Optimize Your Summer Schedule and Apply Early to Optometry School

Applying to optometry school may seem like a huge undertaking. While you should treat the process with the focus it deserves, there’s no need to let anxiety or perfectionism creep in and cause you to submit a late application.

What follows are suggestions for simple things you can do to help organize your efforts and streamline your focus for that all-important task of applying to optometry school.

Getting started:

When making plans, there are basic concepts successful people employ:

  • First, identify your goals and priorities
  • Second, make a list of what needs to be done to attain those goals
  • Third, plan a timeline

Use this article as the framework for your application-preparation planning. Here’s a 3-step process to help you chart a course to, as recommended, apply EARLY in the cycle:

Identify your goals as priorities:

Keeping it simple and focused on getting into optometry school, this list simply includes:

  • Submitting  your OptomCAS application
  • Taking the OAT

Other priorities that can be added here are considerations such as completing prerequisite coursework, planning your Fall academic term, shadowing or conducting informational interview phone calls, etc. More on this later.

Make a list of what needs to be done to accomplish these goals:

This is where we take the list you just made and break it into manageable action items, a.k.a., a “To Do List:”

  • Submit OptomCAS application:
    • Create an application in OptomCAS (which opens July 1) and fill out whatever you are able to initially complete. Check out this article I wrote about your OptomCAS application through its stages, and it will provide helpful tips about the entire application process and empower you as you work through the rest of this list
    • Download unofficial transcripts for populating the “Academic” section of your application
    • Contact the school registrar’s office and request official transcripts be sent to OptomCAS
    • Contact the people you’d like to write Letters of Recommendation on your behalf
    • Compose a personal statement
    • Compose answers to any supplemental essay questions.  SCCO’s supplemental essay questions are included as an integral part of the OptomCAS application. Follow up with any other optometry programs to determine if they have a separate supplemental application and what questions are asked.

Identify a timeline:

Start by reading this article: Timeline Strategy for Applying with Rolling Admissions

Here’s where the strategic planning comes in. Listed below are many factors to consider in detail. First, consider your personal situation and take time to evaluate your needs as they fit into the suggested timeline provided here. Such things to consider may include:

  • Summer plans: are you taking any classes, attending any weddings, going on family vacations or mission trips? Do you have an internship or summer job?
  • Finances: when will you be able to afford to submit your application to a few programs and also pay costs involved to take the OAT?
  • Fall plans: if your summer is too full to prioritize studying for the OAT, then what does your fall season look like? If you are done with undergrad and prerequisite coursework, there may be time to both apply and take the OAT in September/ October.  If you’re still in school and taking a full course load in the fall term plus extra curricular activities, you may need to adjust some of the summer plans to  get your application submitted and the OAT taken before the term starts up.
  • Other life responsibilities or personal considerations: are you taking care of an ill or elderly loved one? Do you have a big move coming that will require juggling a lot of logistics and packing? Do you have any physical or mental health situations that require you to not overload your schedule and cause undue stress?

The application:

At the most basic level,  look into school deadlines to determine how a particular program conducts its admissions cycle.

For all programs, OptomCAS opens on July 1; however, each program selects its own deadline dates, ranging anywhere from December-May or even June in some cases. SCCO’s current dates and deadlines can be found here on our website:

Next, you need to investigate whether or not the school utilizes rolling admissions. Almost all optometry schools use this method in some form, which essentially means as applications are submitted, invitations are made to the candidates who qualify to interview. The class seats are gradually filled throughout the cycle. The earlier you apply the better your chances of getting an invitation to join the class.

Of course the next question is, “What is considered early to submit my application?”  That answer also will be program-specific. For SCCO, we recommend getting everything in to us for review by December 1, and here’s why:

Scenario #1: your application is strong and you qualify to interview, and do so successfully and offered a seat in the class. Prior to December 1, we ALWAYS have seats available in the class; if you received an acceptance, we have a seat open for you.

Sometimes we have open seats all the way through to the beginning of March, but every cycle is different.  Rather than playing with fire, instead just apply early.  Also, if  SCCO is your top choice and you get accepted, you can cancel other interviews and save yourself and time and money. It’s a great feeling to lock in your seat before the holiday break—especially when answering questions from friends and relatives about your future plans.

Scenario #2: Should you submit an application early, and the Admissions Review committee wants to see some improvements before offering an interview, SCCO will inform you of this. Only if it’s early enough in the cycle will you have time to implement these recommendations. For example, if your GPA is a little low but you have Fall academic term classes in progress, we may suggest submitting your grades using what is known as an Academic Update through OptomCAS. If your OAT scores aren’t competitive enough, it may be suggested that you retake it. There’s a 90 day wait period for an OAT retake, so if you took the OAT anytime before December 1, you’ll be able to take it by March 1, which is a month before the deadline. Even better, if you took the OAT for the first time during the Summer, you would be eligible to do your retake before December 1—still early for rolling admissions.

The OAT:

For SCCO, “apply early” is synonymous with “take the OAT early,” because we will not extend an interview invitation without submitted OAT scores. If circumstances don’t allow you to take the OAT during the summertime, plan then for December 1 at the latest for the reasons outlined earlier.

Early, careful planning will make the seemingly overwhelming task of applying to optometry school so much easier.  It gets your head wrapped around the process, which then makes it more manageable.

Dr. Munroe talks about how, if you are properly motivated, any task is like “cutting butter.”  Sounds like something her Southern mother taught her, and it is true! Early planning and implementation will give you that motivation…

So log onto the OptomCAS site, open up an application, and little by little, start cutting that butter!


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