Planning guide for new pre-optometry students


This section provides information on planning for admission to optometry school, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, be sure to tell the academic advisor you intend to follow a pre-optometry program. You will be subscribed to the HPPLC mailing list and receive invitations to participate in events of interest to pre-optometry students. Consult resources from University Division and/or the school/department where you intend to enroll for more information on planning for summer orientation.

Description of the profession #

Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures, and identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

What should you consider about this profession? #

If you are thinking about becoming an optometrist, you need to have very strong skills in math and science, and be able to complete a rigorous set of courses before starting optometry school. You will need to develop good communication and interpersonal skills for your work with patients.

Choosing your degree and major #

Pre-optometry students may select any major and degree to combine with the courses required for admission to optometry school. You should select a major that interests you, allows you to build strong intellectual skills, and one that could provide opportunities for graduate work or employment if you choose not to pursue a career in optometry. There need not be an obvious connection between your major and optometry. You may wish to consider a major that could lead to other career paths later on, or an alternate health profession.

The Explore Programs tool at IU can help you discover your options!

Bachelor of arts versus Bachelor of Science #

In addition, many students ask, “Which is better for optometry school, a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree?” Optometry schools do not have a preference for either a B.A. or a B.S., although there are differences in these degrees. Generally with a B.S. you will complete more coursework up to a more advanced level in your major field, whereas with a B.A. you will be required to complete fewer courses in your major, which leaves more room to take a variety of coursework in other fields.

Optometry school admission requirements #

The course requirements for admission to optometry programs vary from school to school, but always include some very rigorous core courses in the sciences. The common requirements for admission to optometry schools include coursework in general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, microbiology, physics, math/calculus, and statistics. Please consult this section for a plan of study for IU Bloomington students who plan to apply for admission to the Indiana University School of Optometry. We recommend students who are Indiana residents follow this plan of preparation, and then consider additional coursework to meet the admission requirements for other optometry schools. Consult the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry Admissions website regarding the requirements for admission to other optometry schools.

Your course load #

A normal course load for most preprofessional students is 14-16 total credit hours. That means you’ll probably be enrolling in from four to six classes. During New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options, choose appropriate courses, and plan an appropriate course load in which you’ll be able to be successful. To earn strong grades and succeed in being admitted, most pre-optometry students need to devote about 30 hours per week outside of class to studying and class preparation.

Planning your fall course options #

For your fall semester, you should begin by completing at least one pre-optometry science course, but you also should include other coursework for the particular undergraduate degree and major you plan to pursue at IUB. Consult resources from University Division and/or the school/department where you intend to enroll on how to plan your fall course schedule for any of the majors you are considering.

Regarding your pre-optometry coursework, if you are prepared you should enroll in chemistry during your first semester in college, or the second semester at the latest. As a first step toward completing chemistry requirements, you should complete CHEM-C 117 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I (lecture) and CHEM-C 127 (lab). However, some students will need to complete a preparatory course before they are ready for CHEM-C 117/127. Consult the information on determining your placement into chemistry coursework.

If you do not enroll in chemistry your first semester, we recommend you enroll in a biology course that would fulfill optometry requirements, such as BIOL-L 112 (if you have the appropriate chemistry background already). If you have an extremely strong background in the sciences, you could consider enrolling in both chemistry and biology coursework during your first semester. However, be aware that many students are surprised by how challenging and time-consuming introductory biology and chemistry courses can be. Before enrolling in more than one science course for the fall, be sure to discuss your science background with an academic advisor.

During your first semester at IUB you will also need to enroll in other courses besides your pre-optometry coursework, including courses for the major(s) you are considering and courses that fulfill General Education requirements at IUB. Other courses you may consider taking your first semester include math (MATH-M 211 or 119), English composition (ENG-W 131), and PSY-P 101. Arts and Humanities (A&H) and Social and Historical (S&H) courses are important in helping you build the communication and analytical skills that dental schools desire in applicants. World Languages and Cultures courses can deepen your understanding of the ideas and values of different cultures and help you develop skills and competencies important for working with a diverse patient population.

Other activities for pre-optometry students during the first year of college #

For the first year of college, you should consider activities that will help you gain clinical and community service experience. You should also attend Health Professions and Prelaw Center events, including the annual Health Programs Fair, where you can meet with admissions representatives from optometry schools.

However, most pre-optometry students find their first semester taking college-level science coursework surprisingly challenging, so you should not feel pressured to overload yourself with extracurricular activities immediately. You may wish to set up job shadowing with optometrists for the period when you will be home for winter break between the fall and spring semesters, so you can explore your interest in optometry and confirm whether it is the path you want to pursue for your career.

Many pre-optometry students find the science coursework challenging, so if you know you want to pursue a career in healthcare, but decide that you are unsure about the career of an optometrist, there are many other fulfilling health professions you could pursue. Please consult the HPPLC website for more information on preparing for optometry school and services for pre-optometry students.