Applying to Optometry School – Getting to Know OptomCAS
It’s the Web Portal You’ll Use to Apply to Optometry School
If you’ve been working on your game plan for becoming a Doctor of Optometry, July 1 is the day you can really put it in motion. That’s the first day this year you can apply to one or more of the U.S. (including Puerto Rico) schools and colleges of optometry through the Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS). OptomCAS, which is brought to you by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), is a real time-saver for applicants to optometry school. It allows you to use a single web-based application and one set of materials to apply to multiple schools and colleges of optometry. To be accepted into optometry school and start classes in 2015, you need to get in on the current application cycle. It begins on July 1, 2014 and closes on June 2, 2015. You initiate your application process by creating an account at www.optomcas.org.
There, you’ll find all of the steps you need to follow to apply, which include filling out an application with information like your biographical data, colleges and universities attended, academic course history, work experience, extracurricular activities and honors. You’ll also upload a personal essay, provide the names of people who will write letters of recommendation for you, and designate which schools you want to receive your application.
“It’s a straightforward process, but applicants should really make sure they’re prepared before they start the process,” advises Paige Pence, ASCO’s Director for Student and Residency Affairs. “They should review the instructions at the site well ahead of time, which they can do any time, even before they create their account, so they are aware of all the materials they’ll need to get together, such as college transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. They should also check the application deadlines for the schools they want to apply to because they aren’t all the same.” Pence notes, too, that the OptomCAS website has a new and improved look for this application cycle and is more user-friendly. And, if you’re curious, Pence also notes that, on average, most would-be students end up applying to five schools.
Once you create your account, you can log in and out of OptomCAS as you work on completing the application process. Liaison International, the company that runs the service for ASCO, has support staff available to answer any questions you may have. After you officially submit your application, you can check its movement through the process, including receipt of the necessary external documents (more on that below) via the “Status” section of the site.
Here are a few key points to be aware of as you familiarize yourself with OptomCAS:
■ OptomCAS doesn’t determine whether you have met a school’s or college’s requirements or are eligible for admission. That decision is made by each respective school or college.
■ The fees for using the system in 2014-2015 are $155 to apply to one school or college of optometry and an additional $55 for each additional school or college to which you want to apply.
■ You are required to use OptomCAS to apply to any of the 21 ASCO member schools and colleges of optometry in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico). However, some schools may also require you to submit a supplemental application and fee directly to them. You can find out which ones at the OptomCAS site under “Information About Schools & Colleges” and “Deadlines and Other Information” at www.optomcas.org.
■ Obviously, your academic transcripts are a required part of your application. Note, however, that transcripts sent to OptomCAS directly from you are not acceptable. Instead, you’ll need to print an Official Transcript Request Form and give it to the registrar’s office at the college or university you attend(ed). The registrar then needs to mail to OptomCAS in a sealed envelope the form and your transcripts, bearing an official seal or signature of the registrar and a watermark.
When you give the transcript form to your registrar, request an unofficial student copy for yourself because you’ll need it to help you complete your online application.
■ At the OptomCAS site, you need to provide the names and contact information of the people who will be writing your letters of recommendation, but you don’t collect and send in the letters. OptomCAS sends an e-mail evaluation request to the “recommenders” with information on how they should electronically submit their letters. Once you know what programs you are targeting, check their individual websites to determine the number and types of letters they require. You can also find letter of recommendation information at the OptomCAS site.
■ Once you’ve completed the steps required of you and OptomCAS receives and verifies your transcripts, your application is considered complete (even if all of your recommendation letters are not yet sent in). From that point forward, any communication about your application will come from a school or college itself, not OptomCAS. It’s possible that you would be contacted directly by a school or college prior to that point as well.
Now that you have an idea of how the process works, get all of the details you need by checking out OptomCAS asap!