More and more and for not just the obvious reasons of conserving resources and a shortened timeline, pre-optometry students are deciding to forego completion of a bachelor’s degree before applying to optometry school.
Here is an article by Tiffany Chan. I asked her to write it for the Blog. Though she made the decision to forego completing a bachelor’s degree, she quite successfully went through the admissions process and was accepted into SCCO’s incoming class for Fall 2020. During what turned out to be a very competitive admissions cycle, Tiffany was one of the most competitive applicants we had for the entire season. I knew she had much to say on this topic of opting not to complete a bachelor’s degree and the considerations she made…
Why I Opted Not To Get My Bachelor’s Degree Before Entering Optometry School and How I Did It
by Tiffany Chan
I’m Tiffany. I just finished my sophomore year at the University of the Pacific. Instead of going back my junior year to finish my bachelor’s degree, I’ve been accepted and will be matriculating into the Southern California College of Optometry this upcoming fall…
I successfully went through the optometry school admissions process with no plan to complete a bachelor’s degree. I am only 19 years old, and I am now officially a member of SCCO’s Class of 2024.
I wrote this article to help any who are making the decision to apply to optometry school without getting a bachelor’s degree. I’ll let you in on things I considered and how my admissions timeline worked itself out.
First of all, not every optometry school would consider an applicant without a bachelor’s degree. Most do, but some do not. Check the school’s admissions website before you proceed. SCCO does accept applicants without first getting a bachelor’ degree.
My Pre-optometry Timeline and Resources I Recommend
I had a typical introduction to optometry: going to eye appointments and getting my first glasses at a very young age. I was always very curious during my eye exams, and my doctor would go overtime answering my questions. I was able to complete an internship and my first job in this practice.
By the time I graduated high school, I knew I wanted to go to optometry school and chose my undergraduate college based on how much it would help me to reach that goal.
During my freshman year, I used SCCO’s Articulation Agreements to figure out which classes would count for each of the prerequisites and put together a plan based on 4 years of undergrad. Another super helpful resource was SCCO’s Class Profile. Every year, SCCO puts together a flyer with the demographics of the incoming class. The profile shows stats such as average GPA, BCP, and OAT score, and the age range and education levels of the incoming class. I used this class profile to set goals for my grades and oat scores. I kept in mind that these stats weren’t what I had to have to get into SCCO, but rather I used the information to set goals and keep me motivated.
I found my next incredible resource after attending SCCO’s Summer Admissions Workshop. Jane Ann Munroe, OD, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Mrs. Eryn Kraning, Director of Admissions, designed and ran the event. I spoke to Mrs. Kraning afterwards about whether or not I should apply early. She asked me to email her my current 4 year plan, and over the next few months, she and I ended up sending 20 emails back and forth. With this information, we worked together and modified my timeline: when I should take certain classes, take the OAT, submit the application, and plan to interview. I also emailed whenever I had questions about various steps in the applications process. If you have any questions or are unsure about something, email the SCCO Admissions at email@example.com. It’s always best to start your questions with an email because they can refer you to or even attach information to answer your questions.
In the end, I decided to apply during my sophomore year, meaning I would skip 2 years of undergrad. I spent the next 5 months rushing to do almost everything required to be a competitive applicant. During November, I got my 3 letters of rec and shadowed a different doctor every week. December was split between studying for finals, taking finals, and then studying for the OAT over winter break. I studied for and took my OAT in January. I took February to fill out my OptomCAS application and write my supplemental essays—and then I interviewed in March.
Shortening Your 4-Year Plan Into a 2-year Plan
If you’re going to apply early, it’s a good idea to plan a shortened class schedule. SCCO requires a minimum of 90 semester units to matriculate. Here is my 2 year plan, with the prerequisites in blue boxes:To shorten your plan, first push all of the prerequisite courses forward and all of the GEs back. Second, rearrange the prerequisites to give priority to the courses that will be tested on the OAT.
There are a couple other things to consider concerning workload. If you took AP classes in high school and your undergrad institution awards you equivalent college credits for them, they count towards prerequisites and towards the 90 unit minimum requirement. My psychology and calculus prerequisites are being filled by my AP classes, and all 16 of the AP credits just put me over 90 units.
Also, you can option to shorten your plan to either 2 or 3 years. If you choose the 2 year plan, you’ll have to take classes both summers. If you choose the 3 year plan, you won’t have to work during summers, and can spread the classes out to have a lighter workload. Finally, if you do not want to, you don’t have to take any GEs, which leads into my last point…
Pros of Skipping a Bachelor’s Degree
I chose to skip my last couple years of undergrad for a few reasons:
- I have never and will never have to take any GE’s; maintaining GPA is obviously very important when applying, and it was a lot easier to keep up when I could focus on science and math
- Skipping 2 years of undergrad means skipping 2 years of undergrad’s bills; that’s a lot of money that can now be put towards optometry school
- Who doesn’t want their “Dr.” title at an earlier age
- This one is a little school-specific but, coming from the University of the Pacific, I had friends in the accelerated pharmacy/dentistry programs; they would finish school in 6 years, and now I would get to graduate at the same time as they will
- If I save 2 years of time in undergraduate school, I will be more lenient towards spending time on more varied experiences after graduation (i.e. a longer residency, a volunteer trip abroad, etc.)
I hope this was helpful and encouraging for anyone planning to apply without a bachelor’s degree. Considering how more much time, energy, and resources are involved, I hope you are at least aware of your options.