On this page we provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about admission to our OD Program. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us.

(510) 642-9537

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:How can I find more information about the field and profession of optometry?

A: Please use the links below for general information from three major sources:

Q:Do I need to have a specific undergraduate major to apply for optometry?

A: No. Be sure to complete all Required Courses for optometry, regardless of declared major, before the date of your planned enrollment in optometry.

Q:Is a bachelor’s degree required for admission?

A: A bachelor’s degree is not required for admission to Berkeley Optometry, but is required for matriculation.

Q: Should I apply early to Berkeley Optometry?

A: Berkeley Optometry does not operate on “rolling admissions.” Therefore, while there is no competitive advantage to submitting an application early, we strongly encourage applicants to allow themselves a two-week lead time prior to our December 1 deadline to ensure all required materials have been received and processed. For example, if an OptomCAS application is submitted in mid-November and our supplemental application is missing, the applicant is informed by our office and has time to submit the required materials.

Q:Why are Berkeley Optometry’s pre-optometry prerequisites more extensive than other schools and colleges of optometry?

A: By completing human anatomy (lab strongly recommended), human physiology (with lab), microbiology, and biochemistry courses prior to admission, you can begin your professional education at a much higher level than at other schools. From the start, you will focus your studies on optometry, with clinical training beginning on the first day of school in a five-credit preclinical lecture and laboratory course. By the end of the first semester, you will have learned to perform and will have passed rigorous proficiency tests on case history, visual acuity testing, cover testing, pupil testing, keratometric measurement of the cornea, retinoscopy, subjective refraction, biomicroscopic examination of the anterior segment, binocular indirect and direct ophthalmoscopy of the retina, and much, much more. The accelerated pace of your preclinical training continues for the next two semesters, and you perform full examinations on your first real patients in the main primary care clinic during the Spring semester of your second professional year.

Q: Will Berkeley Optometry accept Pass or No Pass courses?

A: We will accept Pass or Not Pass courses and labs; however, we do not encourage prospective students to use more than one Pass/No Pass for prerequisite courses. Also, please note that Pass/Not Pass courses do not increase or decrease grade point averages.

Q: Must all prerequisite courses be completed as of the date I apply?

A: No, not all prerequisite courses have to be completed at the point of application, but the probability of admission may be reduced if more than four prerequisite courses are outstanding.

Q: Does Berkeley Optometry accept AP coursework?

A: Yes, courses for which AP credit was given are acceptable if listed on an official college transcript.

Q: What is Berkeley Optometry’s required amount of shadowing hours?

A: Although we do not have a required amount of shadowing hours, the purpose in shadowing an optometrist is to help you decide that optometry is the profession for you. The number of hours will vary from individual to individual.  Additionally, we do recommend shadowing in more than one mode of practice, if possible, to have multiple perspectives and experiences within the profession of optometry. Different modes might include private practice, VA hospital, corporate practice, group practice, etc.

Q: Does Berkeley Optometry require research experience for admission into the OD program? Does the Admissions Committee at Berkeley Optometry give preferential treatment to applicants with research backgrounds?

A: No, we do not require research experience to be admitted into our program, nor do we give preferential treatment to applicants with research backgrounds. Our program is clinic-based. In fact, our students begin seeing patients in the Meredith Morgan Eye Center in the second semester of their second year and graduate with over 2,500 patient encounters. However, if a student is interested in research, there are many opportunities. Please refer to the following web page: Research

Q: What can I do to fulfill your prerequisites in the areas of human anatomy and physiology?

A: You should contact us (see below) regarding acceptable substitute courses if no courses are offered at your school in human anatomy and human physiology. One way to meet the requirements in human anatomy and physiology is to attend Berkeley’s eight-week Summer Session, which begins in mid-June and ends in mid-August. Integrative Biology 131 and 131L (General Human Anatomy) and 132 and 132L (Survey of Human Physiology) are normally offered during these sessions and meet Berkeley Optometry’s requirements. Applicants for admission who wish to take advantage of these course offerings may elect to defer completing the anatomy-physiology requirements until the Summer Session before planned enrollment in the School of Optometry. Students interested in attending Summer Sessions should visit their website at: summer.berkeley.edu.

Q: What type of statistics course is accepted by Berkeley Optometry?

A: We prefer a life science-based statistics course if it is available at your institution. If your institution does not have a life science-based statistics course, we will accept the introductory course. If you are unsure of equivalent content, please email the course name, number, description and units to us at optometry-admissions@berkeley.edu.

Q: Do you admit many out-of-state applicants? What, if any, special criteria apply?

A: Although historically our program has been composed of California residents, all applicants are considered on an individual basis and our admissions selection process does not discriminate between residents and non-residents. Additionally, we do not have contracts with any states calling for admission of a specified number of students, and we do not use quotas of any kind. In fact, we actively encourage prospective out-of-state students to consider earning their OD at Berkeley Optometry! While there is a tuition differential between in-state and out-of-state students, in most cases, Berkeley Optometry students can qualify for legal residency by their second year of their OD studies, thereby significantly reducing their tuition and fees.

Q: How important are the results of the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)?

A: Test results are given the same weight as your Biology, Chemistry and Physics (BCP) GPA as calculated through your OptomCAS application, as well as a thorough review of your prerequisite coursework, grades attained and course fulfillment, as part of our admission process. We look for competitive course grades and OAT scores (see our Applicant Profiles page), and personal characteristics that indicate an applicant can perform well in the clinical practice section of our curriculum (as distinct from the academic section). The OAT may be taken more than once without penalty, and we will accept your best score.

Q: Can I “mix and match” my OAT scores if I retook the exam?

A: No. We will take the highest Academic Average (AA) and corresponding subject area for that test date only. We will not mix scores from different test dates. In a case where your AA is the same between or among scores, we will use your Total Science (TS) score as a “tiebreaker.”

Q: Does Berkeley Optometry offer an “OD/PhD” or an “OD/MS” combined-degree program?

A: In Berkeley Optometry’s OD program, intense preclinical training begins on the first day and builds sequentially in preparation for total immersion in primary care clinic and the advanced clinical care programs of the third and fourth years. The integrated nature of Berkeley Optometry’s preclinical/clinical training poses a serious problem for a combined-degree program. Interrupting this carefully designed sequence to take seminars and conduct research for 2-3 years in an MS/PhD program would necessitate considerable retraining upon returning to the optometry program to resume patient care, complete the requirements for the OD degree, and pass the OD board examinations. The consensus among our faculty is that the result would be detrimental to training in both programs, and that a more successful approach would be to pursue the two programs sequentially.

Q: Are there any advantages to completing an OD before earning an MS or PhD?

A: Optometrists earning MS/PhD degrees can more effectively bring their clinical knowledge to bear upon important vision research problems. In addition, optometrists with MS/PhDs and expertise in vision research are able to render patient care and hone their research in areas of clinical science. Another advantage to completing the OD degree first is that MS/PhD students with clinical qualifications are eligible for financial support at the postdoctoral level, as opposed to the graduate level. Recent optometry graduates may also enjoy a shorter training program. For general information, see the Graduate Program in Vision Science.

Q: What happens if I take a “gap year” before applying?

A: Many applicants to Berkeley Optometry choose to gain additional experience, both in optometry and life, by taking a year or more off following completion of their bachelor’s degree. Because the Admissions Committee recognizes the value of this “real world” experience, it can improve these individual’s competitive advantage for admission.