Apologies for making you wait forever for Part II to my guide to Optometry School Applications. This past month has been hectic with trying to figure out housing situations and attempting to enjoy summer before classes begin in August. More on those fun topics soon, but for now let's discuss the best part of applying: OptomCAS!
Ok - so if you're a pre-Optometry student and are getting ready to apply, here is my number one tip: Review OptomCAS!!! Make an account as soon as possible. Creating an account before your cycle is the best way to get acclimated to the site and find out how it works. Since the 2013 cycle just began, but you're applying for Fall 2014, create an account! It is 100% free and nothing is official until you hit submit. I did this right before my application cycle began and it helped A LOT. Seriously, I got about half of my questions answered and figured out how OptomCAS functions BEFORE I even created my actual cycle's account. There are many weird details that you won't think about (What can I put in Honors and Activities? Do I just upload my resume? Do I have to create a narrative for every school?), and you need to be informed of how your information needs to be put into the system. This is really important when it comes to confirming transcripts and letters of recommendation. If you input something wrong, it will take longer for OptomCAS to approve your application and get the application sent to your schools.
In theory, for our tech-savvy generation, online application submission should be a breeze. And, in theory it is. However, when you're stressed and want to submit your paperwork ASAP it is very important that you know how the website works so you can quickly get everything done. I should point out that I was wanting to apply and submit my application early (which is what all Optometry websites, schools, and current students will recommend). If you are tech-savvy or are comfortable with applying later when the OptomCAS staff will be busy with the overload of paperwork people have submitted (and therefore will not be as likely to quickly answer your questions), this may not be worth it. But, for me, wanting to be aware of what I was getting myself into was important. Plus, it takes about 2 minutes to create an account. And it's FREE!!!
When you are ready for the official submission process, make sure all of your ducks are in a row for letters of recommendation, personal statement, and the pre-reqs required for each school. OptomCAS does not (nor should they) keep track of each schools requirements. We are applying and entering a professional program and therefore we must be proactively aware of the requirements needed to get it. What made my process easier was printing off a paper copy of my transcripts, personal statement, and pre-req lists for each school. This will come in handy when you are required to manually in-put every course you took in undergrad. Yeah, that's right. EVERY course. Not just pre-reqs. Having a paper copy allows you to visually check off every course you enter. On another note, it helps you determine which schools you really are interested in. Maybe you don't have all the pre-reqs necessary for a certain school. Maybe you do, but realize a particular school has other pre-reqs that you don't want to complete. If you have those types of feelings towards a particular school's pre-reqs, maybe it isn't the right school for you to apply to. By knowing that early, you can save yourself some money. There is a $45 fee to send your application to a school. That adds up quickly, so to save yourself some money and time, consider the schools early on.
So, to sum up, make sure you are prepared for OptomCAS. The submission process is already stressful with the knowledge that what you input could make or break you getting into the school of your dreams. By putting forth a few minutes to create an account, getting questions answered, and printing off a paper copy of your transcripts, you will have more time to relax and enjoy the process. Plus, it will make you that much more prepared for Part III: Interviews!