Optomcas application and the effects of COVID on shadowing

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Dec 14, 2020
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I am currently a junior double majoring in Biology and Psychology-Neuroscience track. I recently made the to decision to apply for optometry school instead of medical school after a brief hour of shadowing with my personal optometrist during my family's appointment. I never showed excitement towards any specialties beyond medical school and this was the first time I've felt excited for a profession. That being said, I am currently studying for the OATs, which I plan to take around March/April and maybe again around June/July if my first scores don't come out too well. My biggest concern right now is about the lack of shadowing experiences I have with different ODs because many of them are not allowing students for safety reasons. For anyone who's application has been affected by COVID or applied during COVID, what did the different schools change about their expectations for applicants (in regards to experience) and how did you go about explaining your situations during the interviews?

I have been reaching out to current optometry students from the schools that I plan on applying to and reaching out to optometrists/ophthalmologists around my town for informational interviews to understand more about their process, advices, the career in general, and campus life. I'm also active on Pre-Health Shadowing, which is an non-profit organization that offers virtual shadowing with doctors for all different fields. Once the holidays are over, I plan on shadowing my own optometrist (1-2x every week) for a couple of months just so I can have some sort of hands-on experience. Do you think these will be enough for my application considering the circumstances? I'm free to listen to various opinions and advices. Please share.

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Hello! Congratulations on switching to optometry. I may be biased, but I think you have made a great choice! It is truly an exciting profession and it's very easy to fall in love with (in my opinion). Good luck with your OAT studies, you've got this! In regard to shadowing, optometry schools are very aware that COVID-19 has impacted shadowing opportunities. I have attended many webinars (before I went through the application cycle) with schools and had asked about that issue. Luckily, I got a lot of shadowing in in 2019, but of course, I wanted to get more in 2020. Obviously, this wasn't really an option. Like I said, schools are SO understanding about how the pandemic has affected the application process, especially shadowing. The ones I have talked to said it may be a good idea to at least try to set up some sort of video chat with an optometrist, so that you could potentially get a lot of questions answered and still learn a lot about the profession. I know it is not the same as being in an actual office and shadowing, but it is better than nothing. I would also suggest reaching out to schools you are interested in about this issue! Schools love to hear from prospective students, and they also love to help answer questions in any way they possibly can. My application was affected by COVID in many ways, and I am so fortunate how adaptive optometry schools' admissions boards have been through it all!

It sounds like you are doing everything you can be doing right now, especially during a global pandemic. You are certainly not alone when it comes to this issue, and I really believe that everyone entering in your application cycle will unfortunately be going through the same problem. Like I said, schools really do understand this issue and are willing to help you through it. It is a tough time for everyone right now, especially optometry and pre-optometry students! Overall, I would say a) reach out to schools you are interested in and ask about this specific problem and b) try to set up video calls with optometrists! I really think they would be more than happy to help.