Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

  • Optometrists are eye health care professionals state-licensed to diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the eye and visual system.
  • Doctors of Optometry prescribe medications, low vision rehabilitation, vision therapy, spectacle lenses, contact lenses, and perform certain surgical procedures.
  • Optometrists counsel their patients regarding surgical and non-surgical options that meet their visual needs related to their occupations, avocations, and lifestyle.
  • An optometrist has completed pre-professional undergraduate education in a college or university and four years of professional education at a college of optometry, leading to the doctor of optometry (O.D.) degree. Some optometrists complete an optional residency in a specific area of practice.



Preparation for Optometry school includes completion of certain prerequisites. Make sure you do research into which prerequisites are required for the programs to which you are interested in applying, as they can vary! Listed below are the most common prerequisites and courses at UNLV that will fulfill the requirement.

Major: You may major in whichever subject you choose as long as you are meeting required pre-requisites for the programs to which you are applying. You should choose a major that interests you and allows you to build strong intellectual skills. Optometry schools appreciate diversity in majors so choose a subject in which you will be successful!

Pre-Reqs: Prerequisites for Optometry schools vary widely. This list shows courses which may be required. Do your research to ensure you are meeting all required courses for the schools to which you are interested in applying.

  • 2 semesters of General Biology w/labs: Biol 190/191
  • 2 semesters of General Chemistry: Chem 121 & 122
  • 2 semesters of Organic Chemistry: Chem 241 & 2242
  • 1 semester of BioChemistry: Chem 474
  • 2 semesters of Physics: Phys 151&152
  • Anatomy and Physiology: Kin 223/224 OR Biol 348/349
  • 1 semester of Calculus: Math 181
  • 1 semester of Microbiology: Bio 351

Additional common pre-reqs:

  • 1 year of General English: Eng 101 & 102
  • 1 semester Psychology: Psy101
  • 1 semester of Statistics: Stats 391

Grading Policies for Pre-Requisites:

  • AP and IB Credit are generally not accepted towards pre-reqs
  • Community college credits can be viewed differently by each school; do your research on if they are accepted!
  • Online lab courses are generally not accepted towards pre-reqs; some schools will not allow ANY online coursework
  • All courses, including repeated courses will count towards your GPA, regardless of how old they are. Be careful with “w” on your transcripts; they are not counted towards GPA but you should not be withdrawing from courses as a trend
  • Some programs have expiration dates on their pre-reqs, meaning you need to take them within a certain time period of applying. Again, do your research!
  • Do not try to “substitute” your Abnormal Psych or Developmental Psych course if the program asks you for a general or introductory Psychology course! Programs require general level introductory classes because other courses can be too specific in nature and their content may not be applicable in a curriculum that requires a broad, foundational base of knowledge. “Substituting” other Psychology or Kinesiology courses that the school didn’t ask for doesn’t make up for the fact that you don’t have the one course that they did ask for.

While the professional school admission process is holistic, your grades do matter. It is extremely important to understand how professional school GPA’s are calculated, as there can be a vast difference between your UNLV GPA and your professional school GPA.

Keep in mind that while the information below is generalized to professional schools/programs and the GPA calculation process, it is the student’s responsibility to understand exactly how the programs they are applying to consider, weigh, and/or calculate their GPA.

Professional school GPA’s calculate all grades ever taken at the secondary level. This includes all transfer credit grades, repeats, remedial courses, and possibly graduate level courses. There is no “grade forgiveness” or “grade replacement” for professional school GPA - all grades count. There is also no expiration date on courses for them not to be considered for calculation; even courses you may have taken “years ago” count towards your professional school GPA.

Professional school GPA’s are also calculated in more ways than just your cumulative GPA. Your “science” GPA (or BCP/BCPM) is also a very important marker in your application to professional school. Your science GPA is your GPA calculated only with your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and (sometimes) Math classes. The third and fourth most common calculations are your “all other” GPA, which is your GPA calculated on all courses WITHOUT your science classes, and your “prerequisite GPA”, which is your GPA calculated only on the prerequisites necessary for that particular professional school program/track.

To help you understand how your professional school GPA will be calculated, please use the resources below. Although intended for use in calculating GPA for medical school, this calculator can be effective for calculating Optometry School GPA as well. Bring this GPA calculation to your PPAC appointments, as it is an important part of the discussion. If you need help filling them out, give us a call!

Professional school programs have adopted a “holistic” admissions process, meaning you are more than just your metrics. How you demonstrate your motivation for your future profession, your personal characteristics, and the ways in which you give back to your community can make or break your application.

It is your responsibility as a pre-professional student to understand the different types of experiences that will make you a competitive applicant to professional school. The most common classifications for experiences include:

  • Community Service
  • Clinical Experience: experiences in which you interact with patients in a clinical environment. Professional schools like to see as much hands on, direct patient care as possible!
  • Shadowing: observing a professional in the field you are interested in pursuing. This is notoriously hard to find. Start early!
  • Research
  • Involvement in student clubs/organizations on campus
  • Leadership positions
  • Direct Patient Care Hours (required for PA students- talk to a PPAC advisor for more information)
  • Animal Experience: for pre-veterinary students
  • Employment
  • Military
  • Honors/Awards

One of the most frequently asked questions is “how many hours do I have to do?” Unless you are applying to PA schools with required numbers of direct patient care hours, or PT/OT programs that commonly have a required number of shadowing hours, there is no “magic number” of hours for you to complete. Keep in mind the following for your experiences:

  • There should be a reason “why” you have chosen each experience; “check the box” mentality will NOT work.
  • They should be meaningful both on a personal level and to your professional journey. Keep in mind, you will have to write thoughtful, eloquent descriptions about your experiences so participating “just because” won’t help your application.
  • Commitment over time is important. Programs would rather see dedication over many months/years to an experience over your “experience-hopping”.
  • It is about the breadth and depth of the experience; think quality, not “quantity”

Shadowing: Shadowing opportunities are notoriously hard to find, so we advise you start early on securing an optometrist to shadow. Generally speaking, the following are the two most common ways to secure shadowing opportunities:

  • Network: ask family, friends, and colleagues if they know a professional that would allow you to shadow
  • Engage in clinical experiences first. If you are volunteering in a hospital, free/outpatient/inpatient clinic, have a job as a CNA, EMT, PT or Dental Assistant, etc., prove yourself as a competent, compassionate volunteer or employee and ask the professionals you work with from there. The more they know about your aspirations as a future doctor/dentist/optometrist/vet, etc. the more likely they are to take you on for shadowing or refer you to a colleague who will.

Please visit our PPAC Resource Board for volunteer, clinical, shadowing, etc. experiences, as well as examples of where to find these experiences in the Vegas valley. Please keep this link bookmarked, as we are always updating!

Your personal statement is the part of your application where you have an opportunity to show the admissions committee who you are beyond your GPA, test scores, and experiences. It communicates what is important to you and explains in-depth your reasons and motivations for pursuing professional school. Additionally, a personal statement can help explain any gaps in education or experiences, as well as any weaknesses in an application. The personal statement prompt is: “Please describe what inspires your decision for becoming an optometrist, including your preparation for training in this profession, your aptitude and motivation, the basis for your interest in optometry, and your future career goals.” Follow these tips and tricks to help get you started.

  • Take some time to reflect and write some notes on your personal journey to professional school. What is your motivation for this career? What experiences have you had that have helped reinforce this motivation?
  • Write down a list of qualities you want to demonstrate to the admissions committee, and select your stories and experiences to show them. Explain HOW these experiences impacted you and your journey personally.
  • Use this as a time to explain any challenges you faced that may have resulted in receiving low grades, gaps in education, etc. Focus on how your overcame these obstacles and make it part of your story.
  • Be concise and simple. Stick to the character count, which is 4,500 characters. Check your OPTOMCAS application guide for more information.
  • Edit, edit, edit! Seek multiple opinions from at least 4-5 different people and NEVER turn in a personal statement with grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes.

For more information on how to write a personal statement for professional school, please attend a Personal Statement workshop. Dates and times for all workshops can be found on the PPAC website.

Optometry schools are looking for well-rounded individuals who can demonstrate professional competencies! Many of the experiences listed below will give you opportunities for growth in the areas discussed on the AAMC website: (may require AAMC account to access) Note that although this list is specific to medicine, growing in these competencies will serve you well in your pre-optometry journey.

High-Value Experiences

  1. Get involved
    1. Involvement in on-campus Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs) or work as a teaching assistant, a lab / learning assistant, or a supplemental instructor can provide you with leadership and communication experience that optometry schools are looking for.
    2. Developing quality relationships with off-campus, non-profit organizations and the people they serve will give you invaluable community service experience. Optometry schools are looking for people with a service orientation, so it is better to establish longer service relationships than one-time service events with multiple organizations can provide.
  2. Understand what this career entails
    1. Shadowing is a crucial component in your discernment process regarding whether you should pursue this career. Optometry schools want to see that you have demonstrated sustained interest in this career and that you know what you are getting into. Shadow several optometrists in multiple settings. Talk to your pre-health advisor for more info!
    2. Experience in health care can take a variety of forms. Optometry schools expect that their applicants have exposure to the healthcare field. You may find it useful to gain experience as a volunteer or employee at an optometry clinic.
    3. Optometrists need to stay up-to-date about issues related to optometry and healthcare in the US and the world, including the way the media is discussing their profession. They also need to know what is going on in the world in general. Although pre-optometry students are not expected to have all the answers, you can begin to read and stay informed in the field in order to maintain essential knowledge as you move forward in your journey.
  3. Develop your manual dexterity. In order to perform optometric procedures, an optometrist must be able to work with precision on an extremely small scale, including the precise positioning of a diagnostic instrument on to the surface of the eye. Superior hand-eye coordination is critical to ensuring the safety of patients.
  4. Conduct research. Research is not a requirement for admission to optometry school, but it may add an extra layer to your application if the institutions you are applying to have a research focus, or if you are particularly interested in research.
  5. Establish a strong academic record. Most individuals who are accepted to optometry school have a GPA above a 3.4. Optometry schools also place high value on applicants’ math and science grades, so pay attention to this. science Use the AAMC GPA calculator to keep track of your various GPAs.
  6. Develop relationships with professionals. Optometrists, faculty, and work/volunteer supervisors can help you open doors to exciting new experiences, but they will also hopefully get to know you well enough to speak to your competencies in letters of evaluation for your optometry school application.

The OAT is an optometry admission test designed to provide optometry education programs with a means to assess program applicants’ potential for success.

The OAT is administered year round by Prometric test centers in the United States, its territories (including Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and Canada.

The OAT is comprised of multiple-choice test items presented in the English language. The test is developed according to established test specifications.

The OAT consists of a battery of four tests on the following:

  1. Survey of the Natural Sciences,
  2. Physics,
  3. Reading Comprehension, and
  4. Quantitative Reasoning.

In the OAT, both the U.S. customary system and the metric system (Imperial System) of units are used.

  • Optometry schools admit students once a year.
  • Applications are submitted 12-15 months before the desired school enrollment date. However, the timing depends on when you will complete your degree and the necessary prerequisite coursework (and successfully take the OAT). All prerequisites must be posted to your transcript prior to starting professional school, and the timing is sensitive.
  • While applying early in the cycle has advantages, the best time for you to apply is when your application is the best it can be.
  • Optometry school requirements vary from school to school. Research schools early for specific information on their requirements.
  • Before any submitting application, have people with an unbiased eye go over each entire application to catch any errors. Your Pre-professional advisor is happy to do this for you.


The Optometry School Application includes 4 main components

  • Personal Information
  • Academic History
  • Supporting Information
  • Program Materials

Visit each professional school’s respective website; they have tons of tools for prospective students! Research! We also recommend you review the OptomCAS site for program information.

Generally, students will want to consider the following when deciding where to apply:

  • Mission statement and focus
  • Programs offered (Phd, dual degree, research)
  • Curriculum and teaching methods
  • Support and wellness structures in place for students
  • Preparation of students for graduation;
  • GPA/test score requirements
  • Specific or unique prerequisites
  • Location
  • Size and demographics
  • Cost to attend; scholarships

For a template to help with your research, please email the PPAC at: ppac@unlv.edu.

Primary Applications are processed through the centralized application service, OptomCAS, and are sent to all schools you designate on the application.

Applications open online in June each year to allow applicants to start their applications. As mentioned, ensure you are paying attention to deadlines for submission for each school to which you are applying! Deadlines vary between October-June.

READ ALL INSTRUCTION MANUALS AND DIRECTIONS CAREFULLY! When available before each application cycle, download the instruction manual on your computer to have access to at all times while filling out the application.

Be prepared months in advance for the cost of submitting applications to Optometry school. Fee assistance for applications is not available at this time.

NOTE: When prompted, please release your information back to UNLV PPAC. This helps us advise other Pre-Optometry students and gives us accurate historical data on where our students have applied, been accepted, and matriculated to. Your personal information will be kept confidential at all times.

Some schools will host supplemental questions within OptomCAS. Once you submit these essays, no further essays are required. Others will send out instructions for “Secondary Applications.” Deadlines for completing secondary applications range from 5 business days to a month, so pay attention! These applications are created by each specific school so, therefore, are different lengths and ask different types of questions, depending on what the school is trying to ascertain from you. Often, they are essay style questions, so allow adequate time. Follow directions carefully and be aware there will be an additional cost to submit your secondary applications on top of your primary application fees.

Secondary applications are automatically sent from some schools and others will screen applicants for metrics, experiences, LOR’s before sending. Each school is different! If you decide at the point of receiving a secondary application that you are no longer interested in attending that school, that’s ok! You are not required to send back the secondary at that point.

Submit your secondary as soon as you are comfortable with your responses (ensuring you are still before deadline) so you can be reviewed and, hopefully, extended an invitation.

Getting an invitation to interview is a great sign! This means the admissions office has decided you are qualified and they want to get to know you better! This is your face-to-face opportunity to impress the admissions committee. Your job is to turn that invitation to interview into an invitation to attend. The best way to do that is to prepare.

Most professional schools hold “interview days” in which they bring in a group of applicants for a day or two. During those days, you may engage in any of the following: your actual interview, written essays, the Standardized Judgement Test (SJT), school tours, and/or “meet ‘n greets” with faculty and staff. Please remember, the entire day is the interview, not just those times when you are in a formal meeting. You never know who is watching so be on your “best behavior” all day!

There are several types of interview formats used by professional schools. The most common are the KIRA Video, Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), Traditional format, and Group Interview.

Multiple Mini Interview: The MMI is an interview format where you are given a scenario/question and a predetermined amount of time to answer. These questions are typically ethical scenarios such as: “You are counseling a parent who states she will be “sneaking” some of her child’s ritalin for herself. How will you handle the situation?”

Traditional: These are the most common, where you are interviewed by 1-3 people at a time. You will be asked questions about your application, why you chose to apply to their school and why you decided to pursue pharmacy.

Group Interviews: These activities include more than one applicant. They can either be to determine your ability to work with others by giving you group activities to solve a problem, or asking one question where everyone has to answer.

June – August

  • The Primary Application Service (OptomCAS) opens in June. Begin to fill out the primary application as soon as possible. Read instruction manuals carefully.
  • Make final decisions on which schools to apply to and submit primary applications.
  • Order official transcripts from ALL colleges and universities that you have attended to be sent to the appropriate Application Services
  • Application Services verify primary applications, and notify applicants of verification or problems with verification

August – November

  • Complete and submit secondary applications (check deadline dates).Optometry schools begin sending secondary application instructions to applicants (if invited to complete a secondary application, begin and submit sooner rather than later)
  • Prepare for and attend interviews.
  • The PPAC Advising office offers mock interviews so you can practice. If you have an interview scheduled, call the office 801-581-5744 and ask to schedule a mock interview.
  • Complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, in October.
  • Send schools application updates if acceptable.

December - April

  • Admissions committees meet and decide status: accept/reject/waitlist. Applicants notified
  • Check schools’ application status website for each individual school.
  • Applicants on waitlists are notified of an admission offer (typically, schools confirm their class by the end of April.)

May - June

  • Newly admitted applicants must notify Application Services and the school to which they plan to matriculate of their decision. Admits with multiple acceptances must choose one school and withdraw their applications from other schools.

July – September

  • School begins