Pre-Optometry Exploration & Preparation Guide

General Tips:

  • Visit the Pre-Health portal for a comprehensive look at the pre-health resources here at UW
  • Learn more about the various careers in healthcare by visiting  
  • Subscribe to the Health Career Interest page to stay up-to-date with relevant news on health-related jobs/internships; it also includes several resources regarding preparing and applying to graduate health programs.
  • Engage in this self-paced online course to learn about the significant steps in the application process for health professional programs.
  • Schedule an appointment with your academic advisor* (UAA/Departmental/OMA&D) to discuss course planning.
  • Schedule an appointment with a career coach* to discuss your career interests and goals, plus how to reach them.

*Disclaimer: The University of Washington does not have dedicated pre-health advisors, so staff members you meet with will likely not have deep or special insight but rather more general knowledge of requirements and recommendations.

Choose from one of the following for more information:

Programs typically require or strongly recommend applicants to have shadowing hours (see the prerequisites comparison chart). Applicants can also volunteer at optometry clinics or work as an optometric assistant. Gaining experience in various settings is encouraged (read this advice). Applicants must contact different practice settings to set-up shadowing or volunteering respectfully. We recommend logging hours and journaling about clinical experiences, which will aid with writing the personal statement. Additional/broader clinical or research experience is recommended to develop patient care and problem-solving skills.

Letters of recommendation are vital to a student’s application. Program requirements vary (see this chart); however, at a minimum, one letter from an optometrist and one from a science professor is recommended. Applicants should build strong professional and academic relationships by utilizing office hours and informational interviews as early as possible. For more information on requesting letters, view this article from the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).

The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) assesses applicants on attributes including integrity, knowledge of the profession, organizational skills, promise of achievement, self-awareness, stress management, time management, intellectual ability, interpersonal relations, leadership, oral communication, reaction to criticism, team skills, and written communication. Applicants should develop these attributes through academic and extracurricular activities and must reflect on them in their personal statements and admissions interviews. Applicants are encouraged to join UW’s Pre-Optometry club and look for additional volunteer/service opportunities and part-time jobs or internships through offices like the CELE Center and Handshake, respectively.

Applicants can select any undergraduate major as long as they complete the prerequisite courses, but prerequisites can vary slightly across programs. Students may need to exceed the requirements of some schools to meet the requirements of other schools. The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) publishes a prerequisites comparison chart, but applicants are encouraged to also check the websites of individual programs for the most up-to-date information (see example). The following courses are required/recommended by most Optometry programs:

  • General Biology Series
  • General Chemistry Series
  • General Physics Series
  • Organic Chemistry Series w/lab
  • Biochemistry Course
  • Microbiology Course w/lab  
  • Psychology Course
  • Calculus Course
  • Statistics Course
  • Anatomy*           
  • Physiology*

*Check the prereq chart for info on how many credits are needed

Most programs have a minimum GPA requirement (usually 3.0/4.0) and an Optometry Admission Test (OAT) score requirement (usually 300/400); however, the average cumulative and science GPA and OAT score of an admitted student are around 3.5 and 330, respectively (see Matriculating Optometry Student Survey Report). Applicants are expected to find program-specific information by visiting program websites and contacting admissions directly.

For tips on studying for the OAT, view this Kaplan resource. For an official tutorial, candidate guide, and FAQ, visit the OAT website.