FAQs About ICO


General Information

What degrees are awarded by ICO?
How much is tuition and room and board?
What is the student to faculty ratio?
What kinds of research opportunities are available to ICO students?
How does ICO prepare students for the National Boards Exams?
What percentage of students pursue a residency program after graduation?
What is the Bachelor of Science in Visual Science degree?
Does ICO have any dual degree programs with any undergraduate institutions?
Is ICO accredited?
Are optometry programs ranked?
What are the functional standards for optometric education?

Application Process

Do I need to be a science major in order to apply to ICO?
Do I need a degree in order to apply?
Is there a minimum OAT score?
How long are my OAT scores valid?
What should I do if I am uncertain whether a course counts towards a prerequisite?
Do all my prerequisites need to be completed in order for the admissions committee to make a decision on my application?
If I took prerequisite seven years ago, can I still use it to fulfill an ICO prerequisite?
Is it acceptable if I take all of my prerequisites at a community college?
Can you recommend a good university or college to transfer to when I finish my program at the community college level?
What is ICO looking for in a candidate?
When will the applications for the next year be available?
How long after I apply will it take to hear a response back from the Office of Admissions?
How long should I shadow in optometrist?
Are TA letters of evaluations acceptable?
How can I update ICO with my fall grades?
How do I update ICO with a change in my OAT test date and/or new scores?
What do I do if I find an error on my application?

Admissions & Interview Day

What should I do if I have a change of mailing address or email address, and have already submitted my application?
Does ICO conduct off-campus admission interviews or phone interviews?
What is the interview day like?
Do you have any interview preparation advice?

Accepted Students

What is the retention rate at ICO?
What is the externship process at ICO?
What is the pass rate for ICO students on the National Boards?
Does ICO “weed-out” students?
How safe is the area surrounding the school?
Are first year students required to live in the Residential Complex on campus?
As an entering first year student, when can I expect to receive my financial aid documents? And is there an application deadline for the following year?
When can I expect to receive housing information?
How do I notify the school of my religious observances?

 

General Information

What degrees are awarded by ICO?
ICO awards the degree of Doctor of Optometry (OD) and Bachelor of Science in Visual Science (BSVS).

How much is tuition and room and board?
View the cost of attendance and on-campus housing. Students are not required to live on campus. The board plan includes 132 meals per quarter. All rooms include the following services at no additional charge: high-speed wireless internet service, cable television and all utilities (heat, air conditioning, water, sewer). 

What is the student to faculty ratio?
The student to faculty ratio for lectures is 157:1, clinic 5:1, Labs 25-35:2 (plus TAs), academic 7:1 (including part-time faculty), academic 11:1 (full-time faculty only).

What kinds of research opportunities are available to ICO students?
All students are required to do a research project in their third year of the curriculum. In the summer of a student’s third year, they are enrolled in a course called Evidence-Based Health Care, during which students will have the opportunity to do their own research project. There are also opportunities to work with faculty on their research projects.

How does ICO prepare students for the National Boards Exams?
The National Board of Examiners for Optometry is an organization tasked with the development and administration of standardized tests designed primarily to assess entry-level competency for different stages of a student’s optometric training. We offer students study sessions led by our faculty.

What percentage of students pursue a residency program after graduation?
Historically, 25-30 percent of each class will pursue a residency program following graduation.  

What is the Bachelor of Science in Visual Science (BSVS) degree?
The BSVS degree may be awarded upon successful completion of the second professional year of study at ICO if a student’s pre-professional requirements includes one year (six semester hours) of the following (excluding courses used for admissions prerequisites): humanities, social studies, and biological sciences. All courses must be college level with a grade of C or better. The courses used for admission cannot be used for the degree. Only students entering ICO without an undergraduate degree are eligible.

Does ICO have any dual degree programs with any undergraduate institution?
ICO has two articulation agreements (3+4 programs) with schools in the state: one with our neighbor, the Illinois Institute of Technology; one with Augustana College; and one with Knox College. These programs are in place to assist students who know they want to go into optometry upon entering undergrad. Students must complete three years of rigorous coursework at these schools, as well as meet additional performance criteria, before starting at ICO.

Prospective students are encouraged to speak with IIT, Augustana or Knox about these programs. Applicants are required to complete the regular admissions process at ICO. In the event you do not qualify for the 3+4 Program, you may certainly still apply for general admission to ICO after either three or four years of undergraduate credits.

Is ICO accredited?
ICO holds professional accreditation from the American Optometric Association’s Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, which is a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. ICO is also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, from which ICO received the strongest possible endorsement from an accrediting body. The degree program curriculum is also approved by Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Are optometry programs ranked?
The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry does not rank or endorse any ranking of the accredited schools and colleges of optometry in the 50 States, Puerto Rico and Canada. In addition, ASCO does not provide information and data to any entity claiming to rank the schools and colleges of optometry or participate in any other way with such entities.

Applicants to optometry programs are urged to make their own determinations regarding the suitability of a school or college including visiting the schools and colleges’ official websites and gathering information regarding applicant profiles, class size, prerequisite courses, NBEO pass rates, faculty-student ratios, pre-clinical and clinical training and other information. Accurate data, provided by the schools and colleges, can be found in two places on the ASCO website under Data and Surveys and Applicants and Advisors.

What are the functional standards for optometric education?
These standards were established by ASCO as a way to provide guidance to those considering optometry as a profession. Specifically, these require that students possess appropriate abilities in the following areas: observation; communication; sensory and motor coordination; intellectual-conceptual, integrative, and quantitative abilities; and behavioral and social attributes. The ability to meet these standards is necessary for admission.

Application Process

Do I need to be a science major in order to apply to ICO?
ICO welcomes applicants of all majors. It is important for students to choose an undergraduate major they enjoy and find challenging. For students who are majoring in a non-science, be sure to carefully plan your courseloads, leaving enough room to complete ICO’s prerequisites and additional upper-level human-based science courses. 

Do I need a degree in order to apply?
ICO encourages applicants to have a bachelor’s degree prior to enrollment. However, exceptional non-degree students may apply as long as they have completed a minimum of 90 semester hours or 135 quarter hours prior to enrolling.

Is there a minimum OAT score?
There is no minimum OAT score for admission. Please refer to the most recent entering class profile for the current first year class’ mean OAT score.

How long are my OAT scores valid?
Test scores two years older than the August 1 application start date will not be considered.

What should I do if I am uncertain whether a course counts towards a prerequisite?
Please e-mail a brief course description along with the course title and credit hours to admissions@ico.edu. The admissions staff will review it and let you know whether it will be acceptable.

Do all my prerequisites need to be completed in order for the admissions committee to make a decision on my application?
No, prerequisites can be pending when the admissions committee evaluates your application. However, an official transcript showing successful completion of all prerequisites needs to be received by our office by August 1 prior to the start of classes, or a student’s acceptance will be jeopardized.

If I took prerequisite seven years ago, can I still use it to fulfill an ICO prerequisite?
Yes, however, the admissions committee highly recommends that applicants who have been out of school for an extended period of time take upper level human-based biological science courses.

Is it acceptable if I take all of my prerequisites at a community college?
ICO’s admissions committee highly encourages students to take their prerequisite courses at a four-year institution. It is acceptable if a few of the prerequisites are taken at a community college; however, if all of the prerequisites are taken at a community college, the admissions committee expects students to continue with their studies at a four-year school, and take upper level human-based biological science courses.

Can you recommend a good university or college to transfer to when I finish my program at the community college level?
Any accredited four -year college or university is acceptable. Choosing an undergraduate institution is an individual choice and should be made with careful consideration.

What is ICO looking for in a candidate?
The admissions committee will evaluate your application from all aspects. Your overall GPA will be considered, as well as your science/math GPA. Please note that the admissions committee will also examine any patterns in your grades. Also considered in the process is your OAT score. There is not a particular weight assigned to GPA and OAT scores in the admissions process; both are considered and the committee attempts to understand how they relate to each other and what they indicate in terms of the candidate’s potential for success at ICO. In addition to the “numbers-side” of your application, the committee is also looking for applicants who have researched the field, are highly motivated, and confident that optometry is the career they want to pursue.

When will the applications for the next year be available?
Applications are available via OptomCAS around July 1 of the preceding year for which you are applying. We encourage you to apply early in the cycle.

How long after I apply will it take to hear a response back from the admissions office?
It takes approximately four to six weeks from the date that we receive your OptomCAS application and ICO’s supplemental application (only those deemed competitive by the admissions committee will be invited to fill out the supplemental application). After the initial review of your file has been completed, the admissions committee may request that you schedule an interview and/or submit additional information.

How long should I shadow in optometrist?
There is no set amount of time required of you in regard to shadowing or observing an optometrist. Similarly, we are not expecting you to log your hours or know all of the technical names of equipment or jargon. Rather, the admissions committee wants to be satisfied that you understand the day-to-day routine and expectations of an optometrists. They’d like to feel that you know what you’re pursuing and that you are confident that you will enjoy the profession after finishing four years of school.

Are TA letters of evaluations acceptable?
No, we only accept academic letters of evaluation from a pre-health advisor or a professor that taught and graded you (preferably a science professor). We also accept academic committee letters. We do not accept letters from research supervisors.

How can I update ICO with my fall grades?
OptomCAS will allow you to update your grades between December and February. Should we need to see it before or after this date, the Admissions Office will let you know what steps you should take.

How do I update ICO with a change in my OAT test date and/or new scores?

If you change your future OAT test date after submitting your OptomCAS application, please email admissions@ico.edu with the new date. Remember, it takes approximately 2-3 weeks after your OAT test date for us to receive your official scores. While we wait for those, you may email us your Unofficial Score Report.

What do I do if I find an error on my application?

Should you find an error on your application, you may notify us of the error and the correction by emailing admissions@ico.edu.

Admissions & Interview Day

What should I do if I have a change of mailing address or email address, and have already submitted my application?
It is very important that you keep the admissions office up-to-date on any address or email change. Please email any changes to admissions@ico.edu. The admissions committee will send the majority of communication via email. We strongly suggest that you add our address to your email contacts to ensure all messages are delivered to your inbox and not filtered to a spam or bulk mail folder.

Does ICO conduct off-campus admission interviews or phone interviews?
No.

What is the interview day like?
Interview day is an exploratory opportunity to visit the campus and meet current students, faculty, and staff, as well as participate in an interview to gain more information about ICO. The day usually starts at 9:15 a.m. and will last until approximately 2:30 p.m. It consists of a file review, a financial aid overview, an interview with a faculty or a member of the admissions committee, and ends with lunch and a tour of our campus.

Do you have any interview preparation advice?
During the interview we are trying to assess your interest in the profession, understanding of the profession and current issues, ability to communicate, and your motivation and sincerity to enter the profession of optometry. Applicants should come prepared to answer questions about their background and education, why they are applying to ICO, and what sets them apart from other candidates. To better prepare for the interview day, applicants are encouraged to stay up-to-date on industry news by reading optometry and health-related journals, websites, and current news articles. Though a minimum number of shadow hours is not required, before their interview, applicants should have shadowed an optometrist and have a general understanding of the profession. But the best thing you can do to prepare for your interview is to be yourself. Think of the day as your opportunity to learn more about ICO and come prepared with any questions you might have.

Accepted Students

What is the retention rate at ICO?
Total student retention during the 2012-2013 academic year was 98.3 percent. ICO’s faculty and administration are dedicated to providing both a challenging and supportive environment for all students. Any student who leaves the program prior to their scheduled graduation date for any reason is included in reported attrition data; this may include maternity leaves, family or health emergencies, and academic difficulties.

What is the externship process at ICO?
Externships are a large part of the fourth year clinical education at ICO. There are externships all across the United States as well as outside of the country. Currently, students spend three of their four rotations away from ICO. One of those rotations must be spent at a Veterans Administration Hospital. Students are required to spend one quarter rotation at the ICO’s clinic, the Illinois Eye Institute.

A key component to the externship program is to provide the student with a varied and diverse experience in all of optometry’s specialized areas such as primary care, contact lenses, pediatrics/binocular vision, advanced care, and low vision rehabilitation. Many of the externship sites involve multidisciplinary care, which is instrumental in developing well-rounded clinicians.

The selection process for the externship involves the student making site selections based on their preferences and matching their needs to fulfill curriculum hours needed for graduation. The selection process is random to allow for fairness to all students involved. There is some flexibility in the process to allow students to switch sites before the schedule is finalized. 

Please see the listing of externships for an idea of available sites. Since the program is continually growing and changing, new sites might be added by the time you make your selections during your third professional year.

What is the pass rate for ICO students on the National Boards?
Students are allowed to take Part I of the NBEO exam at its earliest offering in March of their third year as long as they are in good academic standing (2.25 cumulative GPA) at the time of test registration. Some optometry programs differ on when they feel their students are prepared to take this examination and place limits on when they will allow their students to sit for the examination.

Refer to the following tables for ICO and national pass rates for the three NBEO exams, as well as the ultimate pass rates, which reflect the percentage of students who have passed all parts of the NBEO series before graduation: 

NBEO Part I Applied Basic Science 

Year     ICO Pass Rate National Pass Rate
2013 96.55 85.76
2012 96.18 85.43
2011 90.06 77.71
2010 97.16 92.12
2009 98.58 91.9
 
NBEO Part II Patient Assessment and Management 

Year     ICO Pass Rate National Pass Rate
2013 99.33  97.82 
2012 98.11  93.99
2011  98.16  92.45 
2010  96.5  90.9 
2009  97.9  90.6 
 
NBEO Part III Clinical Skills Examination 

Year     ICO Pass Rate National Pass Rate
2013 86.08 79.39
2012 96.95  88.25 
2011 98.6  97.6 
2010 100  97.9 
2009 100  96 
 
Ultimate Pass Rate 

Year     ICO Pass Rate National Pass Rate
2013 96.9 90.3
2012 96.4  92.7 
2011 97.9  94.4 
2010 98.6  95.5 
2009 97.3  90.7 

Please note that while we’re thrilled that ICO student performance on all parts of the NBEO exam typically exceeds the national average, the NBEO performance of previous students is only one measure of an optometry program. All applicants are encouraged to use this data in the appropriate context when evaluating this and other programs.

Does ICO “weed-out” students?
No, ICO does not seek to “weed-out” a single student we accept. So much time and energy goes into selecting the candidates we believe are the most qualified to become optometrists, it makes no sense for us to plan to eliminate anyone from the program once they begin. It is in the College’s and the student’s best interest for every accepted student to graduate!

We do recognize that the curriculum is challenging, and realize that some students benefit from assistance beyond class and laboratory involvement. For these reasons, ICO has an academic enrichment program in place to help. Services such as review sessions, one-on-one and group tutoring, academic advising and study skills enhancement programming are offered at no additional cost to ICO students. It is our desire to retain every single student that we accept, and see them graduate with an OD degree.

Having said that, it is also important to realize there have to be academic standards. ICO’s academic standards are indeed high. Do we do this to make life hard on our students or to encourage dropping out? Quite the contrary, we are mindful of our obligations to the future of the profession of optometry and to the quality of care afforded patients. We will not compromise those obligations by lowering the academic standards. We hope that by maintaining high academic standards our graduates will be prepared to provide the best care possible.

How safe is the area surrounding the school?
ICO’s neighbor immediately to the west is IIT, so there are lots of students in the neighborhood. We have a College Security Force, which is staffed by professional officers with considerable experience in law enforcement who are on duty 24/7. Closed circuit TV monitors are used for surveillance of parking areas and the surrounding property. IIT also has security that patrols the area and there is a police station close by with which we have an excellent relationship.

Like any urban environment, everyone must make common sense decisions when living in a city. Please give us a call if this is something you would like to learn more about and we will send you a copy of our Campus Security Report.

Are first year students required to live in the Residential Complex on campus?
No, however it is recommend especially if you live out of state. It is the best place for a new student to study, make friends, and adapt to professional school and the city.

As an entering first year student, when can I expect to receive my financial aid documents? And is there an application deadline for the following year?
Applicants will begin the financial aid process on their interview day. Students can apply for financial aid anytime; however, we advise you to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. ICO’s school code is 001689. Prompt responses for any requests for information from the Student Financial Services Department will ensure a smooth process.

When can I expect to receive housing information?
Accepted students will receive information on housing in the spring (usually the end of April) preceding the upcoming academic year.

How do I notify the school of my religious observances?
Requests for accommodations due to religious observances should be submitted to the Assistant Dean for Academic Administration and Registrar within the first week of the Fall quarter of the first professional year. A letter must be provided by a religious leader (pastor, rabbi, priest, etc.) indicating your religious affiliation and describing your observance. ICO will make every effort to provide fair and equitable accommodations. As a health care educational institution that provides visual care for our patients seven days a week, it is inevitable that students should expect quarter(s) with weekend requirements, thus the need for this notification for such consideration well in advance.

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