Student Ambassador Blog Articles

Work, Undergrad, and Supporting Myself Financially by SCCO Student Ambassador Vanessa Tran

A series of articles written by SCCO Student Ambassadors, here is Vanessa Tran. To learn more about Vanessa, where she is from, and why she chose SCCO, find her bio here listed alphabetically.

Work, Undergrad, and Supporting Myself Financially as a First Generation College Student

by SCCO Student Ambassador, Vanessa Tran

Tran_VanessaAs a first generation college student with parents who were unable to support me financially, making the decision to pursue optometry school took serious consideration. Not only is the cost of attending optometry school a big consideration, but for students who are financially independent, even just the cost of preparing and applying to optometry school can be daunting.

I knew that the opportunity to become an optometrist would certainly outweigh the costs of optometry school, but this didn’t mean I wouldn’t have to think about and plan for it.

I hope my insights will help prospective optometry applicants who might also be experiencing financial hardship as I did. 

 During undergrad, I was a full time student. To pay for tuition, books, housing, and other costs, I had to work parttime. When I was offered unpaid internships or volunteer experiences that I knew would help me become a better candidate for optometry school, I had to plan my time carefully. I couldn’t say yes to these opportunities as easily as my peers who didn’t have financial burdens to worry about. I had to make some extracurricular sacrifices to prioritize relevant experiences and school itself.

When I started studying for the OAT, I had to start actively saving funds to pay for the OAT itself as well as study books, because it is not a cheap exam! For undergraduates, I highly suggest looking into the OAT exam early on, starting your studying early, and looking into applying for an OAT fee waiver provided by ADA. After tackling the OAT and filling out your OptomCAS application, and because you have to pay for each school to which you apply, you will also have to consider the costs of applying. Definitely  check into the costs of applying to all the schools you are interested in and note that some schools also have a supplemental fees. Finally, there is a matriculation fee/deposit for the school that you decide to attend. All these costs add up and can be intimidating, especially since these aren’t costs for which you can take student loans,  so start planning as soon as possible.

 I decided to take a gap year to not only give myself a break from an entire lifetime of school, but also to gain more experience working in a practice, to save up money, and to provide myself with ample time to perfect my application and apply to optometry school. This break helped me gain so much experience in an optometry practice but it also allowed me to save enough money to pay for all the costs of applying.

Now, in optometry school, I have applied for several scholarships and I have taken out loans to afford the cost of tuition and equipment. There are so many different scholarships here at SCCO for which you can apply.  Dr. Catherine Heyman, SCCO’s Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, is always consolidating the information and reminding all the students to apply, which is so helpful!

Making my decision to take the leap and attend optometry school was not as easy for me as it may seem.  But I know that in the end, it will all be worth it.  If you’re in a similar position, get started early on your game plan and feel free to reach out to me anytime for any help.  You may reach me at 

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