Optometry is the health care profession that involves examining the eyes for defects or abnormalities, as well as the prescription of corrective lenses and the diagnosis and management of eye disease. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of optometrists is projected to grow 18 % over the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations.
The path to becoming a medical practitioner begins with a genuine desire and interest in helping other people. The strong foundation built as an undergraduate student at Westminster College includes demonstrating the knowledge, skills and personal growth attributes that contribute to a strong application and future success as a medical professional.
Students can choose different paths to optometry school, but must be mindful of the core requirements for competitive applications, preparing for the OAT exam, gaining appropriate experiences in the field and completing their respective majors. While it is possible for a pre-optometry student to do virtually any academic major, it is imperative for all students to work closely with both academic and health professions advisors to ensure completion of all requirements for optometry schools and for their undergraduate degree. Most often, a student on a pre-optometry track will choose a science major such as Biology, Biochemistry or Neuroscience since the curricula include most, if not all, required and recommended courses. Students will typically apply to optometry school between their junior and senior years, allowing for a direct transition following graduation, but some wait until after they graduate to apply in order to further their education and gain more relevant experience.
The academic and extracurricular experience at Westminster College, ranging from coursework to on- and off-campus service and experiential activities to international study and/or travel, contribute strongly to the appeal of the well-trained and well-rounded individuals who graduate from our school.
Prerequisites for Optometry School (and for OAT Exam Preparation) generally are:
Additional course requirements may vary from one professional program to another, so it is the responsibility of the student to be aware of specifics regarding their schools of interest. Good planning and working closely with academic and health professions advisors are essential to maximize chances of success in the highly competitive optometry school application environment.
A sample schedule for a biology major preparing to take the OAT exam between their junior and senior year and matriculating to optometry school following graduation is below.
With the exception of the core requirements and courses strongly recommended ahead of the OAT exam, there is curricular flexibility within any chosen major and among the elective courses that are part of the liberal arts curriculum at Westminster College. It is, however, strongly suggested that students take both courses in Anatomy & Physiology (BIO 335/336), and Neurobiology (BIO 434) in order to be better prepared for the optometry curriculum.
Students planning to study abroad for a semester must also plan accordingly to meet all requirements and timelines. It is also advisable for students to budget time during the spring semester of their junior year to prepare for the OAT exam.