There are many pieces to the optometry school application, including your GPA, OAT score, personal statement, list of experiences, letters of recommendation, and biographical information. Use the navigation below to explore each aspect of preparing for optometry school. 

What is an optometrist?

Becoming an optometrist

Academic Preparation

Optometry Admission Test (OAT)


Applying to Optometry School

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an optometrist?

  • A Doctor of Optometry is a primary health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems and other abnormalities.
  • Optometrists can prescribe optometric treatment such as corrective lenses, contact lenses or vision therapy that may be required to provide the patient with clear and efficient vision.
  • Optometrists are different from (1) ophthalmologists, who are physicians specializing in eye surgery and the treatment of eye diseases, and (2) opticians, who fill lens prescriptions written by optometrists or ophthalmologists.
  • The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) is your go-to place when considering a career in optometry.

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Becoming an Optometrist

Optometry Path.PNG

  1. Obtain a bachelor's degree from UC Davis and complete all pre-optometry requirements, including prerequisites, the OAT, and experiences (4+ years)
  2. Attend optometry school and obtain a O.D. degree (4 years)
  3. Optional: pursue residency to receive additional training (1 year)
  4. Become licensed in the state you wish to practice
  5. Maintain certification & complete Continuing Education (ongoing)

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Academic Preparation

Myth: If I'm going to get a C- in a class, I should intentionally get a D or F in that class in order to retake it for a better grade.

Fact: Do not fail a class on purpose in order to retake it for a better grade. Even though the lower grade will not be included in your UC Davis GPA, it will remain on your transcript and most centralized applications will count that first grade into your application GPA.

Additionally, the health profession schools will still see it. It is better to have a C- in the course and improve through other courses in the same discipline than to take a D or F.

Most health professional schools require all prerequisites to be completed with a C or higher. Although you cannot repeat the C- at UC Davis, you will need to repeat it somewhere else either over a summer or after graduation.

If you need to discuss this or any other academic difficulty futher, please make an appointment with a staff advisor. 

Optometry Prerequisites at UC Davis

Most schools require:

  • General Chemistry (CHE 2ABC)
  • General Biology (BIS 2ABC)
  • Organic Chemistry (CHE 8AB or 118ABC)
  • Physics (PHY 7ABC)
  • Microbiology*
  • Statistics (STA 13 or 100)
  • Math
  • Psychology (PSC 1)
  • English Composition (ENL, UWP, COM)

Some schools require:

  • Physiology (NPB 101 & 101L)
  • Anatomy (EXB 106 &106L)
  • Social Sciences & Humanities
  • Biochemistry*

See the Optometry School Prerequisite Chart for a sample list of optometry programs and their requirements.

*Check your major requirements before choosing classes. 

Note: The above courses are only suggested, not absolute. 

  • You can choose any major and apply to optometry schools. If you choose a non-science major, you still have to take the science prerequisites required by most schools. Always cross-check your major requirements with the optometry school prerequisites when choosing classes.
  • Complete all of your prerequisite courses for a letter grade - DO NOT take any of them P/NP.
  • HPA recommends that pre-optometry students maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0, although many optometry schools will have GPA averages above this minimum. 
  • Each optometry school has different prerequisites. Check each school's prerequites before applying. 

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The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is...

  • currently required by all colleges of optometry in the United States and is offered throughout the year. It is recommended that you take the OAT prior to beginning the application process. 
  • offered year-round. You can only take the test once every 90 days.
  • over 4 hours long.
  • composed of four subjects, including:
    • Survey of the Natural Sciences (40 Biology Questions, 30 General Chemistry, 30 Organic Chemistry Questions)
    • Reading Comprehension
    • Physics
    • Quantitative Reasoning

Health Professions Advising recommends that students take the following courses before taking the OAT:

  • BIS 2ABC Introduction to Biology

  • CHE 2ABC General Chemistry

  • CHE 118ABC Organic Chemistry

  • PHY 7ABC General Physics

  • NPB 101 Human Systemic Physiology

Other classes that may help:

  • EXB 106 Human Gross Anatomy

  • BIS 101 Genes & Gene Expression

  • BIS 102 & 103 (or 105) Biochemistry

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Pre-Optometry Experiences

Myth: I can do a lot of meaningful experiences to make up for a weaker GPA.

Fact:  Having many meaningful activities will NOT make up for a low GPA.

You must focus on your grades during your undergraduate years, earn at least a 3.0, and then begin adding experiences. You can always take a year or two off after graduation to gain more experience. It is better to graduate from UC Davis with a higher GPA and less experiences than lots of experiences but a low GPA. 

  • Optometry schools emphasize the importance of gaining experiences in the field of optometry before applying. Shadowing or interviewing an optometrist can showcase your interest in the field. One way to find opportunities to observe optometrists is through ICC's Health Related Internships. 
  • Choose experiences that are meaningful to you and think outside the box! Here are some good places to start looking for pre-optometry experiences at UC Davis:

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Applying to Optometry Schools

  • The Optometry Centralized Application System (OptomCAS) facilitates the optometry admission process for all schools and colleges of optometry by filing one application and sending it to multiple optometry schools. It does not determine whether an applicant is eligible or has met program requirements.
  • OptomCAS is open from early-July to early-June of the following year as the application start date and deadline may vary between schools. Please check your individual schools for specific dates. Some may admit students on a rolling basis; if that is the case for your school of choice, be sure to submit your application early, but only when you are ready. Come see an advisor at Health Professions Advising to review your application.
  • For more detailed information concerning each section of OptomCAS, check the OptomCAS application instructions page.
Personal Statement
  • The prompt for the optometry school personal statement is as follows:
    • “Please describe what inspires your decision for becoming an optometrist, including your preparation for training in this profession, your aptitude and motivation, the basis for your interest in optometry, and your future career goals.” (OptomCAS)
  • OptomCAS allows 4500 characters (including spaces) for your personal essay.
  • School-specific essay questions will appear in the “Questions” section in the Program Information section of the application for each school.
  • The personal statement is your first chance to provide admissions committees with subjective information about your qualifications and your reasons for choosing this particular career. In other words, the personal statement is your initial opportunity to present yourself as an interesting and unique applicant who deserves a closer look.
Letters of Recommendation
  • Letters of recommendations are handled through the OptomCAS application. Your writer will use a special form that includes a rating of specific attributes and the letter itself. Refer to the OptomCAS Website for specifics.

There are different types of interviews, including:

  • Traditional interviews
    • One-on-one interviews with a medical school faculty member, admissions officer, or medical student. Questions can range from "Tell me about yourself" to in-depth questions about specific information in your application. Some traditional interviews are open (the interviewer has your full application), while some are closed (the interviewer knows nothing about you). Sometimes it is partial (parts of your application are missing, such as test scores/GPA). If you are going to a traditional interview, be sure to know your application VERY well.
  • Multiple mini interviews
    • The MMI typically consists of six to 10 very short interviews that revolve around a specific scenario. Scenarios might include interactions with an actor, essays, short traditional interviews, teamwork stations, ethical scenarios, and rest stations. The MMI is designed to measure communication skills, specifically verbal and nonverbal skills that cannot be measured using standardized written exams or by reviewing coursework transcripts. 
  • Situational judgement Tests
    • SJTs present hypothetical scenarios through a variety of formats, including text, video, or live standardized patients. They ask applicants how they would respond or behave in that situation. The scenarios are based on one or more competencies, and the test taker’s responses provide insight into his/her ability within each relevant competency. Many schools are employing standardized patients (paid actors trained to exhibit medical ailments) during interview days to test applicants' communication skills and ability to problem solve. There is little you can do to prepare other than be a strong communicator, be flexible and able to think on your feet.
  • Behavioral interviews
    • These interview questions aim to identify how you would behave or what decisions you would make in a given situation. They may catch you off guard, but if you answer honestly and thoughtfully, you will show them that you make informed, rational decisions based on strong ethics. Example questions might include:
      • Tell me about a time you led a team with members who did not agree with your decision-making. How did you resolve the situation?
      • Walk me through a difficult decision your recently made. What factors contributed to your decisions?
      • What has been your best idea so far?
Supplemental Applications
  • Most schools will also require a supplemental application, including an additional essay.
  • A supplemental fee is usually required and the cost will vary among schools.
  • It is the responsibility of the applicant to check the requirements for each school to ensure all have been fulfilled. Failure to submit required materials by the each school's deadline may jeopardize the applicant's eligibility for admission consideration.
 Deciding Where to Apply

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I study abroad?

Studying abroad is a wonderful experience that we encourage you to pursue. It is a valuable experience that provides the opportunity for growth in both maturity and cultural awareness.

You should not study abroad because you are pre-health in an effort to make your application stand out. You should study abroad because you want to gain the experience.

If your study abroad program was through UC Davis Study Abroad or UC Education Abroad (UCEAP), then your coursework will be on your official UC Davis transcript and fullfil prerequisites. If you studied abroad directly through a foreign institution, then your coursework will be on a "foreign transcript," which most health professional schools do not accept. 
What courses satisfy the English requirement for optometry programs?

Lower and upper division English (ENL), UWP, and Comparative Literature (COM) courses will satisfy the English requirement for occupational therapy schools unless an OT program's website says otherwise. You may also take similar classes at a community college. 

Note: Testing out of the upper division UWP course requirement via the Upper Division Composition Exam (UDCE) for graduation does not count towards the occupational therapy prorgram requirement. 

Many pre-health students take UWP 104F (see course description here). This is a great option because in this class you will produce a personal statement draft. Consider waiting to take UWP 104F until your junior or senior year, or closer to when you will submit your application.

Which classes count towards the science GPA?

You can find which classes are calculated in your science GPA in OptomCAS here.

To calculate your science GPA, pull up your Academic Record in OASIS. Along the left side of the course list you will see boxes next to each course. Check off the boxes for the courses you wish to be included in the GPA calculation on the right side of the page.

Where can I find more information about optometry schools?
For more information, visit ASCO’s website.

What is an optometric residency?
An optometric residency is a program of a minimum of twelve months designed to strengthen your preparation as a provider of patient care beyond entry level practice. It takes place after graduating from optometry school and must be comprised of supervised clinical eye/vision care. It should include a mix of self-directed learning, seminar participation, instructional experiences and scholarship.
Where do optometrists practice?

Optometrists practice in a wide variety of settings, from hospitals and clinics to educational institutions or in the industry. They can also practice in an array of communities, and can choose to work alone or with other health professionals. To get a sense of the scope of optometry, try shadowing optometrists in varying modes of practice. 

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