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Academic Preparation

What you'll need

  • a Bachelor’s degree strongly recommended
    • any major is appropriate, so study something you love!
  • completion of prerequisite classes
    • vary from school to school
    • the most common classes are outlined below

Extracurricular Preparation

What you'll need

Experiences that develop and demonstrate skills in

  • communication
  • leadership
  • community service
  • research
  • familiarity with the profession

Extracurricular Activities

  • Make sure you have contact information for supervisors and physicians you work with or shadow in case you need a recommendation letter. Try to keep an open relationship with them after you discontinue activities.
  • Keep a record of all hours of service and experiences. The PreHealth Planner Spreadsheet can help with this.
  • Writing reflections on each activity in a journal will be helpful when you write your personal statement.

Community Service

Because you are preparing for a humanitarian profession, it is important to have volunteer learning experiences that demonstrate a commitment to serving others in your community. It is suggested that this be ongoing throughout your college years prior to application for admission.

Patient Exposure

Interacting well with sick people is one of the key indicators of a successful future optometrist. The most common way to have this experience will be working at an optometrist's office that provides direct care to patients.

Research Experience

Optometrists depend on medical literature to remain current in their field during their entire career. Most optometry schools highly recommend participation in research. Your research experience could be from many different areas. It does not have to be medically related or in a lab as long as it is hypothesis based research using the scientific method.

Leadership Experience

As an optometrist, you will be a leader and team member in many ways – with your patients, your staff, your colleagues, and in your community. Examples include offices held in organizations, committee work; leadership in church activities; coordinating a project; managing, training, supervising at work or in other activities; teaching experience of any kind; coaching; peer counseling or mentoring, etc.

Shadowing Optometrists

This should be one of your first experiences as a preoptometry student. Observing an optometrist in action will help you gather the information you need to fully commit to the profession you have chosen and to learn about a variety of medical specialties.


Optometry schools are interested in well-rounded students who know how to balance work with recreation. Recreation activities, including hobbies, athletics, and other pastimes, will help you relieve stress and return refreshed to your studies in both undergraduate and in optometry school.

PreOptometry Coursework

This guide is designed for applying to a range of optometry schools. It is not a comprehensive list. Requirements may vary by school so applicants should look closely at what is required at the schools at which they are applying. The following list indicates the most commonly classes required or recommended by optometry schools.  See a Preprofessional advisor for more information.

AP & IB Credit

Some optometry schools may not accept Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) credits earned in high school towards their prerequisites, so students with AP or IB credits in science or math should either take the introductory course or a higher level class in the appropriate area.

Community College Credits

Optometry schools vary on their view of prerequisite classes taken at Community Colleges. Some optometry schools will not accept them at all. Some accept them but look on them with some disfavor, other schools readily accept them.  Students should be aware of this when planning their education.

There are a number of very good reasons for students to begin their college education at a Community College, so we have some recommendations for those who wish to do so. In general it is okay to take the following classes at the Salt Lake Community College.  However, to satisfy schools who do not accept Community College work, higher level courses may have to be taken to make up for it.

  • MATH 1050 College Algebra and anything below
  • MATH 1060 Trigonometry
  • BIOL 1610 & 1615 BIOL 1620 & 1625, General Biology 1 and 2 with labs, in place of BIOL 1210 and 2020 at the U of U
  • CHEM 1210 & 1215, and 1220 & 1225, General Chemistry 1 and 2 with labs.
  • ENGL 1010 and 2010

  • CLEP Credit & Correspondence Study—Check with each optometry school
  • Online Courses—Check with each optometry school
  • Withdrawals--W’s should be used only for emergencies, although W’s will not affect your GPA.
  • GPAThe average GPA for accepted applicants is usually in the 3.4 range.
  • Repeated Courses—All repeated courses will be considered but only the most resent course you took will be included in GPA calculation. (This is different from the U of U’s policy to only count the most recent attempt.)

Science Courses


1 year of General Biology + Labs:

The U of U offers one semester of General Biology

  • BIOL 1610, Fundamentals of Biology (3 credits) Formerly BIOL 1210 

For the second General Biology, students take BIOL 2020 Cell Biology (3 credits) Prerequisites: BIOL 1210 or 1610 and CHEM 1210

  • BIOL 2325, Human Anatomy (4 credits) Prerequisite BIOL 1210 or 1610 
    • The lab is included and fulfills one Biology lab for most medical schools
  • BIOL 2420 Human Physiology (4 credits),
    • Prerequisites BIOL 1210 or 1610 and CHEM 1210
  • BIOL or CHEM 3510, Biochemistry I (3 credits)
    • Prerequisite CHEM 2310 Recommended Prerequisites BIOL 2020 and CHEM 2320
  • Microbiology:  Either of the following, lab may not be needed
  • BIOL 3210 Microbiology (3 credits) 
    • Lab 3215 (1 credit)
    • Prerequisites: BIOL 2020 & CHEM 1210


  • PATH 3100 Medical Microbiology (3 credits)


Lab Requirement

Since two Biology labs are required by most optometry schools, students can either the anatomy OR physiology lab to fulfill the first biology lab for most optometry schools.  The second biology lab can be fulfilled by any biology course such as BIOL 1615, 1625, 3115, 3205, 3235, 3515, 3525 and more.  Please note that many of these classes correspond to a class that must also be taken. Taking labs at Salt Lake Community College is fine.

In order to take the proper math class, you must have ACT, SAT or math placement test scores, or successfully pass a prerequisite math course. Some students will need MATH 0980 or MATH 1010 before starting the preoptometry math sequence.

Required by Most Schools

  • MATH 1050 College Algebra (4 credits)
    • Prerequisite MATH 1010 or placement
  • MATH 1060 Trigonometry (3 credits) Prerequisite MATH 1050 or placement
    • MATH 1050 & 1060 can be substituted with MATH 1080 (5 credits,  precalculus)
  • MATH 1210 Calculus I (4 credits)
    • Prerequisite MATH 1060, 1080, or placement
  • Math 1070 Statistics (3 credits)
    • Prerequisite MATH 1010 or placement.  Other statistics classes can be accepted (for example, PSY 3000, FCS 3210 or SOC 3112).  Check with your major advisor.

Required by Some Schools

  • MATH 1220 Calculus II (4 credits)
    • Prerequisite MATH 1210, or placement

Required by Most Schools

  • CHEM 1210 General Chemistry I (4 credits) Prerequisite MATH 1050, or math placement
    • Lab CHEM 1215 (1 credit)
  • CHEM 1220 General Chemistry II (4 credits) Prerequisite CHEM 1210
    • Lab CHEM 1225 (1 credit)
  • CHEM 2310 Organic Chemistry I (4 credits) Prerequisite CHEM 1220
    • Lab CHEM 2315 (2 credits)
  • BIOL 3510 or CHEM 3510, BiochemistryI (3 credits)
    • Prerequisite, CHEM 2310;  recommended prerequisites BIOL 2020 and CHEM 2320

Required by Some Schools

  • CHEM 2320 Organic Chemistry II (4 credits) Prerequisite CHEM 2310
    • Lab CHEM 2325 (2 credits)

Required by Most Schools

One year of Physics w/ labs required; students have two series to choose from. Algebra and trig-based physics, or calculus based physics. 
Please consult with both your major and PPA advisor to determine the correct lecture and lab sequence.
  • PHYS 2010 General Physics I (4 credits) Prerequisite MATH 1060
    • Lab PHYS 2015 (1 credit)
  • PHYS 2020 General Physics II (4 credits) Prerequisite PHYS 2010
    • Lab PHYS 2025 (1 credit)


  • PHYS 2210 Physics for Scientists and EngineersI (4 credits) Prerequisite MATH 1210
    • Lab PHYS 2015 or2215 (1 credit)
  • PHYS 2220 Physics for Scientists and Engineers II (4 credits) Prerequisite MATH 1220 and PHYS 2210
    • Lab PHYS 2025 or 2225 (1 credit)

Non-Science Courses


2 semesters of English Composition

  • WRTG 1010 (3 credits)
  • WRTG 2010 (3 credits)
    • Prerequisite WRTG 1010
  • CW course (3-4 credits)
    • If no course in your major, choose something from either Writing or English department


One Psychology course


  • MATH 10 (non credit) Math Boot Camp for Intermediate Algebra, 1 week workshop offered the week before fall and spring semesters begin
  • MATH 15 (non credit) Math Boot Camp for Precalculus, 1 week review workshop offered the week before fall and spring semesters begin
  • CHEM 10 (non credit) Chemistry Boot Camp for General Chemistry, 5 hours per day 5 days per week for 2 weeks
  • CHEM 1200 (3 credits) Preparation for College Chemistry, Usually offered online. Check class schedule for more information
  • CHEM 1208 (1 credit) Introduction to the Periodic Table, Offered online between semesters for 2 weeks
  • CHEM 2308 (1 credit) Introduction to Organic Chemistry Offered online between semesters for 2 weeks.
  • PHYS 1500 (3 credits) Preparation for College Physics, Offered once a year. Check class schedule for more information


  • College of Health LEAP, LEAP 1100 (3 credits) and 1101 (3 credits), 2 semester seminar course for Freshman considering health majors
  • HEDU 2010 (3 credits) Introduction to Health Profession (Fall only). Explores various health professions.

Prepare for Letters of Recommendation

Types of Letters Needed


Requirements vary between schools, so research schools early and know what you need. Plan ahead! Get to know people from these categories so they can write excellent letters for you. Optometry schools generally require letters from the following:

1) Optometrist you have shadowed or worked with

2) Academic professor (mainly science),

You can provide up to 4 letter writers.

Get to Know your Professors

During the Semester

Tell professors at the beginning of the semester that you would like them to keep an eye on your performance in class. It will give them a longer observational window.

Visit their offices regularly.

End of Semester

At the end of the semester, if you do well, ask them if they would be willing to write you an excellent letter of recommendation when you are ready to apply.

How to Establish a Relationship

A key to a good letter is the establishment of a relationship between student and professor based on shared academic interests.

  • Ask thoughtful questions
  • Delve deeper into concepts presented in lectures
  • Share your academic and career goals
  • Ask for recommendations for additional reading
  • Inquire about their areas of interest and research

Ask about Opportunities

After you have gotten to know professors, ask about further opportunities, e.g., teaching assistantships, individual research projects, etc.


Downloadable Resources

PreHealth PlannerKeep track of your activities, and your research on medical schools.

downloadable summary

personal statement guidE

Helpful Websites

WICHE (Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education) enables Utah residents to enroll in out-of-state professional programs at reduced tuition. In order to qualify for WICHE you must have been a resident of Utah for at least 5 years when you apply to optometry schools.

In the summer when you apply to optometry schools you should also apply to be WICHE certified. Application deadline: October 15.

Last Updated: 7/28/22