I visited SCCO (South California College of Optometry) a couple of weeks back and their class seems to be most diversified. From the 15 schools I visit a year, they have the largest class. Perhaps this is an indication of a highly collaborative study environment if that's your thing. The students were all super friendly.
Ok, now that I'm not on an iPhone, I'll write a proper post of what I know about AZCOPT. I interviewed there on Wednesday and got in the next day. From what I can tell about their program, having been built in today's age with today's technology in mind, it is a very forward thinking program. Their students are starting with refractions their very first quarter and possibly in the new clinic as early as 2nd yr (though not refracting, but in a less direct sense). They plan on preparing their students very well in terms of the technology used today (all the different brands of slit lamps/phoropters/etc) and for them to have as much experience as possible.
The area that AZCOPT is located in, Glendale, Az, is freaking BEAUTIFUL. AWESOME apartments right across the street from the school and some further down the street that are dirt cheap, cost of living is definitely pretty low here, the landscaping of the city in general is well taken care of, and the area is very affluent looking. Reminded me a lot of home which was kind of nice.
After seeing the area and hearing what the school had to say for itself, I was seriously almost sold. Then I got my UMSL admission while I was sitting in AZCOPT's admissions office. The only thing that stopped me from being fully on board with them was just the incompleteness of their program. Understandably, they don't have their 4th year externships figured out and of course they haven't established any board pass rates. Because their clinic is not yet completed (scheduled finish is summer 2010), we don't know how much traffic it's going to see. It has 50 exam rooms, which means EVERY 3rd year can be seeing a patient at one time provided that there are 50 patients. So that's awesome too. But ya, don't know how popular it's going to be, what if it only sees 10 patients a day for the first 3 years? I don't doubt that they will attain their accreditation status, but I worry that my later 2 yrs will be a bust if the clinic isn't well populated and externships suck. It all comes down to them being too new. If I was applying say 10 years from now, I would go there in a HEARTBEAT. I loved the area and the school is DEFINITELY going in the right direction.
Didn't check Western out, so someone will have to fill that one in.
Well, since they're both pending on accreditation it's kind of hard to say. I'd live in Cali in a hearbeat but keep in mind the cost of living is higher. Midwestern's facilities look pretty up to date but it's in the desert. So you have to weigh it out for yourself.. see if you want to sacrifice weather for lower living costs, etc.
Well, being that they're both currently "pre-accredited", I feel the point is moot. I approached my interviewer about this subject and he said something to the effect of the following:
"Well, I can't say that we WILL gain accreditation, I just can't tell the future like that. But, what I can tell you is the trends and the facts. MidWestern, in it's 100+ years, has NEVER had a program fall through on accreditation. And of the 17 currently accredited schools, none of them has ever fallen through on accreditation either. So we have both the experiences of MWU and the other 17 schools to work off of here. I'm confident that we will be accredited by our first graduating class"
So I mean...Yeah they're pre-accredited, but I don't doubt that they'll get there in a few years. I think what the OP is asking is between the two schools...which is better. Not so much about its accreditation status.