Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I apply to the O.D. program at the Chicago College of Optometry (CCO)?
You must complete the OptomCAS application. To access the application, go to www.optomcas.org. OptomCAS applications are available starting July 1, 2018, and the deadline to apply is April 1, 2019.
- Is there a supplemental application for admission?
No, the only application that you must complete is the OptomCAS application.
- Is a baccalaureate degree required for admission?
Yes. A B.A. degree is acceptable, but a B.S. degree is preferred. Coursework from a B.S. degree in the biological sciences or natural sciences is good preparation for the required coursework during the first two years of optometry studies, although any major is acceptable as long as you have fulfilled the prerequisite course requirements before enrolling.
- What are your prerequisite course requirements?
Please visit the Prerequisite section on our website for more information.
- What is the minimum acceptable grade that must be earned in each prerequisite course?
The minimum acceptable grade is a C. A grade of C- or below is not acceptable.
- Can I submit an OptomCAS application before completing all prerequisite course requirements?
Yes, you should apply in the summer prior to or at the beginning of the equivalent of the senior year of your baccalaureate degree program, even if all prerequisite courses have not yet been completed.
- Must I complete all pre-optometry coursework before I start my studies at CCO?
Yes, all pre-optometry coursework must be completed before you begin at the College. It is best not to wait until the summer semester/quarter before you enroll at the College to complete this coursework.
- How can I check if a specific course will satisfy a pre-optometry requirement?
Please contact the Midwestern University Office Admissions (630-515-6148) or the CCO Dean’s Office (630-960-3008).
- I finished my undergraduate studies many years ago. Do I need to retake all prerequisite courses again?
Prerequisite science coursework completed more than 10 years ago will be viewed with concern. More recent (within five years) math and science coursework is preferred.
- Does the College accept Advanced Placement (AP) credit as evidence of successful completion of pre-optometry coursework?
Yes, however, AP credit must be documented on your undergraduate transcript, and must be awarded for the equivalent earned grade of C (not C- or D) or higher.
- Does CCO accept prerequisite courses taken online?
Yes; however, prerequisite lab requirements must be taken in a traditional, in-class format.
- What OAT scores are required for admission?
All applicants are required to provide at least one set of official OAT scores. Although minimum Academic Average and Total Science scores of 300 each are recommended, the College does not have a minimum OAT score requirement.
However, if your Academic Average or Total Science scores are less than 300, you are advised to retake the OAT test. Although the new scores will be sent directly to OptomCAS, please also mail a copy of your new score report to CCO to expedite the admissions process.
The OAT scores submitted with your application must be earned no more than 5 years prior to the planned enrollment year. Only OAT examinations taken by June 1, 2019 will be considered for the 2019-2020 admission cycle.
To learn more about the OAT, go to www.opted.org.
- What cumulative and science grade point averages (GPA) are required for admission?
The College requires a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 (out of 4.00), and a minimum science GPA of 2.75 (out of 4.00).
- What was the academic profile of the most recent admitted class?
In Fall 2018, the admitted class was composed of 60 students. The academic profile of the class included:
- Mean cumulative GPA: 3.22
- Mean OAT (Academic Average): 297
- I applied to the College but did not get accepted. Can I reapply?
Yes, of course. However, you are advised to contact our Office of Admissions or the College’s Office of the Dean. Ask to speak to a counselor, who can review your application and provide specific advice on steps that you can take to strengthen your re-application. Depending on areas of improvement that are needed, you may be advised to retake the OAT, retake science pre-optometry coursework to boost your GPA, or practice your verbal communication and interviewing skills.
- Is optometry experience required for admission?
Some experience with optometry is required. Applicants should be aware of what optometrists do, how they are different from ophthalmologists, common work settings, and types of services that optometrists offer. You can gain this knowledge by speaking to or shadowing an optometrist, working as an administrative staff member at an optometrist’s office, or reading about the profession. Please note, one letter of recommendation must be from a practicing optometrist.
Applicants should also know that they want to be health care providers, that they enjoy helping others, and that they have the capacity to empathize and sympathize with the concerns of others. This experience can be gained from personal interactions with family, friends, elderly relatives, jobs in a variety of settings, or community outreach services.
- How many letters of recommendation are required with my application to CCO?
Two letters of recommendation. One letter must be from a practicing optometrist. The other letter must be from a pre-health advisor, a professor, an employer or an extracurricular activity advisor. Letters of recommendation from relatives, personal and/or family friends are not acceptable.
- How competitive is admission to CCO?
In the 2017-2018 admission cycle, the Chicago College of Optometry received 369 completed applications for the 60 available seats in the program. The College uses a rolling admission process, so completed applications are processed in the order in which they are received. Therefore, it is recommended that applicants apply early in the admissions cycle.
- Does CCO accept international students?
The Chicago College of Optometry welcomes international students for admission. An international student must complete a minimum of 30 semester hours of pre-optometry coursework from a regionally accredited college or university in the U.S., or from a recognized post-secondary Canadian institution that uses English as its primary language of instruction and documentation. Of the 30 semester hours, 15 hours must be in the sciences, 6 hours in non-remedial English composition, and 3 hours in public speaking.
The Chicago College of Optometry does not require TOEFL or TSE scores
- Is financial aid available to international students?
Unfortunately, financial aid is not available to international students.
- What is the length of a usual term?
The Chicago College of Optometry is on a quarter system. Most quarters are 10 weeks in length plus one week for final exams.
Full time students are enrolled in 3-4 quarters/year.
The total length of the Doctor of Optometry degree program is 14 quarters. All students are enrolled for Fall, Winter, and Spring Quarters. In addition, third and fourth year students are enrolled in Summer Quarter after completing the second and third professional years, respectively.
- How is the class schedule organized?
The class of 60 students takes all of their classes together. Some of the basic science courses are taken with other health professional students on the Downers Grove Campus.
For lab-based courses in the optometry curriculum, the class is divided into two groups. For clinical rotations, 2-4 students may be assigned to one supervising faculty member.
- Is attendance mandatory?
Midwestern University encourages 100% attendance by students at all course-related sessions. Class attendance is mandatory for all students for the first session of each course in each quarter and on the first day of class after scheduled vacations. Course directors also require attendance in laboratory sessions and when graded assignments such as quizzes, exams, practical exams, proficiencies, etc. are administered. There is also a mandatory attendance policy for all students for in-house clinics and external rotations.
- Tell me how virtual reality simulators will be used in my education.
The virtual reality lab includes training simulators that use an integrated, augmented reality technology to provide a highly realistic, 3D experience for examinations of the retina. The simulators provide first and second year students the opportunity to examine a wide range of realistic, clinically relevant cases prior to conducting exams on real patients. Simulator exercises are integrated with the curriculum and supplement classroom instruction. They are also used to hone clinical skills of third and fourth year OD students. Each simulation experience is summarized and performance data is stored in a database that allows faculty members to examine and analyze students’ abilities over time.
- Can I pursue my studies as a part-time student?
The Doctor of Optometry degree program is a full-time program.
- When will I start to take care of real patients?
During the first and second year of the program, students participate in various community-based vision screening events and clinical observations. Students are first assigned to a shift in the Midwestern University Eye Institute during Spring Quarter of their first year. As students progress through the academic program and gain more clinical skills, the amount of time spent seeing patients increases accordingly. Beginning in the third year of the program, students are assigned to weekly rotations in the Midwestern University Eye Institute or to off-campus affiliated clinical sites.
Students are supervised by licensed optometrists at all times.
- Will all of my clinical training occur at the Midwestern University Eye Institute?
No, your training, particularly during the fourth year, will include both on-campus and off-campus clinical rotations.
- Will I be able to select where I go for my clinical rotations?
You will be asked to provide your preference for available rotation sites to the Externship Director. However, the final assignment of your rotations will depend on the availability of preceptors, and how the strengths of a particular preceptor and rotation site match up with your educational needs.
- Will I be able to go out-of-state for my clinical training?
The College has developed many rotation sites outside of Illinois. While no specific rotations are guaranteed, students are encouraged to speak with the Director of Rotations about any clinical training sites they are considering to make sure they are a good fit for their individual needs.
- What is the accreditation status of Midwestern University Chicago College of Optometry?
Midwestern University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
The Chicago College of Optometry was granted the accreditation classification of “Preliminary Approval” as of March 2, 2016 by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE). In June 2018, this classification was reaffirmed. “Preliminary Approval” is the classification granted to a professional degree program that has clearly demonstrated it is developing in accordance with Council standards.
The College will be reviewed for full accreditation status during the 2020-2021 academic year, before the inaugural class graduates. Until then, the College participates in annual formal reviews conducted by ACOE.
- Tell me about the capstone project requirement for graduation.
The goal of the capstone project is to promote student research literacy. Students are encouraged to work in groups to complete an experiment in basic science, clinical research, or an analysis of a patient case series. During the second and third academic years, students take a series of courses to guide them through the steps to project completion. All students must formally present their data results in a publishable format and as a poster at the Midwestern University Kenneth A. Suarez Research Day or a similar event.
- What additional opportunities for hands-on-research training are available?
In addition to the capstone project, which is a required component of the curriculum, students may participate in other research opportunities. The College offers a summer research internship program, which comprises full-time activity for 10 consecutive weeks. If selected, the student may receive a stipend. In addition, students may take additional elective course credits in research. The supervisor/mentor may be from any of the five colleges on the Downers Grove Campus.
- Tell me about the ongoing research of the faculty.
All of the College’s faculty participate in clinical and/or basic science research. The results of this research are presented at national professional meetings or published in peer-reviewed academic journals. To learn more about the research interests of CCO faculty, please see “Downers Grove, IL Faculty Researchers” for individual faculty research websites.
- Is tutoring available?
Through the Midwestern University Office of Student Services, peer tutoring services are offered to those students having academic difficulty. Tutoring focuses on critical material and content. There is no charge for these tutoring services.
In addition, academic skill improvement services are available to enhance test taking skills, reduce test-taking anxiety, and improve study habits.
- Is counseling available?
Counseling services are free to all students currently enrolled at Midwestern University. Counselors are available to help students effectively deal with many issues through individual, couples, and group counseling.
- What is the cost of attendance for the Chicago College of Optometry?
For students starting their studies in Fall Quarter 2018, the annual tuition is $41,328. In addition, the fee for optometry equipment, which will be used in all four years of the Doctor of Optometry degree program (and thereafter) is $4,980.
This tuition rate and equipment fee applies to in-state, out-of-state, and international students.
- Are scholarships available?
The University has a variety of scholarships available to current students. Please check the Student Financial Services scholarships webpage for a complete listing of available scholarships.
- Can I be a work-study student?
Student employment is open to all students eligible for federal financial aid programs who apply for work-study and demonstrate financial need by completing a FAFSA for the applicable award year. The Office of Student Financial Services determines the total amount students may earn. Awards are based on the availability of federal funding.
- Tell me about Campus housing.
The University has two residence halls (Redwood I and II), which provide over 200 single occupancy rooms, and 48 one-bedroom apartments (The Pines) on campus. An optional housing tour is provided on the day of the admission’s interview. Housing tours are also available on Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment only from March 1st through August 15th. Please call the Office of Residence Life at 630-971-6400 to schedule an appointment or if you have questions.
For more information on residence life and floor plans visit MWU’s housing page.
Students may also opt to live off-campus and commute.
- Is a car recommended?
Because the clinic is located off-campus (about a 10 minute drive), a car is recommended.
- Is there a dress code?
Yes. Students should maintain a professional and orderly appearance at all times. Care should be taken in regards to personal hygiene and cleanliness. Casual attire that is neat, in good condition, and modest without provocative or obscene messages is permitted in the classrooms and campus buildings. Closed-toe shoes are required in all Basic Science and CCO labs at all times. In the Eye Institute, the professional attire dress code includes dresses, skirts, dress pants, or dress blouses for females; collared shirts and dress slacks for males; and short, white, long-sleeved student lab coats.
- What student organizations are available?
CCO has the following student organizations: AOSA (American Optometric Student Association), AAO (American Academy of Optometry), SVOSH (Student chapter of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity), COVD (College of Optometrists in Vision Development), Contact Lens Club, and Private Practice Club. These organizations are created and run by students, so there is always the opportunity to create more student groups if there is sufficient interest.