High school students

Here we try to answer some of the common questions from high school students and others interested in becoming optometrists.

Q: Can I apply to the School of Optometry and Vision Science directly if I am in my last year of high school studies?

A: Unfortunately, no. The Doctor of Optometry is a second-entry program meaning students require a number of university courses prior to applying to the Optometry program. For the Waterloo Optometry program, you will need to complete a minimum of 3 years of university science with all the prerequisite courses completed before entering Optometry.

Optometry prerequisites

If you’re a current high school student and are considering the Doctor of Optometry program, you need to complete a compulsory set of university-level prerequisite courses. These courses provide you with the broad base of knowledge that you need in order to begin studies in the Optometry program. The Optometry Admissions Committee does not look at high school grades. The Committee does look at all your university grades. Your university average must be at least 75.0%.

In order to enrol in these prerequisite courses, you will need to apply to a university undergraduate Bachelor of Science program (for example, biology, biochemistry, biomedical science, or pre-optometry). Unfortunately, community college applicants are not admissible to the Optometry program.

These prerequisite courses are very similar to prerequisites for Medicine or Dentistry programs.

Choosing a university science program

Which science program you choose for your prerequisites does not affect your standing with the Optometry Admissions Committee. Rather, you should choose a science program that you would enjoy and that you can excel at. Consider a program that you would like to continue to complete if you are not admitted into the Optometry program.

Consulting with the university you’re planning to attend is important. Contact the university you are interested in and ask about their admission requirements for the science program. There will be certain high school courses you need in order to enter the science program.

A key consideration when you’re selecting a science program is flexibility. Your program must have the flexibility for you to choose elective courses, such as humanities and arts courses, along with the prerequisite science and math courses. If the program you select is too structured, you will not be able to meet all of science and non-science prerequisites for Optometry.

The Optometry Admission Committee look for applicants to be enrolled in a Bachelor of Science (BSc) program within a Faculty of Science. Due to the rigorous nature of the full course load of the Optometry program, the Admissions Committee also looks for applicants to be pursuing their prerequisite studies with a full course load (five courses per term), for a minimum of 6 terms.

Q: I’m not going to attend Waterloo for my BSc courses. Am I automatically at a disadvantage?

A: The Optometry Admissions Committee does not consider the university of origin (where you’re applying from) in their admission decision nor do they have quotas from other provinces or countries. Your chances are equal whether you’re applying from a university within or outside of Canada . The Admissions Committee does not give University of Waterloo students preferential treatment over applicants from other universities.

Q: I’m thinking about beginning my science studies at another university and then transferring to Waterloo to finish. Would I then have an advantage when I apply to Optometry?

A: Since Waterloo students are not given preferential treatment in the admissions process, transferring to Waterloo will not provide you with a competitive advantage. In addition, since some of your courses may not be granted transfer credit, transferring could cost you time and lost coursework.

Waterloo BSc options

All applications to Ontario universities are handled by the Ontario Universities' Application Centre (OUAC). You do not apply directly to the university.

If you’re considering Waterloo for your prerequisite studies, the Faculty of Science offers a number of programs that will meet the requirements. These programs include Honours Science, Biomedical Science (Life Science major), and Biology (Life Science major). All these programs are described below.

You would be able to meet the Optometry requirements through any one of the three programs – deciding amongst them is a personal choice and does not affect your chances of being admitted to Optometry. Here’s a brief description of each program to help you with your decision.

Applicants to Honours Science, Regular or the Biomedical Science Academic Plans of the University of Waterloo who have completed their secondary school education in provinces other than Ontario should consult with the Honours Science or Biomedical Science Science Undergraduate Advisors to ensure that their background in Science and Mathematics has prepared them for Honours Science-Regular or the Biomedical Science Academic Plan as given at the University of Waterloo.

Honours science

This is Waterloo's most flexible four-year science program and is offered through the regular (non-co-op) system of study only. You’ll be able to take a wide variety of courses through this program, allowing you to meet the requirements for Optometry or for any other professional school you’re interested in. This program is a good choice if you like complete freedom in choosing your own courses or if you wish to pursue a minor while acquiring the necessary prerequisites for Optometry.

Biology (Life Science major)

This program is offered through both the regular and co-op systems of study and is the most flexible of Waterloo's co-op science programs. You’ll study all aspects of biology through this program, including human health, ecology, cell biology, microbiology, zoology, and plant science. In each of your first and second years, you’ll take seven required courses and three elective courses. This program is a good choice if you’d like to pursue co-op while meeting the requirements for Optometry.

Biomedical science (Life Science major)

This four-year, regular only, program is designed specifically for students who are interested in professional health programs, such as dentistry, optometry, medicine, and chiropractic. Focusing on human health, this program is more structured than Honours Science in that roughly half of your courses are required and half are elective. This program is a good choice if you’re interested in human health and prefer some structure in conjunction with the flexibility to choose elective courses.

Q: What are the required high school courses if I want to get into Waterloo’s Biomedical Science program?

A: Please see the Life Sciences section of the Faculty of Science Admission Requirements for the required Ontario (OAC) high school courses. If you are considering a career in Optometry it is highly recommended that you take 12U physics, biology and chemistry. For other Canadian course equivalents visit uWaterloo's Canadian course equivalents.

Optometry Degree and Honours BSc

Students who have completed a minimum of three years of study in the Faculty of Science at Waterloo prior to successfully completing the Optometry program may be eligible to transfer some of their Optometry credits to their Bachelor of Science degree. This allows students in our undergraduate Science programs to earn both an Honours Bachelor of Science degree and a Doctor of Optometry degree without officially completing all years of their BSc degree. This situation does not apply to any other Bachelor of Science program, at either Waterloo or any other university. Contact Science Undergraduate Advisors.

What's next?

After completing the prerequisites, the next stage to becoming a licensed optometrist is to obtain a Doctor of Optometry degree.

Do you have general questions about Waterloo or what Waterloo has to offer?

The Waterloo Prospective Students site contains a wealth of information:

  • Program Descriptions, Admissions Procedures, Financing Options, Housing Options, an Introduction to Student Life, & Campus Visit
  • Ask a Question, Request Program Brochures, Book a Tour, Sign Up for an E-newsletter, Read some blogs, & Take a Virtual Tour

Do you need help choosing a Bachelor of Science program or planning the Optometry prerequisites at Waterloo?

Visit: Faculty of Science programs

Or feel free to contact:

Science Recruitment Officer
Email: science@uwaterloo.ca
Phone: (519) 888-4567 ext. 36243