Student Ambassador Blog Articles

How Double Majoring in Dance and Biology Made Me A Competitive Applicant for Optometry School by SCCO Student Ambassador Emily Coan

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

How Double Majoring in Dance and Biology Made Me A Competitive Applicant for Optometry School

by SCCO Student Ambassador, Emily Coan

Coan_EmilyWhy did I choose to major in dance in undergrad if I planned on pursuing a career in optometry?  What was I hoping to gain?  Was I wasting my time?

These are questions I asked myself as I plowed through hours of homework, studying, and rehearsals while majoring in both dance and biological sciences at UC Irvine.  Since high school, I was set on being an optometrist.  I was attraced to optometry for the same reasons many are such as being a high myope, optometrists in the family, good work-life balance and connections with patients to name a few…

But still,  why did I major in dance?

Majoring in an art form taught me countless skills:  improving communication, confidence, creativity, exposure, discipline, and teamwork. I NEVER could have learned all of this in my 400-student cutthroat biology lectures.  Degrees in the arts offer interdisciplinary perspectives on historical, cultural, aesthetic, and scientific aspects that gave me a knowledgeable perspective that I can use in everyday life and eventually in the medical field for tough situations and patient care. High school seniors, undergraduates, and their parents almost always value a university degree for economic reasons, namely choosing a major in order to result in a job with a high income. However, majors don’t necessarily correlate with matters of employment or lifelong earnings. Many students wonder if they must pursue a pre-med degree in order to get into a health professional school. In most cases, the answer is “no.”

In recent trends, admissions counselors at health professional schools are recommending degrees other than biological science in order to produce more well-rounded doctors. Some admissions committees might even give bonus points for what they consider taking extra challenges. In my case, taking on the challenge of both a biological science and dance degree made me stand out from the pack of optometry school applicants. While my GPA and Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) were only a little above average, I was granted the opportunity to interview with my top choice programs because of my dance degree. My communication, patience, and creativity has improved tremendously due to the classes I’ve taken as a dance major, which in turn made me a great applicant.

I must say however, adding the 2nd major of biology was difficult. I got accepted into college as a dance major.  I knew I wanted to add a minor or major in a science to be able to get my optometry school prerequisite courses completed. When I went to the student affairs office to add the biology major, they told me that as a dance major this objective would be too much of a workload for me to handle,  that being a biology major was difficult (they assumed I would fail and was not serious about school). With this upsetting news, I decided to study hard and get all A’s the next quarter in my biology and chemistry courses. I returned to the student affairs office and to a different counselor and pleaded my case, telling them I have the skills to succeed in both majors at once. The counselor decided to take a chance on me and added on the biology major which I was thrilled about. I am pleased to report that I continued to succeed in undergrad, proving them wrong–dance majors can add a difficult second major and still be successful.

For students who have a unique background in a specific talent or sport, make it shine in your future career path. Use the experiences and knowledge gained to help you be a better future clinician and applicant. Write about what you’ve learned and how you’ll be a more personable, creative, compassionate, and efficient optometrist, or whatever the case might be!

My story also appeared in the 2021 Edition of Dance Major Journal found on eScholarship.org.  If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at emilycoan.scco25@ketchum.edu

P.S.  This is Dr. Jane Ann Munroe, Assistant Dean of Admissions for SCCO. I want to validate what Emily reports here in her article. Yes, applicants who study what we refer to as “humanities proficiencies,” also known as liberal arts, do increase their desirability as applicants. In the end, being an optometrist is a people profession, and you must care about the human condition to appreciate mankind. A love and study of the arts speak to this statement. Besides, all the life lessons one learns from the physical challenge of dance performance (i.e. daning with injuries, dealing with the pressure of performing, perseverence, learning how to practice…etc.) are all qualities that serve a student in professional grad school. Emily demonstrated that she could complete a double major, and especially to juggle a demanding schedule to still be successful. If that isn’t a quality that will serve an optometry student, then I don’t know what is!  Take it as fact from me, that Emily’s double major in both the sciences and dance performance did indeed make her a competitive applicant.

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