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12 November, 2023

How to Write a Personal Statement For Optometry School

When applying to Optometry schools, you will be required to write a personal statement. In this article, we will discuss how to write your personal statement for optometry school.
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Every year, the new application cycle for optometry schools in the US begins in late June. Students are required to fill out and submit their applications through the Optometry Centralized Application Service (OptomCAS). Within the OptomCAS portal, there are several required documents, such as a personal statement and supplementary essays. A personal statement is a written piece required by optometry schools in the US that demonstrates who the writer is as a person, their personal and academic goals, and why they would be a good fit for the optometry program. The personal statement prompt is as follows:

Please describe what inspires your decision for becoming an optometrist, including your preparation for training in this profession, your aptitude and motivation, the basis for your interest in optometry, and your future career goals.

How you choose to answer the prompt is up to you, but you must do so in 4500 characters, which is equal to approximately 750 words. Because of how broad the prompt is, getting started on your personal statement can be a daunting task. You want to be concise yet clearly describe your motivations and reasons for pursuing optometry. If you are struggling to get started or having trouble with the OptomCAS portal, feel free to keep reading or check out our OptomCAS Application Guide. In this article, we will discuss 8 tips to help you write the perfect personal statement.

1️⃣ Start Early

The OptomCAS application cycle begins in late June every year, and this year it opens on June 29th, 2023. There is no better time to start than now, as maximizing the amount of time spent on your personal statement will allow for more time to reread and revise! Optometry schools in the US also run on a rolling admission basis, meaning that the earlier you submit your completed application, the more seats will be available in each class and the higher your chances of receiving admission. Therefore, you want to give yourself at least 3 months to get a rough draft down so that you can set it aside, revisit what you have written, and enhance it even further.

2️⃣ Find Your Angle

You are given 4500 characters, or around 750 words, for your personal statement. Due to this word limit, it’s important to get your main points across but in an engaging, eloquent way. Instead of simply listing reasons why you are qualified for optometry school or why you think a certain program would best fit you, consider using a narrative to share your story instead. For example, you could write about an experience that sparked your interest in optometry, a personal life obstacle that you had to overcome that made you who you are today, or even a relationship with a family member, mentor or optometrist that inspired you to change your career path.

3️⃣ Focus On Your Values

If you are struggling to get started on your personal statement, reflect on your three main reasons for choosing to pursue optometry and the values you want to uphold as a future healthcare practitioner. With these values in mind, you can then extend your thought process into discussing different work or shadowing experiences in order to showcase what you have learned and how these initiatives have reinforced your passion for optometry. For example, if life-long learning is an important aspect of optometry that drives your passion for the field, and you have seen first-hand how newly developing technology has shaped a patient’s life, you can describe the experience you had in seeing how much the patient was struggling with their condition and how much better they were doing after being treated. This can then be played into how much you value lifelong learning and how you hope not only to continue educating yourself but your patients as well.

4️⃣ Do Not Summarize Your Resume

As mentioned earlier, do not use your personal statement to simply list off your accomplishments. This includes your GPA, standardized testing scores (such as your OAT or GRE scores), and basic tasks that you performed at an optometry clinic. Instead, take this time to reflect and describe how you grew and what you learned from interacting with patients and doctors during your clinical experiences. The same idea also applies to listing off qualities of your personality that you believe set you apart from other applicants and make you suitable for the field. For instance, simply stating that you have excellent communication skills and work ethic will not support your personal statement and application very strongly if you do not provide any examples to demonstrate those characteristics.

5️⃣ Be Specific

Adding onto the last tip, you can describe your experiences through short personal anecdotes. Instead of writing a long, elaborate life story, use a short personal narrative that includes specific details like the names of doctors you worked with or certain ocular or health conditions you saw. This will help illustrate important experiences you had or aspects of the field that have facilitated your learning and reinforced your passion for optometry. In other words – show, not tell!

6️⃣ Minimize Negativity

Another point to keep in mind when writing your personal statement is to keep any negative talk to a minimum. Although negative experiences with an optometrist or health care provider may have been the driving force or spark to your interest in pursuing optometry, try to keep the description short so you can move on and discuss what you have learned from the experience instead. Use your writing to focus on how the experience shaped you or changed your outlook for the better. This also applies to negativity such as addressing poor grades or hardships in your life – if you believe mentioning these aspects will do more harm than good, consider not mentioning them at all in your personal statement. With the limited word count, it would be best to focus on the positives instead of accentuating your flaws.

7️⃣ Ask For Feedback

Lastly, make sure to ask for feedback before submitting your personal statement. This goes hand in hand with starting early, as you want to allow yourself enough time to get a rough first draft down and an improved second draft before sending your work out for feedback. Consider sharing your draft with people of different backgrounds and stages of life to get a variety of perspectives – this includes professors, mentors, current optometry students, optometrists, friends of different academic backgrounds, or a pre-health advisor, if possible. Ask specifically for constructive criticism, especially regarding how clearly your piece answers the personal statement prompt and how strongly your experiences support your points.

8️⃣ Read, Review, and Read Again

Once you have asked for feedback, take some time to make any adjustments according to the criticism received. Afterward, step away for a few days before revisiting your personal statement with fresh eyes to make any necessary changes. Set a personal deadline for when you will have all your required documents ready to go. Within the remaining time, go through a few more cycles of editing so that you can better refine your piece before submitting the final copy.

👉 Conclusion

With the OptomCAS cycle up and running, it’s important to get a head start on your personal statement. As discussed, there are many aspects to your personal statement, so starting as early as you can will provide you with enough time to perfect your work and best express yourself through your application. Hopefully these 8 tips have been helpful and will get you on the right track to starting your piece. At the same time, there are also other required documents in your OptomCAS application, such as your Optometry Admission Test (OAT) scores and reference letters. For more information on the OAT and how to ask for a strong reference letter, feel free to read our articles: How to Study for the OAT, How Is the OAT Scored, What Is a Good OAT Score, What to Expect on OAT Exam Day and How to ask for Reference Letters for Optometry School Applications. Good luck!