Frequently asked questions

Q:  Is the Doctor of Optometry (OD) program a graduate or doctoral program?

A. The OD program is a second-entry professional degree program, which prepares students for entry into the professional practice of Optometry. It is not a graduate degree, as a student is not required to complete an undergraduate degree prior to admission. For graduate programs, the University of Waterloo offers an MSc and a PhD in Vision Science. 

Q: How many spaces are there in the Doctor of Optometry for first-year students? How many people will apply?

A: The School admits 90 students into each first year class of the program. We receive approximately 300 applications each year.

Q: How many years of university are needed to apply?

A: A minimum of three years of university science are required to apply to the Doctor of Optometry program (the earliest to apply is the summer between second and third year).  You need to take six terms with five courses per term (not including labs). 

Q: How many years does it take to complete the Doctor of Optometry program?

A: The Optometry program (O.D.) is a four-year professional degree program.

Q: Does it matter what university I attend?  Do I have to go to University of Waterloo to be accepted into the Waterloo Doctor of Optometry program?

A: The 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. The Admissions Committee does not give University of Waterloo students preferential treatment over applicants from other universities. We are looking for work to be done in the faculty of science or health science, and completed with a full course load (5 courses per term for minimum 6 terms).

Q:  What is the advantage of attending the University of Waterloo for the undergraduate science program?

A:  The advantage of attending the University of Waterloo for the undergraduate science program is that all the required courses are easily taken with a number of science programs but especially Biomedical Science. Secondly, if you are in a regular Honours Science or Life Science program at the University of Waterloo and you enter the Doctor of Optometry program after year three you will graduate with both the Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Optometry degrees.

Q: If I start Optometry prerequisites at another university and then transfer to Waterloo will I then have an advantage when I apply to the OD program?

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

Q: Does Kinesiology or Health Studies/Sciences allow me to apply to Optometry?

A: The Committee is really looking for a BSc and a pure science program.  You can apply from kinesiology and health studies/health sciences, but it is very different from a pure science degree.  It may not allow you to take all of the required prerequisites, particularly if it is a very specialized program.  Most people who want a health care profession want to get there as quickly as they can, because there will be an additional four years for them to complete.  Kinesiology and health studies/sciences may not allow you to do that. 

Q: Am I able to take a professional program such as Nursing or Engineering and can I still apply to Optometry?

A: You may apply provided that you successfully complete the required prerequisites for Optometry admission consideration. However those programs usually have specific course curriculum’s that may not match with the Optometry prerequisites. It may take you a year or two after your degree to satisfy the Optometry prerequisites.

Q: Is there a “mature student” category?

A: No. As this is a professional program you will be expected to meet the same minimum admission requirements as all other applicants.

Q: Can I apply to the University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science from an Ontario College of Applied Arts and Technology (CAAT)?

A: No. Applicants with exclusively a community college background in Ontario are not admissible to the Optometry program. The prerequisites for our program must be met through University-level study.

Q: Do you accept IB courses?

A: Yes. The University of Waterloo recognizes IB courses as excellent academic preparation for success at the university level and will use them for required prerequisites.  IB courses must have a minimum grade of 5. See International Baccalaureate (IB) Transfer Credit Eligibility policies. You will be required to provide us with an official transcript for the IB course indicating your grade when you apply.

Q: Do you accept AP courses?

A: Yes. We will use AP courses for required prerequisites.  AP courses must have a minimum grade of 4. You will be required to provide us with an official transcript for the AP course indicating your grade when you apply.

Q: Am I able to take summer courses?

A: You can take summer courses, except for the summer immediately prior to the admission year to the School of Optometry. It doesn't matter if it's a prerequisite course, we will still use the course(s) and they will be included in your overall average. You can take a summer course in 2023 if you are applying for September 2024 and have it count towards your application. Unfortunately, you cannot take a summer course in summer 2024 if you are applying for September 2024 and have it count towards your application.  You still need to take a full course load, five courses per term in the fall and winter. If you haven't taken a full load in the fall and/or winter term, you can't make up for it by taking a summer course.  If you have taken a full course load in the fall and winter and choose to take extra course(s) in the summer you don’t have to take a full course load in the summer. If you do take five courses in the summer, it will count towards the six terms.  All course work must be finished by the May deadline of the year of application. See important dates for all deadlines.

Q: Is a failed course included in the course count?

A: Yes, it is still included in the courses taken that term.

Q: How and when do I apply for admission to the Doctor of Optometry program at the University of Waterloo?

A: To access the on-line application please go to our online application webpage.  Applications for September 2024 admission will be available mid-July 2023.

Q: Do I have to write the Optometry Admission Test (OAT)?

A: Yes, the OAT is a requirement.  For September 2024 admission, OAT scores must be taken from August 31, 2021 to August 31, 2023(inclusive).  Book your test early so you'll be able to meet this deadline.  Please go to the OAT web site for information and the application Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO).

Q: Am I able to use an MCAT or DAT score instead of the OAT?  

A:  No, you must write the OAT.  We don't accept MCAT or DAT scores.

Q: When should I write the OAT exam?

A:  The OAT is based upon first-year university science and organic chemistry. As soon as you have completed your introductory organic chemistry course (usually taken in the fall of second year) you are ready to write the OAT. You can write the OAT as many times as you like as only the highest score will be used. Keep in mind that once you have written an OAT there is a 3 month waiting period before you can re-write the OAT again.

Q: How do I study for the OAT exam?

A:  You should definitely study for the OAT, as it will affect your chances of being admitted to the program. Although the School has no data on the content or efficacy of any test preparation material, we offer a few starting points:

  • Test preparation materials and a sample test are available from the ASCO website.
  • Study guides are usually available in the UWaterloo bookstore and through book suppliers such as Amazon books (Canada), search for “optometry admission test
  • Kaplan Test Prep now offers sessions for the OAT
  • Do a Google search for “optometry admission test” and also look at the “sponsored links”

Q: How do I study for the CASPer?

A:  CASPer provides information on how to study Altus Suite for Applicants - Webinar | TakeAltus  Suite Test Prep | TakeAltus

Q: I have completed more than three years of undergraduate studies, will I have an advantage?

A: No. All applicants who meet the minimum admission requirements will be treated equally.

Q: I have already completed several years of university. Can I get advanced standing and start in second year?

A: No. All applicants will be considered for Year I. There are some very specific courses throughout the 4 year curriculum that are only available as part of the Optometry program.

Q: Do you accept transfers from other schools of Optometry?

A: No, we do not accept transfers from other optometry programs.

Q: Is it necessary that I take a full course load every term in order to be considered for admission?

A: The School looks for full time study (five courses per term every term) for a minimum of 6 terms, in the Faculty of Science. The optometry program has an extremely heavy course load. There are 5, 6 or 7 courses, each term, in many years of the program. The School is looking for proven ability to handle a full five course load science program. If students have a difficult time taking five courses, then 7 will really be a challenge!  You can't make up for not taking five courses in a term by taking a course in the summer.  Most professional programs have this requirement. 

If you don't meet this requirement, you would have to explain why in an application.  It would then be up to the Committee to decide.  Most professional programs have this requirement. 

If you will meet the five courses per term by the last term during your application (e.g. if you are applying for September 2024 and Winter 2024 will your sixth term with five courses) you will meet the requirement.  We do not assess this requirement prior to application.  

Q: Are repeated attempts of specific courses included in admission assessments?

A: If a course is repeated, both grades are used in average calculations. For example, if you received 60% the first time you took the course and 75% the second time, your average grade for that course will be 68%. If it is a prerequisite, both grades will be used.  Repeated courses are included in the course count for that term. Courses can only be repeated once.

Q: Am I able to have a prerequisite course graded on a credit/no credit (CR/NCR) basis?

A: No. All required prerequisites must have a grade. CR/NCR is not acceptable for prerequisites.  However, with COVID-19, for the winter 2020 term only, we will accept CR for prerequisite and other courses.  CR can be given for non-prerequisite courses.  They are included in the five course count per term. 

Q: Are courses taken on-line treated differently than courses taken on-campus?

A. No. Transcripts don't indicate if a course is taken on-campus or on-line.  You can take on-line courses. However, we don't accept on-line courses for courses with lab requirements.  Due to COVID-19, for the spring 2020 term, fall 2020 term, winter 2021, spring 2021, fall 2021 and winter 2022 we will accept online labs. Online labs will no longer be accepted after winter 2022.  We don't accept at-home labs.

Q: Can virtual or online lab courses taken through distance education be considered equivalent to on-campus lab courses?

A: No. The Admissions Committee strongly believes that on-campus labs better prepare students for the OD program.  However, due to COVID-19, for the spring 2020 term, fall 2020 term, winter 2021 term, spring 2021 and fall 2021 we will accept online labs. We don't accept at-home labs.

Q: I've gone to CEGEP, what is the process?

A: We do allow CEGEP.  Two years at CEGEP are equivalent to one year of university.  Two years of university (the program in science you choose is not a factor) must then be done to complete the requirements to be eligible to apply to the School of Optometry.  Yes, courses taken in CEGEP can satisfy prerequisites.  R scores are not used.

Q: If I don’t have at least a 90% average, will I be considered for admission?

A: Applicants require an overall undergraduate university average of at least 75.0% to be considered for admission. Grades from Graduate programs are not included in the overall average. Historically, applicants who have been admitted to the program have had averages of 79% to 92%. Achieving a very high academic average does not guarantee your admission, just as a lower academic average does not necessarily exclude you from being admitted.

Q: My friend has a relative who works at the UWaterloo. Will her application be considered over mine?

A: The Admissions Committee does not, under any circumstances, consider any of the following in admission decisions:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Nepotism
  • Family name
  • Socioeconomic status

Q: What does the Admissions Committee look for in applications?

A: The Admissions Committee is looking for:

  • Academic competence and evidence of ability to handle a course load of five courses (plus labs) per term, throughout their undergraduate education.
  • Service to the community and university, work experience and interpersonal skills.
  • An understanding and knowledge of the profession of Optometry.  You must job shadowing with an optometrist which means observing eye exams. (A minimum of 8 hours is expected) but many applicants have many more hours completed.
  • Personal qualities such as leadership, integrity, motivation, initiative, social awareness, personality, and the ability to work with others.
  • All offers of admission are conditional upon successful completion of the current academic year and requirements.  Students admitted must maintain their level of academic performance. The Admissions Committee reserves the right to deny admission to an already admitted student if their academic performance falls below acceptable standards.

You will find detailed information about the selection process at: Doctor of Optometry Selection Process.

Q: I finished my degree some time ago, will this be a disadvantage?

A: Possibly. It is preferable for applicants to have a current understanding of relevant course material. Courses taken more than 10 years ago may be subject to additional review.

Q: If I do not get an invitation to the Meet & Greet conducted by the Admissions Committee, does that mean I have not been accepted into the program?

A: Unfortunately, applicants who do not receive an invitation to the Meet & Greet will no longer be considered for admission. See Meet & Greet.

Q: If I apply one year and am not admitted, will I have a better chance of being admitted the next year?

A: There is no advantage or disadvantage to applicants based on the number of times you apply to the Doctor of Optometry. Each year there is a separate admissions process through which you are evaluated against the applicants who are applying with you. It is your performance against this cohort, and the admission criteria that determines your admissibility.

Q: How will the different admission criteria be weighted?

A: The relative weight of the defined elements of the admissions process is determined by the Admissions Committee and is not publicly available. Generally speaking, an Offer of Admission will not be made to a student who under-performs on any component of the admissions process. No specific information will be passed back to the applicant regarding their individual performance within the process.

Q: I did not receive an admission offer. Can you provide me with feedback?

A. No, we cannot provide a detailed analysis of each application. Applicants who are unsuccessful are encouraged to carefully review the published admission criteria and self-assess for areas that they may have not met or can work to improve. It is important to remember that Waterloo bases its admission decisions on factors above and beyond an applicant’s GPA. The OD program is extremely competitive with a limited number of seats, and depending on the quality of our applicant pool from year-to-year, it is inevitable that the Admissions Committee must turn away academically strong applicants that fall short in other areas.

Q: Can I arrange to go on a tour of the School of Optometry?

A:  Tours of the Optometry building are only offered at the University's March Break Open House and Fall Open House. Due to the heavy use of the building, tours cannot generally be arranged at other times.