Academics & Coursework

Before applying, optometry schools expect that applicants develop certain competencies. Students develop some of these competencies through undergraduate coursework, while they develop others through experiences outside the classroom. Optometry schools review your application, looking for indicators that you have developed these competencies. They will expect you to have completed certain coursework, maintain a certain GPA, and achieve a sufficient test score on the OAT in order to gain admission.

Choosing a 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.

Although you can choose any major, pre-optometry students must complete significant coursework in the natural sciences, as well as courses in the humanities and social and behavioral sciences. Pre-optometry students need to develop strong reasoning, analytical, and communication skills. Coursework in the humanities and social sciences can help you build skills in these latter areas.

Pre-optometry coursework #

The course requirements for admission to optometry programs vary from school to school. Below is a chart listing course requirements for IU Bloomington students who plan to apply for admission to the Indiana University School of Optometry. We recommend that students who are Indiana residents follow this plan of preparation, and then consider including additional coursework that would help them meet the admission requirements for other optometry schools.

Students should also consult the prerequisite chart provided by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry or the school's individual websites on the requirements for each optometry school. In addition, the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry also provides a great deal of useful information for students considering a career in optometry.

Please also consult the Indiana University School of Optometry for further information on their programs.

Indiana University Optometry offers a Doctor of Optometry degree (O.D.). There is no preference for a particular undergraduate major; however most candidates have a science background. Most admitted students have obtained a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must complete a minimum of 90 semester hours prior to the time they begin their professional studies, including the following courses.1

Courses Semester Hours
CHEM-C 117 and 127 5
CHEM-C 118 or CHEM-N 331 and CHEM-N 337 5
CHEM-C 3412 3
CHEM-C 383 or 483 or 4843 3
BIOL-L 112 3
BIOL-L 113 3
BIOL-M 250 and 315 or 380 and 315 3, 2
Advanced (animal or developmental) biology4 3 - 5
Any course or courses fulfilling Math Modeling requirements5 3
PHYS-P 2016 5
PHYS-P 2026 5
ENG-W 1317 and Intensive Writing 3, 3
PSY-P 101 or 155 3 - 4
Statistical Techniques
STAT-S 303 or 300 or alternative statistics course8 3
  1. A 'C' is the lowest acceptable grade in any of these courses. Biology, chemistry, and physics courses must be taken in-person.
  2. Completion of CHEM-C 342 is also highly recommended.
  3. CHEM-C 383 is a course intended for non-chemistry majors and has a prerequisite of CHEM-C 341. CHEM-C 483 is a course intended for non-biochemistry majors and has a prerequisite of CHEM-C 342 or CHEM-R 340. CHEM-C 484 is a course intended for biochemistry majors and has a prerequisite of CHEM-C 342.
  4. Recommended courses: ANAT-A 215 or PHSL-P 215.
  5. Any math course(s) that fulfill(s) the Math Modeling requirement for IUB’s General Education Program will be accepted; see
  6. PHYS-P 221 and 222 will also be accepted.
  7. A minimum SAT Verbal score of 670 or ACT English score of 32 will exempt the student (without credit) from the composition requirement. The applicant will still need to complete the requirement for an Intensive Writing course.
  8. PSY-K 300 or SPEA-K 300 or MATH-K 310 or PSY-K 310.

Early admission option #

If desiring to apply without a bachelors degree, a minimum total of 90 semester hours is required. The 90 hours must include the IU School of Optometry prerequisites, two Arts & Humanities courses, and two Social & Historical courses. Students who have completed two or more years of a single foreign language in high school with an average grade of C or above are exempt from a foreign language requirement. One must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.6 or higher.

Academic record and GPA #

Optometry schools review your undergraduate transcript and the grades you have earned in your courses as a way to measure academic competencies that you have gained. Grades are considered to be a reliable predictor of how you would perform in optometry school. Admissions committees look at your undergraduate transcript for indications of whether you will have the intellectual abilities and self-discipline to succeed in the demanding optometry school curriculum.

Your undergraduate GPA is one of the primary ways optometry schools will evaluate your application for admission. What is a competitive GPA for admission to optometry school? For example, the mean average GPA at the IU School of Optometry for the 2020 entering class was 3.58.

Optometry schools pay attention to grade trends and ranges also. A student who had a difficult first semester as a freshman but went on to earn A’s in rigorous science courses in future semesters could still be viewed favorably.


Thinking about retaking a course?

If the course is a prerequisite and the grade is high enough for it to count as fulfilling the prerequisite, generally many optometry school officials advise that students should not retake courses, but rather proceed to higher level coursework where they can show improvement.  Still, some students may consider whether or not to retake a specific course in order to earn a higher grade. 

If you are considering retaking a course to enhance your application to optometry school, you will want to carefully consider the impact of IU Extended-X policies, the centralized application policies, and the likelihood of obtaining a higher grade in the course. Make sure to consult information in this Guidebook on Repeated Coursework and Impact of ‘Extended-X’ Policies on Application to Professional Schools.

Before re-enrolling in a course, you will want to create a plan for success, including such elements as devoting additional time to the course, developing new study skills, attending instructor office hours, and using tutoring services.

Keep in mind that no matter how many impressive volunteering experiences you have listed on your application, your transcript must present convincing evidence of your academic readiness for optometry school.

Calculation of GPA #

Applicants apply to optometry schools through a centralized application service called “OptomCAS”. This application service has its own method for calculating your GPA. The OptomCAS application service calculates standardized GPA’s for all applicants, so they more easily can be compared, regardless of the grading system used at the college or university the applicant attended.

When you apply to optometry school you will type information onto the application from the transcripts of all colleges and universities you have attended, including the title of each course, number of credit hours, and the grade earned for each course. This information will be used to calculate your GPA.

Building a strong transcript #

Building a strong transcript requires careful planning, excellent time management skills, and dedication. Make use of resources such as instructor office hours and tutoring. Tracking your study time and devoting about 25-30 hours per week to preparation outside of class times can enhance your success!

Parallel planning #

What is parallel planning? It's a smart strategy to ensure your success. There are many possible paths to your goal of a healthcare career! Some students convince themselves that there is only one career for them – but the truth is that you could potentially be successful in a wide number of fields. A parallel plan is a plan you create that you can pursue right alongside your first choice of a career. Pre-health science courses can be challenging, and parallel planning allows you to efficiently change paths at some point if you discover you do not like or no longer want to pursue your primary career path.

How could you create a parallel plan? Explore your interests, goals, and values. Meet with a career advisor. Think about other goals you would like to achieve alongside being an optometrist for instance, would you like to encourage healthy lifestyles, improve global health, or develop new treatments through research? Your answers to these questions may help indicate additional career paths through which you could find meaning and success.