Is Your Son or Daughter Interested in Optometry School?

July 20, 2016

According to admissions officials at several of the schools and colleges of optometry, parents of prospective students often have similar questions about the admissions process and optometry school in general. Their questions tend to center around the costs of tuition and housing, availability of financial aid and the safety of the area where their sons or daughters may be living for four years of their lives. When Hannah E. Barker expressed an interest in becoming a Doctor of Optometry, she and her dad, David J. Barker, an attorney in Carmel, Ind., wanted to explore additional matters such as the schools’ job placement rates and the median salary for a first-year optometry school graduate. Hannah narrowed the list of schools she wanted to apply to, and, her father says, “Two optometry schools immediately came to the forefront with answers and information that convinced not only my daughter but our family that the optometry profession is a leading career that allows a practicing optometrist to not only enjoy a rewarding occupation but provides a foundation for the ability to raise a family, be involved in a community, and give back to our society in general.” Hannah was accepted by the University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Optometry and Indiana University School of Optometry (IUSO). She’ll start classes at IUSO in fall 2016.

The Appropriate Role for Parents of Students Applying to Optometry School

All of the schools and colleges of optometry want their applicants to make informed decisions about whether to pursue an optometric career and which school is best for them. And they know students don’t always make the decisions without input from others, such as parents or mentors. Therefore, parents and other guests are welcome at some of the various admissions-related events that take place. For example, most schools have the equivalent of an “Admission Day” where parents or other guests can accompany prospective students for campus tours, information sessions and opportunities to speak directly with faculty, current students and alumni.

At the University of Missouri at St. Louis College of Optometry, explains Director of Student and Alumni Services Nicholas Palisch, parents and guests can be part of an interview day information session and interact with admissions officials during the tour, during lunch and while they wait for the applying student to complete his or her interview. Other than that, Palisch says, “While we welcome questions from parents, we would like them to come from the student as they are the primary point of communication.” Cindy Vance and Joe Boes, Director of Student Admission and Associate Director of Recruitment and Student Services, respectively, at Indiana University School of Optometry, agree. Notes Vance, “Parents are welcome to be part of the student’s Admission Day experience, and they frequently attend open houses and visits prior to the student applying. We also enjoy reconnecting with parents of matriculated students at our White Coat Ceremony and then again at graduation. But other communication, such as by e-mail and phone, is primarily with the student only. Professional students are considered independent.”

When parents call the University of California-Berkeley School of Optometry with questions, they’re directed to the school’s website where most of the answers can be found and told they’re welcome to attend a campus tour and/or the Admit Day social. “But we ask that they have the applicant call us,” explains Sharon Joyce, Assistant Dean for Admissions, Student Affairs, and Career Services. Joyce says the school wants to know that a student is applying on his or her own volition. She offers this advice, “Different schools have different philosophies about the involvement parents should have at the graduate level. Some schools actively encourage it. But to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, you may want to consult with each school you’re interested in about its own philosophy.”

Useful Questions to Ask about Optometry School

As previously mentioned, parents of optometry school hopefuls tend to have similar questions. In addition to parents and students wanting to know the costs of tuition and housing, availability of financial aid and campus safety, admissions officials say they commonly field questions about their programs’ average
NBEO (National Board of Examiners in Optometry) scores, employment statistics, average student loan debt, students’ accessibility to faculty members, strengths of the program, and types of students who make up the student body (e.g., age and gender).

With all of his family’s questions about optometry school answered, Mr. Barker says, “I am extremely proud of my daughter’s decision to attend optometry school. It makes me happy that optometry schools seem to attract and groom leaders in our society.”