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How I got into optometry school (as a low GPA/OAT student)

Discussion in 'Pre-Optometry' started by pieman396, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. pieman396

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    Alright guys, this forum was incredibly helpful to me when I was preparing for my applications and OAT and everything, I thought I could write a couple paragraphs about my experience to give back. The support I received here and the encouragement did more for me than any advisor...infact I'd definitely say this forum was my best advisor by far.

    Anyway, my journey began back in high school. I decided in 9th grade that I wanted to be an optometric physician. I felt privileged throughout high school because I was one of the few people that knew what they wanted to do. It's not that it's my EXTREME passion or anything. I am not obsessed with eye research, nor does the prospect of "is this better, or this, how about this" appeal to me a ton. I DO however love helping people, love the clinical environment, and....love the money haha. What really inspired me most was my own optometrist. As a high myopic patient (-12.00D each eye) with dry eyes, I spent a lot of time with my optometrist. He is an amazing guy, and really showed me how the career would suit me. So in high school, I started to spend time studying with him and shadowing him. I got good grades in high school, I believe I finished 15th in my class of 300, I was in the advanced classes and was very active in EC's, particularly band (drum major/jazz band) and other societies (national honor society VP and other things). I also taught gymnastics since I was 13. I wrote my application letter to the University of Pittsburgh about how I wanted to be an optometrist, and I got into their pre-allied health program.

    At Pitt, right away I realized a few things. I don't particularly love science classes, but I do still have the passion to be an optometric physician, so I had to stick it out. I took all the prerecs, but I wanted something to offset all the sciences classes I had taken. After taking an introductory sociology course, I made that my major and never regretted it. I loved the classes, and I was able to correlate projects in sociology to my science classes (I published a paper on the overmedicalization of childhood). The problem was that I wasn't particularly good at science classes. I actually got C's in almost all of them. My overall GPA was a 3.01, not very good for optometry school. I panicked and stressed a lot, staying in the library all night trying to cram for tests to boost my GPA. Also, in freshman year, I got a job on the retail floor at a Lenscrafters that was 40 min from my school. I worked there on weekends and 40 hours per week in the summers for all 4 years. THAT was the key to my success I think, and what kept me motivated to continue to stay on the career path. I loved the patients, and environment, everything about it (except helping people pick out glasses....that could be a nightmare haha). More on that later.

    The summer before my senior year, I planned to study for the OAT every day because my GPA was so low. I knew i had to do well on it. I also took Biochem that summer. Bad plan. I spent all my time studying for biochem, and none for the OAT. Come August, when everyone else was already applying, i was still putting off taking the OAT. I scheduled it in September. Canceled and rescheduled in October. Thats when I finally took it. I didn't even do particularly well, got a 300AA, 300 TS, bio 280, o chem 320, stuff like that. Not good, though all I used to study was a Kaplan OAT practice book I got on amazon. SO i was discouraged even more. The time came to apply, and I applied to the 5 closest schools to me. I didn't want to travel far, I have a girlfriend in Pittsburgh and my whole family is there. I applied to PCO, OSU, NECO, SUNY, and ICO.

    I applied in November, but various problems with my application prevented it form being submitted until JANUARY (since they are closed for most of December it seems). Everyone on this site said not to give up, even though they were all already accepted. Every day I stressed about it. It hurt my relationship even. I knew it was what I wanted, I knew I'd be good at it, but I knew my grades were pretty low and everyone told me I was going to have to reapply. February came and I still didn't hear form anyone, so I applied to 3 more schools. Nova, Midwestern, and SCO. Around that time the rejection letters started coming. I began to plan my life around the fact that I was going to have to reapply, retake the OAT, and work full time for the year. I began to make preparations to move to Philly with my GF, hopefully making ties with people at Salus and transferring to a Lenscrafters there. To say I was disappointed was an understatement.

    Then, in mid March, I got an email from Nova Southeastern University saying they were interested in interviewing me. I never bought a plane ticket so fast! I went down April 1st for my interview by myself. When I got there, everyone was saying that it was extremely late in the cycle, that we applied too late, that the class was full/almost full. I didn't care. I was given a chance to shine, and I wasn't going to take it for granted. In my interview, I was asked why optometry? I told them my story, told them everything that motivated me. Told them about my love for kids and their pediatric program, that is still in its infancy. That was nice, because one of my interviewers happened to be the director of it. Told them about my years at Lenscrafters, mentioned my knowledge of the changing technology (corneal topographers and stuff) and how that is my major concern for the profession in the next 10 years. Also, one of them was from Pittsburgh, so we got to chat about that. Mainly, I went in with the attitude of, "This is my only chance. Be yourself, because that's all they will need to see to let you in."

    Two weeks later, I got my acceptance letter. Every other school saw my lower GPA and rejected me. NSU gave me the chance I needed, probably just to fill slots that late in the application cycle. Whatever reason they did, I'm glad they did. Im in my third week of optometry school now, and it's everything I ever hoped it would be. I go to the beach on weekends, study by the most beautiful pool in the world at the graduate housing, and have met some people I'm sure will be lifelong friends. The staff and administration are amazing, and this week we have our white coat ceremony. I also spent $3000 on diagnostic equipment and things like that sadly!

    This isn't supposed to be a brag-fest. This was just meant to share my story, share my GPA, my ECs, my experience, so that others like me can feel a sigh of relief, and hope. I know I needed it at this time last year. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have, and if anyone wants to come down and tour the place,message me and I can show you around and give you the REAL tour! I only have good things to say about the school. But I also can help you with the applications, prereqs, and tell you what other people here have as well. Good luck to everyone, and I hope to see you here next year!

    Edit: Wow this is long. Hope it was worth your read!
     
    #1 pieman396, Aug 21, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012
  2. hoops123

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    I must say this really gave me hope! im probably in a very similar situation right now! thanks for sharing.
     
  3. q1we3

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    Thanks for sharing, this made me smile
     
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  4. Judgment Dragon

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    I'm not sure if my post means anything in relation to this, but my friend got accepted to IAUPR with a 2.53 GPA and 300 OAT score. I don't know much about the optometry profession, so I don't know if IAUPR is a viable alternative for someone who did not get accepted into a top school.
     
  5. funkadelic1

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    Thanks man, not applying to Nova but I am def. going through the same thing. Glad to hear your story
     
  6. HPDV6000

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    Great story and very motivational, this just goes to show, never give up! Everyone will have their moment to shine, if you put in the effort that is. :)
     
  7. 319671

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    i feel that is on the lower end of gpa, but I am much lower than that :(
     
  8. Judgment Dragon

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    I guess you can apply to IAUPR as your safety school? :confused:
     
  9. 319671

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    i have. i still have academic update hopefully. I dont want to jinx myself anywhere
     
  10. Judgment Dragon

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    What does "academic update" mean? Is it when you update your new courses and grades as they come in?
     
  11. 319671

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    so when you apply you can put in your fall courses (if you want-ie, low gpa or if ur borderlined), so I did. then again when AU opens, in dec-jan, you can put those grades in, so that ur GPA will be recalc'd
     
  12. epalacios

    epalacios SCO Class of 2016
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    Very inspirational, thanks for sharing! I got a little choked up, actually. I want to get in soooo bad, and I'm prepping for my OAT right now (taking it October 1). My school of choice is SCO.
     
  13. UFGatorgirl

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    Great story! Enjoyed reading it. NOVA is my number one choice and my GPA is slightly below yours right now =/ I still have two years left at college.
     
  14. Nr1789

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    Thanks so much for this...this has given me a little more hope as well! Ive been worried sick all summer studying for my oats and filling out the application and feeling so doubtful because of my low gpa but a lot of what you've gone through is almost identical to myself.
     
  15. glazki

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    This gives me hope, I have a similar story and am praying that schools look past low gpa and see an individual not a number
     
  16. PreOpt317

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    Wow, this post was really inspiring and was absolutely worth reading it. This really just gave me hope! I'm currently working on my undergrads and have another 2 1/2 years left till I finally start applying. Thank you for sharing!
     
  17. KHE

    KHE Senior Member
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    Why is that post "inspiring?"

    You have a person who admits that they don't like science, isn't good at it, has a mediocre (at best) GPA and performance on the OAT and yet they've managed to gain admission to a program in which they will be responsible for caring for the visual welfare of the population in 4 years.

    Am I the only one on here who doesn't think that this is a good situation?
     
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  18. PinkCupcake

    PinkCupcake All Hail the Queen
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    No, I am in full agreeance with you, KHE. Stories like this make me cringe.
     
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  19. east

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    Ah, i remember the good ole' days when you needed a 3.5 and a 340 minimum just to get into AN optometry school. good times. now u just have to fog a mirror and you're in! congrats. yet another nail in the optometric coffin.
     
  20. Jason K

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    Actually, I recently heard a rumor that plans for a private, for-profit, "pulse and respiration rate optional" school were being drafted up for placement 10 miles from MCPHS. Why should the dead be denied access to optometry?
     
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  21. browneyedgirl27

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    This actually is inspirational. Just because he had a low GPA/OAT does not mean he is not passionate. Having a personality and average scores are actually the optometrists that amount to something. My uncle is a wonderful optometrist and started out just like this. He was awarded Optometrist of the Year at one point in his career. Patients do not want a doctor who cannot communicate and are strictly about the science of it all but that is just my own experience/opinion.
     
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  22. Jason K

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    By whom, his office staff?

    You're right, but they also don't want a doctor who barely passed his/her classes, and only gained entrance into grad school because there was no one else to take. Look at the big picture here. OD programs are taking more and more from the bottom of the pile because the that's all that's left to fill the seats. The quality of applicants is declining and will continue to do so as the profession becomes less and less attractive. It's frightening to picture what the profession will be made of in a decade or two, as the new programs continue to pump out substandard product.
     
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  23. KHE

    KHE Senior Member
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    So are you suggesting that the main benchmark for entry into any competitive field, whether it's optometry, medicine, or the Bolshoi Ballet Company should be one's "passion?"

    Regarding being the "optometrist of the year".....that's one of those things that is given to....

    1) The person who subscribes to a certain magazine and sends in the $39.99 for the framed plaque

    2) The OD who is most involved in their state association and it's voted on by other members of the state association.

    3) The OD who has been a member of their state assocation the longest and hasn't gotten the award yet.

    It has little if anything to do with someone's clinical abilities.
     
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  24. optometrygirl29

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    If I may weigh in here for a minute.......I truly feel that both passion and clinical abilities are important. From a patients perspective, matter what doctor I have to go to, I want that person to be both knowledgable AND passionate about what they do.... As someone with an autoimmune disease I have had bouts of having to go to many doctors and specialists and all I can say is that I truly appreciated the doc who really cared for what I was going thru and seemed truly interested in helping me. I have indeed changed doctors bc I felt that while the doc was extremely knowledgable couldn't have cared less for what he was doing.......I feel that people often forget why they became a DOCTOR to begin, which was to help people. If you are not passionate about helping your patients then you should NOT BE a doctor period. Clearly, clinical abilities are going to super important no one is arguing that knowledge and ability aren't important, but so does passion.they go hand in hand....
     
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  25. KHE

    KHE Senior Member
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    But they don't go hand in hand in many cases. Your own experience bears that out. The OP of this thread clearly bears that out.

    And I'm left to ask...why can't we have both? If optometry is supposed to be one of the "top 5" careers or whatever those ridiculous articles that keep cropping up claim it to be, then why aren't schools able to generate such large applicant pools that they can admit people with BOTH high scores and "passion."
     
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  26. Tonometry

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    Its been almost 2 years since the OP posted this thread... One of two things probably happened:

    He couldn't handle the optometry school's course load now due to his academic issues in undergrad and have found a passion for another career.

    Or

    Hes studying too hard to post on here again, as he still has the passion for optometry and is putting in all of his effort to become an optometrist...

    I think we should judge him on his optometry academics rather than his undergrad, if hes able to study and pass all the exams like all of you current optometrists have, then his story is inspirational.
     
  27. optometrygirl29

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    KHE you are correct they do not always go hand in hand i cant argue that. My assumption after almost 9 yrs in the field is that optometry in and of itself is not what it used to be in many aspects and that may draw people away from the field. optometry school, while teaching students to be good doctors, is a business and they are going to make their money.
     
  28. Winggirl2

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    Hi, I wanted to know if you got into Puerto Rico with a bachelors or without? My science gpa without my math is 3.1 and with them is 3.4-3.5. I'm stressing over getting into IAUPR. Do I still have a chance?
     
  29. 014g8

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    Hi! I just want to say, that after reading this I have decided to pursue my dream of becoming an optometrist.
    I have always wanted to become an optometrist. It has been my dream since I was as a child. In high school, my marks were average, but they were definitely not above average. I am currently in university and now my grades are much lower. I was so distraught that I told people I didn't want to be an optometrist anymore. My thought was that you NEED high marks to get into any optometry school. After reading your story, I now know that it is possible to be able to get in. You have given me hope! I believe that I can get into an optometry school and pursue my dream! I just need to keep working hard and never give up.
     
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  30. CLEONG

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    Hey all! Last year I went through the entire application process and will now be joining the optometry class of 2021! I created a YouTube channel because I wanted to share my experience on the application process from beginning to end. Like the original poster, I didn't have the best marks during Undergrad, however I retook many prereqs-increasing those courses to As. I truly hope you guys find the channel helpful and if you have any questions and would like to know more, don’t hesitate to ask through the comments on YouTube! And to those who are aspiring optometry school students, try your best and show your active interest in the field. It only takes one interviewer to believe in you.
     
  31. Kat3H49

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  32. miss2016

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    Hi! I know your post was submitted a long time ago, but I am in a similar boat! I have struggled in all my science classes, and mostly because I did not study properly. To make up for my undergrad, I am doing a masters program in bio medical sciences to show optometry schools I can handle rigorous course work. I wanted to ask how were your grades for your pre reqs in undergrad? Nova is my top choice so I want to make sure I do everything I can to make myself a good candidate. I would really appreciate your help!
     
  33. Weirdy

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    Focus on your masters.

    Not much you can do with your undergrad GPA right now.

    If you're sub 3.0-- you need to kill your masters and do average on the OAT at least.
     
  34. Rue96

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    It could be if you're a native Spanish speaker. You learn and take the exams in Spanish so I'd assume the program would be much harder for non-Spanish people.
     
  35. Skye-Chan

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    I just made an account so that I could thank you for this small glimmer of hope for a chance at optometry school..

    I had a death in the family and unfortunately failed two classes (including BIO 1) last year and as a result, my GPA dropped from a 3.1 to a 2.75. I'm currently retaking Bio 1 this semester in hopes that it will completely erase the F from last year. I also failed an accelerated math course (algebra,trig, and functions). I don't think I can handle taking that again, since both courses combined at once proved to be too difficult. But I'm hoping that taking the courses separately will be ok..They both would lead up to calculus.

    Some background about me:

    I'm weaker in math, stronger in sciences (concepts), and have written many A papers and reports as a psychology major. I was a member and vice president of an honor's society, and presented independent research at two conferences on the east coast, and was first author for one of the research projects. I'm also great with people, I've been in the service industry for over 2 years, and I'm very strong in writing. I'm currently trying to get a job as a technician and shadow while I try to improve my GPA before it's too late and take the rest of my pre-requisites after I graduate. This is my last semester.. I feel like all of the odds are against me, but I still I hope that it's enough in the end.

    Why haven't I done this earlier? I've only figured out that I wanted to pursue Optometry a couple months ago, and have just started to figure out some ideas of how to approach this. I'm about to graduate as a Psychology major, I'm 23, and will be taking pre-requisites for at the very least a year and a half before I can even think of taking the OAT's and applying to programs.
     
  36. Weirdy

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    Passing one math and one bio exam at a time is one thing...passing neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, anatomy, optics, physio and molecular biology all in 1 semester is another.

    Set yourself up to do well in school. Your papers and honor societies do not matter.

    It is not about passing to get in. It is about building to stay in after you get in.
     
  37. Skye-Chan

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    Hey Weirdy,

    Thanks for replying. Not sure if I mentioned that I was also working and am still working 20-30 hours a week (about to quit my job to focus on my studies), and I'm also currently taking two other classes that I'm doing well in. I believe that if I put all of my time and focus into my studies that I can succeed. My problem is not so much the material being difficult, but having minimal time to really work with it, which is why I'm quitting my job, and also worrying about my already existing student loans.

    I'm aware that I have to know most of the material that I learn during my pre-reqs in order to survive during optometry school. I mentioned the other exrtra things I've done because I thought that optometry schools looked for people who do more than just study.

    Do you have any study strategies that you reccommend to prevent cramming? And do you think it would be ok for me to graduate and take my pre-reqs at a community college? The bio program at my university is terrible.
     
  38. Weirdy

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    I see. That makes a lot more sense now.

    Most of the things you will face will not be difficult, just the sheer amount of material in a short amount of time. Unless you are particularly bad with concepts such as optics or brute memorizing MRI cross sections.

    A few things that helped me:
    1. Quality over quantity. Do not spend 10 hours in a library, if you can get the same amount of retention in blocks of 3 hours and have time to workout, make dinner, spend it with your SO.

    2. Discipline. I simply was not putting in the hours efficiently like my classmates were. Going back to the library after classes ended for another 2-3 hours then coming home brought my grades up.

    3. Study in a non-stressed atmosphere. If group studying is too distracting, stop going. If you study better at home, do that. If you need to be in a public space such as a Starbucks on really slow days when nothing else is working, go there. You will not retain anything if you are constantly thinking about failure.

    4. Get adequate sleep. This may vary as some classmates pull 4 hour naps before an exam and still do well. I cannot retain or function properly without 8+ hours. This will change during clerkships, but for the purposes of passing multiple choice exams- high quality sleep = better retention.

    5. Get a little bit done everyday. There are some days when you are so burned out from 3 exams in a row + hospital rotations, you do not even want to open a book. After you have given yourself some time to get it together, try looking at material for 30-45 minutes. Every bit helps.

    Am in podiatry, but the same applies.
     
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