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Pre-Optometry programs

Discussion in 'Pre-Optometry' started by schoolstudent, Apr 23, 2012.

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  1. schoolstudent

    schoolstudent

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    Hi, I am an upcoming high school junior. I am currently very interested in optometry, but after reading things online, I am beginning to have doubts. At the same time, I feel that as a high school junior, these doubts shouldn't come into play quite yet. Which leads me to my question - Does the college you attend as an undergraduate affect anything with your changes of acceptance into Optometry grad school? For instance, if I enrolled in Berkeley for my four years undergraduate degree, would it possibly make it an easier transaction into Berkeley's optometry school? Or will there really be no difference, I could attend a college without an optometry school?

    Hope that makes somewhat sense... this is all very confusing for me, and I would massively appreciate some help.
  2. Pulse0021

    Pulse0021

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    a lot of schools have a 3:4 year program...Meaning you take 3 years of undergrad at a school and then you will go to the optometry after your 3rd year, if you have completed all the pre-reqs and have a certain GPA. My school has a one to get into PCO but I couldnt enroll in it. Look around for school that have a program like this they are pretty safe bet.
  3. optoapp2012

    optoapp2012

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    It doesn't really affect your chances for admission, you can go anywhere and get in. One thing that helps is going to a more selective and competitive undergrad. A good GPA at one of those schools outweighs a good GPA at a less selective school, because presumably you had to work harder for it. Some optometry schools rank undergrad institutions for their level of selectivity/rigor and that factors into how they evaluate you. But that being said, you could still get into any optometry school from any university if you work hard.

    The benefit to going to a school with an optometry school is just more exposure to the profession. You'll have opportunities to get involved with the school or go to conferences in order to learn more about optometry. Plus any pre-optometry clubs would likely be larger since more students at those schools are pursuing optometry. So that's more for your own benefit, rather than making admissions easier.

    My undergrad university wasn't even in a state close to an optometry school, but I didn't know I wanted to do optometry until later anyway. So I did my post-bacc work at a school with an optometry school and it was beneficial. But that is not the campus whose optometry school I eventually chose or anything either.
  4. schoolstudent

    schoolstudent

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    Thanks so much for your replies; they definitely helped clear things up. Overall, to become an optometrist here in the US, it would be 3 years undergraduate, 4 years of optometry school? After that, is residency required?
  5. optoapp2012

    optoapp2012

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    Most optometry schools require 4 years of undergraduate work. There are a few like NOVA and apparently PCO that do the 3 year thing, but that's not too common. Berkeley does not have the 3 year thing, if that's where you are most interested in going.

    Residencies are not required. They are getting more common to do, just because grads feel like the extra experience helps. But you still can't list yourself as a specialist in the area that you do a residency in. It just so happens you have more exposure to it and will do better for your patients since you have had a lot more experience with that. For example, if you did a Contact Lens residency, you would be a lot better at fitting contacts in addition to likely being more familiar with the available materials and how they differ. If you did an eye disease residency, you would have had a lot more exposure to eye disease in order to more accurately diagnose it. If you did a low vision residency, you would have had more patients with low vision needs and have a better handle on what technology is how there to help them. But again, you can't list yourself as a specialist in any of those areas. You are still labeled an optometrist like anyone else. Residencies can sometimes help with the job hunt too, because then you have a better skill to market. They are only required if you want to later teach at an optometry school.

    As for your undergraduate time, most people major in biology just because the pre-req classes overlap the most in that major. However, you can study absolutely anything so long as you also complete the pre-req's. Some people find that it takes 5 years to do both a non-science major and the pre-reqs, but that really depends on your major, your school, and how many classes you take. There's no particular advantage or disadvantage depending on your major.

    Good luck!
  6. schoolstudent

    schoolstudent

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    Wow, thanks so much! It is a relief to have people like you helping me through this stressful time of sorting out my future.
    In high school, I am currently taking as much AP courses possible. That would shorten the amount of time in undergraduate, would it not?
    If I decided to also do a residency after my undergraduate, that would take a year, correct?

    I hope you don't mind me asking, but you seem like a person with great knowledge in the optometry field - do you mind telling me exactly what you did to become an optometrist? For instance, college, school, residency, jobs, exams, etc. I would like to hear someone's pathway from high school to where they are now.
  7. optoapp2012

    optoapp2012

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    Yea AP classes help a lot. I took several AP and a couple classes at a local college during high school, so I transferred in about a semester's worth of credit. I also did a lot of summer school, which amounted to about 1 more semester. However, I worked a lot during school and took lighter loads during the regular semester (like 13 hours instead of the normal 15). So I only ended up graduating 1 semester early. You can definitely do that too, and it's a good move financially. But socially, I wish I hadn't finished early. I feel like I missed out on a lot of the senior year events because I was across the state working when all my friends were finishing their last year. So if you can, enjoy all four years of undergrad. It's a really fun time where you study a lot but make really close friendships too. Take advantage of the speakers that come to campus too! That won't be available again in life the way it is at a university...so take advantage while you can!

    You're right that all residencies are 1 year. I *think* there are 2 year residencies for learning LASIK in Oklahoma, but I might be wrong on that. I think that's the only state that allows optometrists to do that procedure and has an optometry school (Kentucky also allows optometrists to do laser correction surgery, but does not have an opt school). In any case, every other residency is 1 year regardless of the topic. There are several areas of residencies. Most of them pay you a small stipend and you don't pay tuition - so I think it might be like $30k that they pay you. It's not much, but it helps with living expenses.

    I am actually just about to start my first year of optometry school. My path was a little different than most people, because I graduated from college and worked for a couple years before I figured out that I wanted to pursue optometry. I also graduated with a degree in a humanities field, so I had to go back to school for 1.5 years to take all the science pre-req's. I applied to optometry schools in this last cycle and will be attending UC Berkeley School of Optometry starting this fall =D. So excited!

    I did a lot of research about the field though, so what you are doing now will help big time! Read information on here, but take everything with a grain of salt. You have to remember that opinions expressed here are only part of the picture and some people on here are overly pessimistic OR overly optimistic. Take in what they say, but also look at other resources! Shadow lots of optometrists and in different settings. I've usually set up my shadowing experiences by someone I know asking their optometrist if I could shadow. But if you call up lots of offices, you are bound to find one that will be happy to have you shadow. Some are not okay with shadowing, but don't take it personally. They are just trying to protect patient privacy. Others have relationships with certain patients that they know will be okay with having someone shadow. Do private practice, group, commercial, military, hospital setting, etc. Each of them will help you better understand the field and how you see yourself practicing someday. Even different private or commercial practices will be run in entirely different ways. And some docs will be better than others about letting you truly shadow them, rather than just sticking you with the front desk staff for the day (this is helpful learning too, and is definitely something you want to see in a couple different offices, but it is not very reflective of your day-to-day work as an optometrist either). If you can start working Saturdays in a local office, that will give you lots of experience. I work full-time in an office now and am starting a log of things they do that i want to incorporate in my practice, and also things that I would do completely differently.

    It's a really rewarding career, but there are a lot of challenges ahead for optometrists because the boundaries of what is within our scope of practice (or that of opticians and ophthalmologists) is constantly changing and affecting our patient base. So keep that in mind, but don't let that scare you away from it either.

    Best of luck!
  8. schoolstudent

    schoolstudent

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    I actually have been in contact with many of the eye institutes and hospitals around my area; I am planning to hopefully be able to shadow and work with the doctors, which I am very excited for!

    That sounds great, wow Berkeley! Berkeley would be my dream college to go to in the States, but I have heard it is very competitive to be accepted into. In high school so far, I have taken the highest courses I can take and manage a 4.0 GPA, not yet weighted with honors and AP courses. I will be taking the SAT soon this year, so hopefully those will turn out well. Congrats on getting into Berkeley, the number one optometry school in the US! That is a great achievement that I strive to achieve as well.
  9. Shnurek

    Shnurek

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    Excellent point. Health care in America is highly politicized. If you hate politics with a passion or can't handle the pressure then don't do it.
  10. Jason K

    Jason K

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    I suggest getting as much information from practicing doctors as you can. Specifically, ODs who have been out less than 8-10 years. Beyond that, older doctors have a totally different profession that you will never see yourself, although you see it now. Just understand that what you see now will not be what you get in 10 years when you have your OD. Do yourself an enormous favor and take what you hear from OD students and pre-optometry students with a grain of salt. They mean well, but as a group, they do not know much about the realities of the profession and generally feed off of each others' optimism. Talk to practicing doctors all you can. I can tell you that if I were in HS again, knowing what I know now, I would absolutely not choose optometry. I am not alone in that sentiment. There are many, many ODs who feel the same way. Just make sure you know what you're getting before you commit 10 years and 200K+ to your profession because once you sign up, it's yours to keep.
  11. optoapp2012

    optoapp2012

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    To the original poster - bear in mind that you will find varied opinions on this. There are OD's who are not satisfied with the field (finding oversaturation to be a problem, which is especially problematic in large cities, areas of the country where everyone wants to move so all the ODs move there, or in cities with optometry schools). There are also plenty that graduated recently, graduated a couple years ago, etc that are very satisfied with the field. It's important to talk to lots of OD's. That is another good reason that it is important to shadow in a lot of settings. Any place that does not want to let you shadow, it might be good to get the doc's email address...because them not wanting you to shadow could also be their dissatisfaction with the field, and that's an important opinion to get. Ask them why, what they would like to see different, etc. The docs that are most willing to have you shadow are likely the ones happiest with the profession. That's wonderful, but it's good to get the entire spectrum.

    Then remember to think and reflect on things yourself. I shadowed one doc in private practice who was more than willing to have me shadow, but was one of those OD's who is so-so on his happiness in the profession. He does lead a local optometric association though. In any case, from observing I could tell that he's very socially awkward, so I wonder to myself how that affects his patient base (would current patients refer their friends to him? Would patients return year after year?). I think that's likely a big piece of what affects his happiness and success in the profession, because the ODs that I work for are much younger grads (so presumably they should be struggling more for new patients), very sociable, and are running a much more successful practice with lots of new patients all the time and booking up weeks in advance. They're really talented at getting patients to refer their friends and co-workers, and I think that makes things easier and more profitable for them.

    Just some thoughts to keep in mind!
  12. Jason K

    Jason K

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    Again, you're making assumptions. You assume that the primary cause of "unhappy OD syndrome" is something internal in the optometrist in question. No one would argue that a socially awkward person would have trouble succeeding in any profession that deals with attracting the public. That goes without saying. If you can't make pleasant conversation with a stranger, you probably shouldn't be in any clinical field which demands attraction of patients. The problems inherent to optometry have nothing to do with individual practitioners. It has to do with the thousands of excess doctors, pop-up OD programs, undervalued OD services due to commercial expansion, and loss of the retail component of our revenue. These are things you can't understand fully as a pre-optometry or even OD student. You think you can, but you can't. I fell into the same trap; "Well, those guys who say optometry is a mistake now, well...they must just not have what it takes." My life boat analogy still holds. There's a few seats on it, but thousands upon thousands of passengers. You can only squeeze so many people onto a single life boat. The rest will go down with the ship. If you choose optometry, just know the odds are stacked squarely against you.
  13. optoapp2012

    optoapp2012

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    Schoolstudent - like I said...lots of opinions out there. Jason K represents one voice of practicing optometrists, not all of them. I've found many out there (including those that graduated the same time or later than Jason) that are still very positive about the field and don't have the drastic feeling that there are only a handful that will succeed. Talk to lots of people and get a broad spectrum of opinions before making your decision.
  14. schoolstudent

    schoolstudent

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    Thanks to all for your opinions and advice.

    See, this is exactly my biggest worry about going into optometry. There are so many different perspectives on the field, a lot of them, not good. I would not mind continuing to pursue optometry even with this risk, but with the massive costs and time of grad school, I do not, and cannot risk over $200,000 and 7-9 years of my life. I have also heard that it is getting harder to find jobs in optometry. All of these underlying factors does not make optometry look like a promising career. The thing I am most afraid of, is after 7-9 years of hard work and perserverance at school and $200,000 in debt, and not having a stable and steady job to pay off that debt. Which is why, I have started to look at optometry in different countries, such as the UK, but so far in my search, that has been a huge, confusing mess.

    Granted, I am only a high school junior and the outlook may change in the future. This is what I hope, because optometry truly intrigues me unlike any other profession. My back up, however, is pharmacy, which closely relates with optometry, so that shouldn't affect my undergraduate courses majorly.

    Thank you very much for your help; I greatly appreciate it.
  15. optoapp2012

    optoapp2012

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    Don't do optometry in another country! That's for sure. Optometry is a really unique career in the US, which is why schools offer few or no externship sites abroad. In most other countries, optometrists do refractions only and sell glasses. In China, for example, no one pays for refractions or contact lens exams. Not a dime. You make your money off of glasses and lenses sales, which are of course dirt cheap there. You are not considered a medical professional in most countries, and often don't need more than a bachelor's degree to practice the profession.

    There are several ways to reduce the cost of all those years of school. I'm doing a 4-year Navy scholarship so that the Navy pays for all my tuition, my books, my equipment, and a generous living stipend. I also got a good scholarship from the school, so I will actually have extra money to pay down loans I took out to pay for my pre-req classes. I plan on graduating with no debt and a guaranteed job. Military isn't for everyone though (and there are a very small number of those scholarships too). Some students at larger universities can TA (several currently do this at Berkeley, for example), which cuts tuition in half basically. That's a huge time commitment during school, but if you get experience doing that in undergrad, and then TA the same courses during Opt school, that is a good way to help finance your education. Also, live like a student. One of the opt schools that I interviewed at said to live like a student now so that you can live like a doctor later. If you live like a doctor now, you will live like a student later. So be conservative in what you take out in loans. Lastly, do well with your GPA and OAT and some schools give great scholarships. I got over $10k scholarship offers from 2 different schools, so that helps too.

    I agree with the general sentiment that not all the graduating students can be successful because there aren't enough jobs out there for it. BUT...every graduating (or recent grad) that I can think of that I've met has had one or more great job offers thrown at them. The reason those are the ones I'm meeting and not the ones who are struggling to find work is that those are the ones out in the optometry offices where I am shadowing or working. They are working in practices and making connections and networking. That way, the OD's know you and what it would be like to work alongside you. I completely understand a practice not wanting to hire a new grad they don't even know, let alone pay them the big bucks. I understand why they get just 1 or 2 days a week and really low pay. It's a huge risk to take someone into your practice without knowing them, because you might really hate working with them. But if you have worked in that office (or for an OD they know) during opt school or before, they are much more likely to hire you on for more time and more money. Now not every office you work for will have the need (most will not). But that means that you gracefully move on to working somewhere else and meet doctors at conferences. Talk to them about when you are graduating and your desire to line up employment. Word gets around about people who have demonstrated their abilities and are actively working hard to line up a job. Those are the people who will end up with multiple offers. The people who are just focused on opt school and finishing (a good goal still!) have not made those connections and therefore understandably don't have anything lined up after graduation. The time to start lining up that great job is now or 1st year of opt school at the latest. Not last semester of 4th year.

    Again, Jason K is right that there aren't enough of those spots for everyone graduating. But if you like the field and you want to be successful in it, then work hard to be one of those grads that gets multiple offers. It's not about being "lucky", you do have to work hard for it.
  16. schoolstudent

    schoolstudent

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    Thank you so much; you have no idea how much that little bit of information has helped me.

    Even though I have not completely thrown becoming an optometrist in a different country, I honestly do not think it will work out. I have heard that optometry in the US is the best it can be, compared to other countries.

    Right now, I am a junior in high school, and I have contacted many optometrists in my local. Hopefully, this summer, I will be able to work and shadow doctors in private practices and hospitals as well. I am very excited to see how that will turn out! And later on in my college career, I can continue to work closely with optometrists and hopefully be able to make some connections.

    I absolutely love the sentence you used "Live like a student, so you can live like a doctor later." If everything turns out right, all of my hard work and perseverance will pay off and I will be happy. :)

    Thanks so much for your help!
  17. optoapp2012

    optoapp2012

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    You're welcome! Best of luck with everything...enjoy the rest of high school...really make the most of your time in college and enjoy the experience!

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