During my orientation week, there was a quote from one of our guest speakers that resonated with me: “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” I learned this all too well last year. I was not accepted into optometry school right out of college. Once I received the last rejection letter, I immediately tried getting a game plan going to make sure that didn’t happen again. I’ll give a rundown of what that entailed. Hopefully, I can impart some wisdom about how to reapply if things didn’t work out the first time through for you.
First and foremost, there are various reasons an applicant may not be accepted. You need to find out where specifically your trouble areas lie. The best way to do this is to get in direct contact with the schools you applied to. You may already have an idea of where you struggled, but it’s best to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. The admissions staff can also give you some other valuable insight into what their committee expects of a competitive applicant.
For me, my main issue was my science GPA. The way I sought to rectify this was by attending a semester at my local community college. If your undergraduate university was anything like mine, you probably paid (and still are paying) quite a bit of money to attend. So, opting to do an extra semester or two at a community college is a great move for your wallet.
For some people, there is a stigma surrounding community college. We’ve heard it all: “Students at community college aren’t smart, the classes are easy, and professional schools won’t take you seriously.” I can tell you first-hand that none of that is true. Don’t feel bad if it’s not financially feasible for you to go to a large university to make up some classes; success comes in many forms.
In addition, I struggled a bit with knowing how many classes I should take and how many semesters that should span. As mentioned, this a great topic to bring up with an admissions counselor in deciding your layout for reapplying. For me, one semester sufficed, but depending on your performance in that first semester and your initial science GPA from undergrad, it could require longer.
I also continued shadowing with one of my regular optometrists, as well as shadowing a vision therapist for the first time. It is important to show an admissions committee you are still involved in the profession when reapplying. This benefited me greatly when interviewing at the various schools I applied.
Speaking of which, I wasn’t offered any interviews the first time applying, so I think now would be a good time to share how I tackled this new beast. The answer might sound frustratingly simplistic to those who want a detailed response, but honestly, just be yourself. If you’re knowledgeable and passionate about the profession, it will show. You can use the fact that you are reapplying to your advantage; your determination will be evident if you explain how you refused to give up.
As I mentioned before, there are different reasons why you may find yourself without an optometry school to attend after applying. So, it is imperative you identify where you need to improve. Some may need to retake the OAT. Others may need experience in the profession. Make sure you are staying in contact with the schools where you are reapplying, because they will be your greatest ally in giving you the blueprint for your success.
A rejection letter is not a death sentence. I admit, a year ago around this time, it certainly seemed to me like it was. I was quite disheartened knowing there was a long road ahead for me. However, as the year went on and I started getting invitations to interview, my morale improved. This eventually led to me where I am now: in the great state of Illinois ready to begin my first year as an optometry student.
Contrary to what some online forums may suggest, not every OD student got a 380 on their OAT and had a 3.9 GPA in undergrad. I, along with many others, are living proof of that. So, never feel ashamed about where you came from and how you found your success. The letters “OD” will look great no matter what name precedes them.