Best Practice Guidelines for Faculty/Health Professions Advisors Mentoring and Advising Pre-Optometry Students
Faculty and health professions advisors play a very important role in the growth and development of all students in higher education, especially when a student is interested in a health professions career. The faculty member and/or health professions advisor can serve as a mentor to these students by helping them establish their academic, professional and personal goals. One of the biggest ways to assist them in their career aspirations is to establish or build upon an existing pre-optometry club. We have included some best practice guidelines below.
Start a Pre-Optometry Club (if you haven’t already)
Starting a pre-optometry club will provide many benefits to students who are interested in optometry. Having a club can help students with similar goals, challenges and aspirations accomplish their future goals together. Specifically, a pre-optometry club can:
- Help students understand the profession of optometry
- Provide a support system as they pursue optometry as a career
- Help make logical and informative decisions when it comes to the application process
- Find local shadowing opportunities
- Provide guidance with the OptomCAS application
- Understand the Optometry Admissions Test (OAT)
- Develop strong leadership skills
- Manage time more effectively and efficiently
- Create a better understanding of how to network in optometry
ASCO has a section on their website that walks students and advisors through the process for starting a club. If you list your pre-optometry or pre-health club on the ASCO website it will increase contacts from the schools and colleges.
Scheduling club meetings frequently establishes long-term mutually-beneficial relationships for all the members. As we know, keeping members engaged is key to success.
SHARE Applicant and Advisor Resources
- futureeyedoc.org Website
- Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Website
- OptomCAS Website
- Optometry Admission Test (OAT) Website
- American Optometric Association (AOA) Website
- American Optometric Student Association (AOSA) Website
- National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP) Website
- Optometry Gives Me Life Toolkit and Webinar
Schedule Visits with Representatives from Optometry Schools and Colleges
Representatives from the different optometry programs will schedule more visits to your club should they anticipate an audience of pre-optometry students. It is very important for pre-optometry students to know about their options when it comes to the schools and colleges of optometry such as location, curriculum, tuition, pre-requisites, etc. Being knowledgeable about all the schools and colleges will help narrow down school choices specific to the needs of the student.
Schedule Visits to the Schools and Colleges of Optometry
Visiting schools and colleges of optometry that are close to your undergraduate institution can be very beneficial as club members will get a first-hand look at what life is like for an optometry student. Schools and colleges will always be glad to host your club on their campus and many of the optometry programs also host open houses throughout the year.
Engage Local Doctors of Optometry (and ask about shadowing opportunities)
It is important to establish relationships with local Doctors of Optometry. Your local Doctors of Optometry are more likely to visit a club that is organized and engaged. When they do visit your club, they will talk about how they spend their day with their patients and how they make a difference in people’s lives. Also, ask them if they would be willing to let your students shadow them in their practice. In almost every community there is a local society of optometrists. This resource can help you build a database of sorts for shadowing opportunities for your students.
Keep Students on Track
One of the most important things you can do as an advisor is keep your students on track as they start the OptomCAS application process to optometry school. They will need to understand all the requirements for each of the schools/colleges they are interested in applying from their prerequisites, what exam(s) they will accept and what types of letters of recommendation are required. You should also encourage them to start developing relationships with the admissions office at the institutions they are interested in as this will come in handy as they move through this important process. (See Entering Class Profiles)
Help Students Prepare for Entrance Exam
One of the admissions requirements for applicants is to take an entrance exam. All schools and colleges will accept the OAT, but many programs will also accept other standardized exams such as the GRE, DAT, MCAT or PCAT (you can find exam requirements on each institution’s website). Providing your students with a library of exam resources and conducting study sessions will be helpful as they prepare for their exam. Kaplan, Princeton Review and other pre-courses will often provide free resources for a pre-optometry club. They will also welcome the opportunity to speak at the club meetings and offer discounts for their services.
Do Interview Prep
Conducting mock interviews can be very helpful to students to become prepared for their optometry school interview. It may also be helpful to know what type of interview will be conducted – traditional interview, group interviews or multiple mini interviews. It is also very important for you to teach your students to look and act professional on their interview day. Tips regarding arrival time, appearance, and demeanor may seem very basic, but they are often not considered by applicants. Advisors can play a pivotal role in a student’s success by having them properly prepared for their optometry school interview.
Serve Your Community
Engage in community service projects. Service projects energize pre-optometry clubs and provide valuable help to local communities. Consider partnering with local Lions Clubs as their focus is often “vision related”. This will hopefully boost membership and interest in optometry. Being involved in community events always looks great on optometry school applications for students. Most of all it helps the community and builds strong character. Some ideas include: eyeglass recycle to raise awareness for vision or the need for eye health/vision care in third world countries or participate in “career days” at local middle and high schools.
Get Involved in Seminar Classes for Pre-Health and Freshman Classes
Many undergraduate institutions have pre-health or freshmen seminar classes for the specific purpose of helping students figure out what they want to do early on in their college career. Contact faculty members who teach these classes and see if you can share about optometry. This is an excellent opportunity to show students what optometry is all about in their first year of college.
Advertise your club on campus to recruit new members so they can learn about the profession of optometry. Make club t-shirts, hang posters and advertise on social media are some of the easier forms of advertising. Think about all of the great designs that could be made incorporating eye charts, glasses, eye anatomy, contact lenses or lasers! Eye-catching signs around campus will definitely help grow interest in your club!
Promoting the profession of Optometry!