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CSTEP Program for Underrepresented Minority Students

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New York State residents who are full time college and graduate students are eligible for these programs.

As its primary objective, the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) project at SUNY College of Optometry exists to increase the number of historically underrepresented minority students in CSTEP-targeted professions, most particularly in the growing and dynamic profession of optometry. Services to current undergraduate college students include the following:

  • Expose, attract and recruit qualified students to the profession of optometry;
  • Assist students applying to SUNY as well as to other colleges of optometry;
  • Assist students in the preparation to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT), the entrance exam required as part of the application and admission process;
  • Provide career counseling;
  • Provide students with scientific research opportunities to prepare them for graduate/professional school;
  • Provide science, math, study and time management skills enrichment so that students are better prepared for the rigors of professional school;
  • Provide social and cultural services to SUNY Optometry students (who completed CSTEP) to enhance their morale and camaraderie, while monitoring their academic progress and clinical skills;
  • Assist SUNY Optometry students (who completed CSTEP) before and upon graduation with licensing exams and career placement.

Special CSTEP Programs for Undergraduate Students

Internship Programs

This on-site Internship Program gives students a first hand look at what optometry is all about. The program takes place two times each year, once during the winter and once during the spring/early summer. Each session runs 8 hours per day for 2 consecutive weeks. In addition to the services outlined above, participating CSTEP interns are assigned to work with fourth-year SUNY Optometry Doctor of Optometry students in their own clinical rotations. (Watch the video above to see participants talk about the program.)

Summer Academic Program

Each summer, the College offers a credit-bearing optometry course, “Introduction to Vision and Optometry,” at no cost to participants. This course is considered to be a “pre-first year optometry” and “gateway course” and is taught by SUNY Optometry faculty. This course provides an overview of exciting topics in vision science and optometry. Students will be introduced to basic ocular anatomy and physiology, visual perception and visual neuroscience. They will also learn and discuss diseases and conditions commonly seen in clinical practice and will have the opportunity to observe clinical eye care in the University Eye Center.  (Watch the video above to see participants talk about the program.)

Below is a course outline (subject to change):

Week Topic

Week 1

Structure/Function of the Eye and Visual System

Biochemistry/Physiology of the Eye

Week 2

Visual Illusions

Color Vision

Week 3

Eye Movements

Binocular Vision

Week 4

Optics of Refractive Errors

How we Become Nearsighted

Week 5

The Brain and Vision

How to Do an Eye Exam

Week 6

Clinic Observations


Week 7

Systemic Disease in the Eye

New Technology in Eye Care

Week 8

Pediatric Vision Care

Students may be able to transfer these courses to their home institutions for college credit.

Introduction to Vision and Optometry” runs for eight weeks and meets  one day per week. This course may be taken concurrently with the Spring Internship (see above)

Having already passed a bona fide course in optometry prior to applying to SUNY Optometry or another school or college of optometry will give CSTEP students a competitive advantage in the admissions process.

Financial Support

Because many SUNY Optometry CSTEP students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, CSTEP will defray their expenses associated with travel by providing a small stipend so that they can participate fully in the Internship Programs and/or the Summer Academic Program. In addition, a select number of students will be awarded stipends that help to defray the cost of enrolling in OAT preparation courses. Two CSTEP students from each internship program will be chosen to present their posters and oral presentations at the annual CSTEP Conference with one SUNY Optometry staff member.