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Optometry

Optometry is the health field involved with examining, diagnosing, treating, and managing diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, as well as identifying related systemic conditions affecting the eye. Optometrists attend optometry schools to earn a doctorate degree in optometry (O.D.). Note: Ophthalmology is a medical specialty, distinct from optometry, that requires you to attend medical school and complete an ophthalmology residency program. 

Click here for more information on the University of Houston College of Optometry. You may also speak with College of Optometry advisors by contacting: Ellen Shaw at eeshaw@central.uh.edu or Lyle Tate at dltate@central.uh.edu.

Although a life-science major such as Biology may offer the most practical route to completing the requirements for admission into optometry school, it is not required. It is more important that you choose a major that best fits your interests. Many pre-Optometry students pick a STEM major such as Biology or Biochemistry because many of the prerequisites for optometry school are already required courses for the completion of the major. As long as you show proficiency in the sciences and a general pattern of challenging yourself, your major is largely unimportant to admission committees.

The basic course requirements for the University of Houston College of Optometry are as follows:

  • Biology: BIOL 1361/1161 & BIOL 1362/1162
  • Biochemistry: BCHS 3304
  • Calculus: MATH 1431
  • General Chemistry: CHEM 1331/1111 & CHEM 1332/1112
  • Organic Chemistry: CHEM 3331/3221
  • Microbiology: BIOL 3332/3132
  • Psychology: PSYC 1300
  • Physics: PHYS 1301/1101 & PHYS 1302/1102
  • Statistics: MATH 2311 or MATH 3339
  • **Additional Advanced Biology Courses (typically two): Anatomy, Physiology, Genetics, Cell Biology, Neuroscience, Immunology, Virology, or Endocrinology.

**The University of Houston College of Optometry requires 8-credit hours of advanced Biology coursework, which must include at least 3-credit hours of Anatomy or Physiology.

While most other optometry schools will require the above pre-requisite courses, it is up to you to visit the individual schools’ admission office’s webpage to learn about their specific admissions policy.

Optometry programs via the OptomCAS application use the BCP rule for calculating a science GPA. BCP is an acronym for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics - the group of natural sciences that optometry schools identify as important for success.

The OptomCAS GPA calculations do utilize the +/- grading convention.

Yes, to a certain extent, you may complete pre-requisite courses outside of the University of Houston. However, our general advice is that if you are enrolled at the University of Houston, you should only take courses that fulfill prerequisite or requisite coursework for your degree plan or for your professional school application at the University of Houston. Taking 1-2 courses in the Summer outside of UH is not a big deal, but avoid making it a habit.

That said, if you are a transfer student bringing in credits from another institution, then you do not need to retake prerequisites for your professional school application. That includes transfer students who are transferring from community college as well as four-year institutions. The quality of your education will be tested in the coursework that you take once you enroll at the university. 

The Optometry Admissions Test (OAT) is the standardized exam that optometry school admissions use as a standardized metric to measure an applicant's readiness for optometry school. Before you can register for the OAT you must secure an OATPIN. You can register for a PIN at ADA.org/OAT. You must register at least 60-90 days in advance.

The OAT is computer based and ~5 hours. The OAT consists of four tests:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences (Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry)
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Physics
  • Quantitative Reasoning

You should plan to take the exam only once. Retakes are allowed, but are limited and should be considered very carefully. Further, you must wait 90 days between test attempts.

It is advised you take the OAT before the opening of the admissions cycle at the end of June. Official scores will be reported electronically to your “My Account,” (within 3-4 weeks of your test date) and to the optometry schools you select on your OAT application. If you have time in your schedule, you should take the advised pre-OAT courses as they will be very helpful for the exam. Commercial prep courses are not required to perform well on the OAT, but they can provide structure for studying. You should always plan to take at least 5-6 full length practice exams to prepare and gauge your progress.

There are no hard and fast rules for gaining admission into optometry school. That said, a competitive applicant has:

  • Strong GPA (>3.5)
  • Strong OAT (>340-AA)/340-TS)
  • Pattern of taking challenging coursework and credit-load (>12/semester)
  • Extra-curricular involvement (leadership in student organizations, research, employment, etc.)
  • Consistent volunteer experience
  • Experience in or exposure to the optometry field (shadowing, volunteering, or employment)

The key is to perform well in your science classes, do well on the OAT, and pursue activities and opportunities that introduce you to the field of optometry. It also important that you follow your interests as well, even if they are not directly related to optometry or healthcare. Sports, literature, film, music, acting, dancing, hobbies, and any sort of competition all fall in this category. Admissions committees value applicants that well-rounded and have interests outside of medicine. 

Most Optometry schools will require a letter from a licensed optometrist with whom you have shadowed. Shadowing is also important for simply confirming that the field of optometry is something you are interested in and wish to pursue a career in.

Shadowing means hands-off observation only. This experience demonstrates your knowledge of the optometry profession, but there is no specific hour requirement.

Just like shadowing, volunteering is not just a box to check. It is an opportunity to display your desire to serve others, so there is no minimum number of hours you must volunteer.

What kind of environment or what population of people do you think needs your attention and help. Find an organization that works in that area and then give them a few hours every week. You do not need to volunteer in ten different settings and no amount of volunteer work will ever substitute for a poor GPA or OAT score. Consider what your strengths are and how they can be used to serve others.

Most Optometry schools, including the University of Houston College of Optometry, utilize the OptomCAS application. This is a single centralized application that is used to apply to Optometry school. 

The OptomCAS applications usually opens in early July each application cycle. You should plan to submit this application as early as possible (within a few weeks).

Most students apply to around 7 Optometry schools, but is important that you research the requirements and mission of each school to which you hope to apply.

After submitting your OptomCAS application, each of the schools in which you applied will ask you to complete a secondary (or supplemental) application. These applications include additional short-essay prompts and are specific to each school. You should plan to complete the secondary applications within two-weeks of receipt.

Yes, most Optometry schools will require applicants to submit three individual Letters of Evaluation as a part of their application.

These letters should typically consist of:

  • Two science professors
  • One optometrist

Due to the size of UH, it can be difficult to generate 2-3 strong letters from college faculty who know you very well and can offer significant insight into your character traits and capacity for entering the profession of optometry. Therefore, it is important to provide your evaluators with as much information as possible:

  1. Recent copy of your resume (with picture)
  2. Detailed instructions for how the letter should be submitted (OptomCAS)
  3. Brief statement of your educational goals
  4. Rough draft of your OptomCAS personal statement

Note: Always waive your right to view your letters of evaluation.

Yes, although most applicants focus mainly on GPA and OAT scores, the personal statement is a very important component of your application and should be carefully written. This is your opportunity to highlight things about you that are not mentioned in other sections of your application and to distinguish yourself from other applicants.

The OptomCAS essay is limited to 1 page, 4500 characters.

The current essay asks students to:

"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."

Optometry Admissions Data for EY2019*

  • UH Applicants: 41
  • UH Accepted: 29
  • UH Acceptance Rate: 70% / National Average Acceptance Rate: 77%
University of Houston (EY2019)
Overall GPA Science GPA OAT Average OAT Percentile
Applied 3.37 3.18 n/a n/a
Accepted 3.50 3.35 n/a n/a
All OptomCAS Applicants (EY2019)
Overall GPA Science GPA OAT Average OAT Percentile
Applied 3.36 3.20 n/a n/a
Accepted 3.44 3.29 n/a n/a

*Note: Includes only applicants who designated the University of Houston as their primary institution in the OptomCAS application and authorized release of their application data to the Pre-Health Advising Center.