sections are long and difficult to complete during the limited time available. Each question is worth the same amount, so finish the questions you know first, then return to the more difficult material later.
The OAT tests knowledge of Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Physics, so prospective applicants are encouraged to complete as many of the science prerequisite courses as possible before taking the exam.
SCO accepts admissions applications from approximately June 30 to March 1 of each year. All applicants are required to take the OAT no later than the March 1 application deadline; however, we strongly recommend applying and taking the test early in the application cycle.
Sitting for the test a year before entering optometry school is encouraged to accelerate the processing of the application. For many students, this will be the summer between their Junior and Senior years of undergraduate education. This also allows enough time to retake the test if needed. For students taking the OAT more than once, SCO uses the set of scores with the highest academic average, so there are no penalties for retaking.
Students may take the exam multiple times; however, the scores reported to SCO must be no more than two years old from the date the applicant submits the SCO supplemental application. Registration information for the OAT can be found at the ADA OAT site.
An applicant's undergraduate academic performance is evaluated very closely during the admissions process. The grade point average (GPA) for the 2020 entering class was 3.65. If your GPA is below the 3.0 range, we recommend that you work on improving it. We also encourage applicants to pursue multiple terms with a course load of 15-18 academic credits.
A student's recent course work is more significant than course work completed during Freshman year. That is to say, we are more concerned about your current capabilities rather than what you did three or four years ago.
The specific course work completed is also an important factor. Strong results in upper level Biology is a plus during the admissions process. If a student does not have a Biology major, we recommend completing additional courses in Biology above and beyond the minimum prerequisites, such as:
Another important consideration is whether or not the applicant is on a degree track. Only less than ten percent of an entering class will not have a bachelor's degree at the time of enrollment.
It is recommended that students who apply without intending to complete a bachelor’s degree at least be on a degree track and should also be aware of exactly how many courses, and of what type, would be needed to finish the degree. By maintaining a degree track, a student who applied with three years of course work and was not accepted could apply the next year with a degree, and they would likely be a more competitive candidate.
If an applicant has completed a majority of the prerequisite courses at the junior college level, the grade point average at the four-year institution should be comparable. At least one full year should be completed at the four-year college or university level.
It is important for prospective students to make the best possible impression when applying to optometry school. Communicating in a manner that is professional and courteous will not only make you a more competitive applicant, but it will also help our staff to efficiently and effectively answer questions and guide you through the process. We’ve gathered some tips on professional etiquette that we hope will help ensure your success as an applicant to Southern College of Optometry.
Emailing the Student Services Staff:
Be sure to include your first and last name, and full contact information. Also, include your undergraduate school and anticipated graduation date.
Write in full sentences that are clear and to the point.
Be aware that sarcasm and humor do not always translate well over email.
Use proper spelling and punctuation. Avoid emoticons and internet slang.
Scan our website and materials to be sure your question hasn't already been answered. Our FAQs page is a good place to start.
If you are emailing to request course approval before registering, email us ahead of time—don’t wait until the last minute. If you want us to evaluate a specific course to be used as a prerequisite, send us the following information: course name, number and institution name.
Calling the Student Services Staff:
Call us directly. Don’t rely on family or friends to call for you. This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself and build a professional relationship with our admissions officers.
Begin the call by introducing yourself. Give your name, current school and anticipated graduation date.
Prepare ahead of time. Make a list of questions and refer to it during your conversation. This will help keep you on track.
If you have a time-sensitive issue, plan ahead and allow for plenty of time for a response. Before leaving messages with multiple admissions officers, allow sufficient time for the recipient to respond.
Be friendly and avoid a demanding tone.
If you leave a message, be sure to speak clearly and include the following: your name, undergraduate school, a brief message and a phone number where you can be reached. Repeat your phone number.
Advising Appointments and Campus Tours:
Advising appointments and campus tours are a great time to make a professional first impression.
Schedule your appointment well in advance of your visit. We suggest contacting us 2-3 weeks in advance to ensure availability of your requested date and time.
Dress appropriately. This is not as formal as your interview day; however, SCO is a professional school, and part of the health care community. Business casual is suggested.
Bring your transcript with you. This will help your advisor to guide you when it comes to grades and courses.
Guests are welcome to join you as you tour the facilities.
Your interview is not only a significant part of your application, it is also a great opportunity for us to get to know each other. You will want to be polished and professional as you interact with us.
Dress appropriately. Business attire is highly recommended.
The interview provides an opportunity for you to ask us questions, so come prepared. We want you to make a well-informed decision about your future education.
Guests are welcome to tour the facilities with you; however, the counseling session and interview are meant to be with you only. We understand that parents, guardians and significant others are influential in your life decisions and we welcome their questions and concerns during the group sessions.
Take time and initiative to research our program and ask thoughtful questions as they relate to your needs. We want to hear from our prospective students directly!
Do not schedule an interview you do not plan to attend. If you schedule an interview and realize later that you will not be able to make it, contact us immediately to cancel. There are limited appointments for applicants to interview, and another candidate may benefit from your cancellation.
Avoid holding offers from multiple schools for an extended period of time. Once you have made your decision, be sure to decline all other offers within a reasonable time period. Read all communications sent by SCO with information about next steps and follow-up accordingly.