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Strengthening Your Application

The following major areas can impact the competitiveness of your application:

Take a careful look at your academic background and identify your strengths and weaknesses by comparing your OAT score and GPA to those of the last entering class.

The admissions committee recognizes the “numbers side” of your application is not the only indicator of your potential for success in the program, but your GPA and OAT scores do play an important role in qualifying you for an on-campus interview and gaining admission. Improving your numbers will strengthen your overall application, increase your chances for interview selection and help to make you a competitive applicant.

OAT Scores

Prepare for the exam well in advance. Successful candidates report that study guides, flash cards, review courses and practice exams are helpful.

We do not endorse any commercially available study aids, but past applicants have found the following resources to be effective: 

Most students also use their pre-optometry science textbooks and class notes to study for the test, and many have also found MCAT preparation materials very helpful.

It’s a good idea to time your practice tests, which will help you identify and master standardized test-taking strategies and time management. Some students use their first time taking the OAT as a “trial-run” just to see what the test is like. This is not a practice we encourage. We recommend you use self-administered practice tests as your trial-runs, and recreate the testing environment with the same time limits as the actual test. This will help to ensure that you are well-prepared, know how to pace yourself, and feel confident when you take the official test.

Arrive at the testing site early with the mindset that you are prepared to do your very best.

Please keep in mind that the admissions committee is not able to take illness into consideration as an excuse for poor performance on the test, in the event you are not feeling well the day of the test.


Upon fulfillment of the minimum course requirements, completion of additional upper-division courses in human-based biological sciences is highly recommended. Courses may be taken either at the undergraduate or graduate level at a competitive four-year college or university, preferably on a full-time basis (four to six courses taken concurrently).

Professional Knowledge 

  1. Shadow, observe, intern, volunteer or work with a practicing optometrist. ICO encourages all prospective students to contact and spend time with an OD practicing in their area. ICO does not require applicants to log a specific number of shadowing or observation hours. The primary goal is to ensure that you are confident in your career choice and to assure the admissions committee that you are making an informed decision.
  2. Contact optometrists in your area to discuss current issues in the profession.
  3. Read websites, journals and publications pertinent to optometry and healthcare in general.
  4. Participate in extracurricular activities that afford you the opportunity to interact with people. Leadership experiences can be especially helpful.

Bachelor’s Degree

Although a baccalaureate degree is highly recommended for application to ICO, it is not a requirement. Candidates admitted to ICO without a degree must be extremely well-prepared. Refer to the entering class profile for the percentage of students admitted without a degree.

If you will earn at least 90 semester credit hours (or 135 quarter hours), including course requirements, before August your desired year of entry, you may still apply. These credit hours are usually obtained after your third year. The decision to apply to ICO before earning your bachelor’s degree could allow you to begin the Doctor of Optometry program a year earlier, and join the profession of optometry a year sooner.

Students accepted to ICO without a degree are eligible to receive a Bachelor of Science in Visual Science (BSVS) from ICO in addition to the OD degree.

Most entering students will have completed at least four years of college-level coursework. In addition to completing the course requirements, they will have completed additional upper-level biology courses. The criteria for evaluating applications with or without a bachelor’s degree are the same.