Financing an Optometric Education

Students who are considering a career as a Doctor of Optometry may be concerned that they do not have sufficient personal resources to cover all of the educational costs. The cost of attendance generally includes tuition, fees, books, equipment and supplies, and living expenses such as rent, groceries, insurance, and transportation. The majority of students finance their education by a combination of personal and family contributions, scholarships, low- and high-interest loans, and work-study opportunities.

As the overall costs of optometric education continue to increase, it is important that prospective optometry students begin to investigate potential financial aid sources as early as possible. Because outside employment during optometry school is a limited option for the majority of students, and university sources of funds are also often limited, accepted applicants should contact their school’s financial aid office early to explore their options and understand the school’s financial aid policies and procedures.

Sources of Financial Aid

Accepted applicants should be aware of loans, scholarships, grants, and work-study, which provide the majority of aid to optometry students.

Loans, which are the primary source of financial aid for optometry students, must be repaid after graduation. Scholarships, which are merit-based or need-based, do not require the recipient to repay the award. Work-study gives students the opportunity to work part-time. In addition, there are state contract programs, which pay a portion of a student’s tuition, and U.S. Armed Forces’ scholarship programs, which require a service commitment following graduation.

The following list presents an overview of the most commonly used federal sources of assistance. Applicants are cautioned that requirements for the various loan programs may change or programs may be eliminated based on actions of the government.

Loan Programs

  • Federal Direct Loan Unsubsidized
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS)
  • DHHS Health Professions Student Loan (HPSL)
  • Federal Graduate PLUS loans
  • Private alternative loans
  • Institutional loan programs (limited)

Scholarship Programs

  • DHHS Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students (SDS)
  • State contracts
  • Military Health Professions Scholarship
  • Institutional scholarship programs

Scholarships, Grant Opportunities and Initiatives for Optometry Students from Underrepresented Backgrounds

  1. Name of Scholarship/Grant Opportunity/Initiative: Walman Scholarship, 13% Promise.

    Walman has established a scholarship program to encourage and assist students at schools and colleges of optometry. Scholarships are offered each year for full-time study at participating schools selected by Walman. The Walman Scholarship Program encourages students that self-identify as Black or African American to apply. Up to ten awards will be granted to applicants that self-identify as Black or African American that meet eligibility requirements. Up to (10) $5,000 scholarships will be awarded to 2nd and 3rd year OD students. For more information, click here.
  2. Name of Scholarship/Grant Opportunity/Initiative: American Optometric Association (AOA) and American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) Opportunities in Optometry Grants.

    To promote diversity and equity in the optometric profession for generations to come, the AOA the AOSA have created the AOA/AOSA Opportunities in Optometry Grant program. This fund is designed as a one-time stipend for under-represented minority students interested in the field of optometry to help defray the costs associated with applying to optometry school. Multiple grants of $1,500 each will be awarded annually to students who are chosen by the selection committee. For more information, click here.
  3.  Name of Scholarship/Grant Opportunity/Initiative: University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Optometry (KYCO) OAT Grant.

    The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) currently costs $500.00 to register. OAT Preparation materials are expensive with the three most popular practice texts costing $117.95 total. These dollar amounts create a significant financial barrier for some students that wish to enter the profession of optometry. It is KYCO’s desire to increase the diversity of the optometric profession and removing barriers is one way of achieving this goal, therefore, KYCO has established the KYCO Optometry Admissions Test Grant fund to assist students with paying for the OAT and preparation materials. The goal is to remove the cost of the OAT as a barrier for Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American/Native Hawaiian or “first in college” students who need financial assistance. Anyone in the United States who plans to attend optometry school is eligible for the assistance. For more information, please contact Dr. Michael Bacigalupi, Dean of Kentucky College of Optometry at
  4. Name of Scholarship/Grant Opportunity/Initiative: The Indian Health Service (IHS) Scholarship Program.

    The IHS Scholarship Program provides qualified American Indian and Alaska Native health professions students an opportunity to establish an educational foundation for each stage of your pre-professional careers. Since IHS began providing scholarship support to American Indian and Alaska Native students to pursue health profession careers in 1978, the program has grown to support, educate and place health care professionals within medically underserved Indian health programs throughout the continental United States and Alaska. For more information, please click here.
  5. Name of Scholarship/Grant Opportunity/Initiative: Black Eyecare Perspective (BEP).Description: BEP was designed and created to cultivate and foster lifelong relationships between African Americans and the eyecare industry. Black Eyecare Perspective raises the alarm regarding the inequality found within the eyecare arena. First steps involve, identifying the issues, presenting sound and equitable solutions, and finding ways to realize the needed outcomes. Data from the US. Census shows that 13.4% of the U.S. population identifies as African American. This is a far cry from the representation currently present in the vision care world. The goals of BEP are:
    • To increase the number of black leaders addressing the biases in the eyecare industry.
    • To help eyecare professionals and companies stay effective and relevant in a forever changing landscape by aligning their values based on equity and inclusion within the eyecare industry.
    • To help facilitate better dialogue between non-minority eyecare professionals and the black demographic in an eyecare setting.

    Black EyeCare Perspective has the first nationally recognized pre-optometry club established to ensure not a single, potential, future black student or optometrist is ignored, discouraged or disadvantaged. Interested in becoming a member of the Black EyeCare Perspective Pre-Optometry Club, complete a membership profile here and an advisor will get in contact with you.

    For more information, please click here.

Other Scholarships, Grant Opportunities and Initiatives for Optometry Students

Name of Scholarship/Grant Opportunity/Initiative: US Army Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)

Description: The US Army can help pay for your advanced medical degree with one of the most comprehensive scholarships available in the health care field — The F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program.

Qualifying students can receive full tuition for any accredited medical, dental, veterinary, psychiatric nurse practitioner, psychology or optometry program, plus a generous monthly stipend of more than $2,400+.

For more information, please click here.

Managing Educational Indebtedness

The majority of optometry students borrow to pay for the cost of their education. Borrowing means the student has the benefit of using someone else’s money now in exchange for paying it back with interest at a later date. Students are legally obligated to repay their loans. Defaulting on a student loan has financial and legal consequences that can have negative personal and professional effects. The vast majority of optometry graduates repay their loans either on time or early. The financial aid office at a specific college can provide information on management of a student’s debt.

2022-2023 Optometry School Application Costs

Application Requirement Costs ($)
OAT Exam $505 for the exam (optional preparation courses: $100 – $1,000)
Standardized Tests Accepted Other Than the OAT All schools/colleges of optometry accept the OAT; some also accept MCAT ($325), GRE ($205), DAT ($510), or PCAT ($210)
OptomCAS Application $185 for first designation; $75 for each additional designation
Supplemental Application Schools/colleges of optometry may have supplemental application fees $30 – $75
Transcript Processing $10 – $20
In-person Interviews Attire > $150, Airline Ticket > $500, Hotel > $200/night, Ground Transportation > $50
Virtual Interviews None
Background Checks Background check fee varies based on the number of past addresses and which background check service the school/college of optometry uses
Acceptance Deposits $500 – $1,000