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 grade point average and Optometry Admission Test scores to those of the previous Entering Class Profile.
While the Admissions Committee recognizes the “numbers-side” of the application is not the only indicator of your potential for success in the program, your GPA & OAT scores play an important role in qualifying you for an on-campus interview and gaining acceptance into the Entering Class. Improving the “numbers-side” will increase your chances for interview selection, strengthen your overall application, and help to make you a competitive applicant for admission to Illinois College of Optometry.
Strengthen Your OAT Scores
Prepare for the exam well in advance. Successful candidates report that careful & planned preparation time, study guides, flash cards, review courses, and practice exams are helpful.
As far as commercially-available study aids, ICO does not endorse specific tools or methods as many different modes of study work well for different applicants. However, we are happy to provide information on a few of the options which past applicants have used:
OAT: Complete Preparation for the Optometry Admission Test
Optometry Admission Test Sample Exams : TopScore Pro for the OAT
OAT Flashcard Secrets
Kaplan OAT Tutorial Program
Format: in-person private tutoring or classroom course; online course
Format: online videos
Course Saver (aka Chad’s Videos)
Format: online videos
Most students also use their pre-optometry science coursebooks and class notes to study for the test and many have found MCAT preparation materials very helpful.
Time your practice tests! 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. We recommend that you use self-administered practice tests as your trial-runs – recreating the testing environment and applying 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.
In the event you are not feeling well the day of the test, keep in mind that the Admissions Committee is not able to take into consideration an excuse of illness for poor performance on the test.
Enhance your GPA
Upon fulfillment of the minimum Required Pre-Optometry Curriculum, 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 4-year college or university, preferably on a full-time basis (4 to 6 courses taken concurrently).
- Shadow, observe, intern, volunteer or work with a practicing optometrist. ICO encourages all prospective students to contact and spend time with a Doctor of Optometry practicing in their area. ICO does not require applicants to log a specific number of shadowing or observation hours. The primary goal is to guarantee that you are confident in your career choice and to assure the Admissions Committee that you are making an informed decision.
- Contact Doctors of Optometry in your area to discuss current issues in the profession.
- Read journals and professional publications related to optometry and healthcare in general.
- Participate in extra-curricular activities that afford you the opportunity to interact with people. Leadership experiences can be especially helpful.
Earning Your 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. Please 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 the Required Pre-Optometry Curriculum, before August of the year you would like to enter optometry school (usually after your junior year at the university level), you may still apply. Deciding 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 be awarded a Bachelor of Science in Visual Science (BSVS) from ICO in addition to the Doctor of Optometry degree.
Most entering students will have completed at least four years of college-level coursework and, in addition to completing the Required Pre-Optometry Curriculum, they will have completed additional upper-level biology courses. The criteria for evaluating applications with or without a bachelor’s degree are the same.