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Seven-Year Optometry FAQ

What kinds of courses do I take at TCNJ?


Sample first-year schedule (seven-year and BIO BS or BA interested in optometry)

Fall Semester

  • BIO 099 Orientation to Biology (zero-credit)
  • BIO 201 Foundations of Biological Inquiry
  • CHE 201 General Chemistry I
  • MAT 127 Calculus A
  • FYS 1xx First Year Seminar

Spring Semester

  • BIO 211 Cell Biology and Biochemistry
  • CHE 202 General Chemistry II
  • STA 215 Statistics
  • PSY 101 General Psychology


Do I have to major in biology?

NO! A wide variety of majors are represented in optometry programs. Common majors include biology, chemistry, physics, math, psychology, and biopsychology, among others. The only thing you have to ensure is that you meet the prerequisites for the school you are applying to. For example: required courses, GPA requirements, OAT test scores, recommendations, service, etc. Additional information can be found here.

Examples or varying requirements:

How important are my grades and OAT score?

A high GPA and strong OAT scores are very important, however, they are not everything. It is equally important that the applicant is well-rounded, possess good interpersonal skills, and has a firm understanding of the profession (significant volunteer experience). Most Admission Committees also look for consistency between an applicant’s GPA and OAT score as a strong predictor of success in the optometry curriculum. In general, your grades in math and science courses (math/science GPA) are weighted more heavily in admissions decisions as they are also good predictors of success in an optometry curriculum.

By the numbers:

  • Students ENTERING (not applying) optometry schools average approximately 3.3 to 3.7 depending on the program.
  • Some programs have strict minimum GPA requirements and others will consider all applicants
  • In general, students around 3.0 can be competitive applicants to optometry school provided they have strong OAT scores, strong letters of recommendation, extensive experience (volunteering) with the profession, good verbal/written communication skills, and a good math/science GPA
  • The average OAT scores for students range from approximately 320 to 360 on a scale that ranges from 200 to 400.
  • To be competitive at the best optometry schools, such as SUNY, your GPA should be APPROIMATELY 3.5 or above and your OAT score should be APPROXIMATELY 360 or higher


Sample class profiles:

NOTE: Scores on the OAT have scaled back to reflect 300 as the 50th percentile. Thus, you should be careful about comparing your OAT score to historical data. Regardless, an overall OAT score above the 75th percentile is considered good – provided the scores in all sections are well balanced. Similarly, an overall OAT score at (or above) the 95th percentile is considered exceptional.


How important are my letters of recommendation?

Strong letters of support are critical. They types and number of letters required vary greatly from school to school. For example, The Berkeley School of Optometry requires a minimum of three letters: one from a professor with whom the student has done personal work (research, teaching assistant, tutor, or reader); one from an optometrist; and one from an employer or extracurricular activity advisor. In addition, it is also recommended that one additional letter from an instructor (preferably in the sciences) as well as another letter from an employer or activity advisor be submitted. Other schools may require as many as three letters from science faculty in addition to letters from an optometrist and extracurricular activity advisor. Letters that are weighted heavily focus on specific examples of your hard work, dedication, ability to complete projects, maturity, general aptitude, and community involvement.

  • Work with an optometrist (volunteer)
  • Be sure to get involved in academic Biology Department activities
  • Get to know your professors
  • Get involved in community service either through The College or through another organization
  • Make sure you are getting the correct types and numbers of letters submitted to each program
  • Do not wait until the last minute to request letters of recommendation and make sure all the letters you requested arrive at each school
  • Do not ask for recommendations from employers, extracurricular activity advisors, or professors that you do not know well


Do I need a composite letter of recommendation?

If you are applying to SUNY either as a BIOP or as a regular applicant you will need to request a composite letter from the department. Each school is different so check to see if you need one.

  • Get the correct forms for the recommendation letters from the department office
  • Have four (4) letters of recommendation with the forms sent to the department office
  • Once your letters arrive a file will be created for you
  • All of your letters must arrive in the department office one (1) month before the application deadline
  • A composite letter will be prepared and sent to the institution on your behalf
  • In some cases, your application will not be considered without a composite letter
  • Make sure you check with the admissions department of each institution for any specific composite letter requirements