Applying to Optometry School
Optometry (OD) Application Timeline
The application process is divided into two phases:
- The OAT Study Phase starts at least 15 months prior to a student’s expected matriculation to optometry school and typically lasts for 3 months. Individual pathways and study times vary per student. Students should strive to only have to take the OAT, once. If a student scores poorly on the first exam attempt, then a re-test is recommended and thus OAT study time would exceed the aforementioned 3 months.
- The Centralized Application Service Phase (OptomCAS) starts approximately 14 months prior to a student’s expected matriculation to optometry school and ends about 5 months prior to the beginning of optometry school.
Despite the schools and colleges of optometry sharing a primary, centralized application (OptomCAS); the optometry admissions process at each individual school of optometry is unique and can vary greatly from school to school. Because of these variables and how OptomCAS functions, pre-optometry students at UMBC do not complete the pre-application process, also known as the Health Professions Evaluation Committee (HPEC) process. As students prepare their OptomCAS applications, they should email Ms. Roelke to let her know that they are starting the application process so that additional resources can be provided to those applicants.
Every individual student follows a different and unique pathway as they prepare themselves to become competitive applicants for optometry school. Students should only enter the application process if they are at their most competitive stage and do not possess overt weaknesses such as a weak GPA, poor OAT scores, are missing clinical related experience, or lack strong letters of recommendation.
To gain insight into the competitiveness of the optometry school admissions’ process, please review the student profile statistics published by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. Students should also reference the web pages of individual optometry schools who sometimes post individual school statistics on acceptees and matriculants. The Southern California College of Optometry’s (SCCO) Director of Admissions created “Ten Steps to Becoming a Competitive Applicant” and offers insight into how SCCO views potential applicants, their academic profiles, and experiences.
The OAT Study Phase
Approximately 15 months prior to expected matriculation to optometry school
The OAT Study Phase begins when students are completely finished with the prerequisite biology, general and organic chemistry, and physics courses required by optometry schools. Students should be mastering the content of courses as they are taking the classes, so OAT study technically begins with the first science prerequisite course. To keep the timeline as uncomplicated as possible, the OAT Study Phase deals with the time frame after students are finished with the science prerequisite coursework.
Most pre-optometry students completely finish the science prerequisites in the Fall or Spring semesters, 21–16 months prior to expected matriculation to optometry school. This allows students sufficient OAT study time prior to sitting for the exam. UMBC students who posted competitive OAT scores reported that they studied 8–10 hours per week for a minimum of 15 weeks (the equivalent of one semester) prior to taking the OAT. Individual pathways and study times vary per student. Some students preferred 30 weeks of study time especially if they had a history of difficulty with standardized tests.
Each student should approach OAT study with an individualized strategy based on their academic record, mastery of the tested content, and overall test confidence. “Trialing” the OAT is never recommended, leads to poor scores, and makes it very difficult for an applicant to gain admission.
If a student is applying for matriculation to optometry school in September 2013, their pathway would resemble one of the examples below:
Centralized Application Service Phase
July (14 months prior to expected matriculation to optometry school)
July marks the beginning of the Centralized Application Service phase. Each year, the Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS) process typically opens for registration on July 15. OptomCAS is the centralized application service for applicants applying to optometry schools. OptomCAS is also known as the “common application” and the “primary application.” Students complete one common application which is then sent to all of the optometry schools to which the student is applying.
July–October (14–11 months prior to expected matriculation to optometry school)
Students complete their OptomCAS centralized “common” applications, along with their secondary applications (additional questions sent directly to the applicants from the optometry schools). It is best to apply as early as possible and therefore students should strive to complete all of their primary and secondary applications before the end of October. Deadlines are determined by the individual optometry schools, not by OptomCAS. Each optometry school determines what is required by their deadline date. It is the applicant’s responsibility to research each program’s deadline requirements before submitting their OptomCAS application.
Admissions Criteria of Optometry Schools: