Optometry is not a dying field. On the contrary, we spend ever more time in front of computer screens, and staring at our smartphones, which necessarily has a negative impact on our eyes and vision. More than 60% of people wear glasses, contact lenses or other reading or visual aids (in the Western world). Future projections are even more pessimistic–that’s another “progress” we achieved… But I do not want to be too philosophical at this point. Let’s move to the interviews, and the challenges you will face.

The average acceptance rate at optometry schools in the US is below 50%, and when we talk about the prestigious schools, it drops all the way to 15%. Of course, interview is just one part of the admission process–but typically the most important one.

They already read your application, shortlisted you, and now they want to see who you are, what you expect from your studies, and what you can bring onboard. Let’s a have a look at the questions they will ask you.

 

Why do you want to study Optometry? Why not some other field?

Your real motives do not necessarily represent the best choice for your interview answer. Maybe you wanted to get to med school (or nursing school), but things did not pan out with your GPA, or for another reason, and you ended up applying at optometry school, since it is easier to get in.
As you can imagine, sharing such story isn’t necessarily a good idea in your interviewers.

The key is to focus on your future, and to be specific. What happened in the past, and the fact that you perhaps did not get to the first school of your choice, isn’t important at the moment.

Maybe you want to run your own practice, or someone from your family has an eye clinic, or you want to eventually end up doing research in the field, or even designing some vision aid devices.

The more specific you are in your answer, the better. Because optometry school isn’t easy, and you may struggle with motivation as long as you study just because your parents wanted you to do so (or because you hope to earn a six figure salary one day)…

Show them that you have some goal on your mind, and optometry studies are an important milestone on your way towards achieving it.

 

Why did you apply with our school?

You likely sent from four to eight applications, not really having a strong preference for any place. But you should not say it in an interview. On the contrary. Do some research, and find something that makes their school special in your eyes.

I know it may be difficult to find something–the curriculum is similar in each place, and you will enjoy the campus life anywhere. But maybe you can find one or two professors who really caught your attention while you were reading about the school–the papers they wrote, successes they achieved in their research, etc.

Another option is referring to practical reasons. Maybe your GPA wasn’t great, and you knew that the acceptance rate at their school is better than elsewhere. And since you do not believe much into some rankings and leader boards–there are good and bad professors and students everywhere; you applied with them, because you knew the chances to get in were better than at most other schools.

Or you like the location of the campus–you always wanted to study in that city, or it is close to your home, etc.

People in the admission committee are not naive. They know that you applied also elsewhere, and they are fine with that. Their school does not have to be your first choice. But you should know why you applied with them.

What do you think about the course load here, and how do you plan to handle it?

Just do not say that optometry school is easier than med school, and that’s why you applied, and think you will handle the workload easily. Optometry school is shorter, and the courses are more specific to the field, but it doesn’t mean it is easier.

Ensure the interviewers that you expect a heavy course load. But that’s what you came for–you want to learn a lot, and you are ready to sacrifice something for your studies.

Maybe you had a part time job up to this point. Now, however, you consider quitting it, because you know that the studies will be demanding, and you will spend most of your time with your head buried in books.

You can also point out to your undergrad studies or high school. You always managed your time well, and passed the exams, and see no reason why the outcome should be different this time around.

 

Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?

Broke, depressed, with two kids and a debt of one million dollars. I am joking, of course :). They are interested mostly in your practice, not your personal life.

Because many young people study at med school or pharmacy school or optometry just because they follow the dream of their parents. They have no idea what they want to do once they earn their degree. They hope someone else will tell them, so they can follow some leader, as they’ve been doing all their life…

Ensure your interviewers it is not the case this time around. You can talk about running your own practice in ten years time, or perhaps staying at the university pursuing teaching career, or even working on research in the field of Optometry.

One has many options, and the more specific you are in your answer the better. You can even pick a particular clinic, research field, or even non-profit organization, or city/country where you want to work in ten years time. Such goals help us overcome crisis of motivation and low days at school, and that’s why interviewers want you to have them.

 

What do you plan to do in your free time, while you won’t be studying?

Nobody spends their entire time studying, and it makes no sense trying to convince the interviewers of the opposite. You will at least go to clubs sometimes, and enjoy parties, to clear your mind, to get to know people. As you can imagine though, it won’t do you much good talking about getting wasted each Friday evening.

I suggest you to talk about some activities you want to do for the fellow students. Maybe you have an ambition to apply for a spot in a student council, or want to work as a resident assistant. Or you want to get a part time job in school library, or participate in some other way on the campus life.

The key is to show them that you do not think only about yourself. In your free time you will try to connect with other students, and perhaps do something for them. That’s the attitude they are looking for in great applicants.

 

In your opinion, what are the most important qualities for a great optometrist?

Try to talk mostly about personal traits. Empathy, responsibly, attention to detail, and of course communication skills. Being attentive to the needs of the patients, and having understanding for their worries is also super important.

What’s more, and this is something not many will say in the interviews, great optometrist should love their job. They should see a meaningful purpose in what they do, and enjoy going to work each morning.

Because the patients can feel the difference. It is a huge difference when you are treated by a doctor who loves their job and by one who hates it, or simply tolerates it, considering it a means to make good money each month. That’s a horrible experience, and I am sure you’ve been treated by such doctor more than once in your life, and can tell..

You can also add that you believe to have most of these qualities–or at least want to work on improving them.

 

Other questions you may get in your optometry school interview

  • Why optometry and not ophthalmology?
  • What will you do if you do not get to the optometry school this year? What’s your plan B?
  • In your opinion, where is the field of Optometry heading?
  • Does your academic record accurately reflect your capabilities?
  • What do you consider the most interesting trends in Optometry nowadays?
  • What courses did you like the most and the least at college?
  • Do you have any shadowing/volunteering experience? If you do, what is the most important thing you learned during your experience?
  • Tell us about a time when you demonstrated leadership.
  • Optometry school is expensive. How do you plan to finance your studies?
  • (MMI) A patient comes to your practice saying that they experience vision problems. But they say that they lost their job during the pandemic and are out of funds and cannot pay for the examination. What will you do?
  • (MMI) Imagine that you have your optometry practice. A new O.D. opens a practice next door. They start to offer their services two times cheaper, trying to win over some of your existing clients and attract new clients. How will you react?

 

Final thoughts, premium answers to all questions

Admission interview at an Optometry school is typically easier than an interview at a med school or nursing school, but it is still a tricky interview. You will almost always face some scenario-based-questions (“tell me about a time when….”, “imagine a situation….”). What’s more, the difficulty only increases with the MMI (multiple mini interviews) format, which is getting more popular each year in both US and Europe.

Try to prepare for all challenges you may face on the interview day, and do a good research about your future place of study (it will help you connect with the admission committee members).

And if you are not sure how to deal with this challenge, and need help, have a look at a new eBook I wrote for you, the Optometry School Interview Made Easy. Multiple premium answers to 25 most common optometry school interview questions (including the dreaded scenario-based questions) will help you streamline your preparation, stand out, and secure the coveted spot in the study program.

Thank you for checking it out, and I wish you best of luck in your interviews!

Matthew

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Matthew Chulaw
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