Interview Preparation for Optometry School Admissions
November 1, 2016
Interview preparation starts with making sure your resume is in order. If you haven’t applied yet and are thinking ahead to the interview prep stage, now is the time to get introspective and make sure you’ve had sufficient shadowing or volunteer hours (at least 40 each) and extracurriculars to balance out your academics. Interviewers want to see that you can carry a conversation and have a breadth of experiences to draw from—on top of being academically rounded.
What happens during the interview?
It is likely that your interview will be an all-day process. Optometry schools typically want to give you as much exposure to the learning environment as possible (especially if you’ve traveled a long way to visit), so be appreciative of any presentations or tours the school prepares for you.
Every optometry school is different when it comes to interviews, and most will tell you the structure of the interview once you’ve confirmed a date. Interviews tend to be about 30 minutes, and there are often one or two with different admissions officers.
Closed file interview preparation
It is common for at least one of the interviews to be “closed file,” meaning that whoever is asking you questions has no idea about your academic or personal career. While the admissions committee has read your file and deemed you worthy of the interview invitation, the people sitting in front of you will not have reviewed your application beforehand. This type of interview can be both exciting and daunting, since there is so much to cover in so little time.
Start off with an “elevator pitch”—one minute or less—for why you want to attend that particular optometry school and what your final goal is. Afterwards, talk in greater detail about what you’ve done in the last four years of college that makes you stand out. Try to shy away from the academics here. Because you’re given only 30 minutes, you should talk about what you’ve been involved in that has made an impact on your life, such as research, a club you’ve held a leadership position in, or an interesting work experience. This is a chance to show that you are capable of balancing personal interests, professional experiences, and academic accomplishments.
As far as practical interview preparation is concerned, it is a good idea to bring a professional-looking padfolio (not a purse or backpack) with a couple of copies of your resume inside. Always ask if they would like a copy. Have a leather-bound folder, notebook, and pen inside so you are ready to take notes. Ask your interviewers for their business card so that you can follow up with a thank you letter after the interview.
Open file interview preparation
If you have two interviews, one of them will likely be “open file”—in which someone will have your academic file open in front of them while they’re asking you questions. At this stage, the person you’re talking to has no idea what you’ve said to anyone else. So although you may feel like you’re repeating yourself and being redundant, that’s perfectly fine. You want to make sure everyone you talk to gets the right information.
This will be the interview in which you are asked about academics. This is yet another opportunity to explain any difficulties you faced, but also a time to brag a little about your academic successes. Did you do noteworthy research, work in a lab, and work as a TA, all while working two part-time jobs? Talk about important experiences that you are proud of in this short amount of time. The interviewer will likely prompt you for questions as well: “Tell me what happened during this semester” or “Tell me about this volunteering experience.”
During your optometry school visit
During your visit to your prospective optometry school, there will likely be several presentations from people about financial aid, scholarships, and program highlights, in addition to a tour around the campus. Pay attention during these presentations. Although you are not technically being “interviewed,” you should be presenting yourself in the best light possible throughout the entire day.
Ask plenty of questions, but only if you have a genuine inquiry. People can tell if you’re just asking a question for the sake of it. You will be walking around a lot as well, so remember to wear comfortable, yet professional-looking shoes.
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