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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

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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.

Some highlights of our internship program include:

  • Professional development workshops
  • Oral research presentation
  • Network with other OD students/faculty/staff
  • Private practice tour
  • Clinical observations at our eye clinic, the University Eye Center
  • OAT Prep
  • Receive career, admissions, and financial aid counseling

Important Notice to CSTEP Applicants from CSTEP Director:

Monday, September 21, 2020

I hope everyone is doing well.

As we are all still continuing to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is not yet safe to open our campus up for in-person programs, our Winter Internship this year (January 4 – January 15, 2021) will be completely virtual, through the Zoom platform.  If you get admitted to our program, you will need a way to log into Zoom, have video and audio capabilities (mic) to access our internship.

What you can expect to get from our internship includes virtual exposure to different modes of practices in Optometry, research in optometry, an OAT Prep workshop, various workshops (for example, on academic success, study skills, time management skills, and personal finance), and career, admissions and financial aid counseling.  You’ll also get a chance to meet CSTEP students from other colleges, our clinical faculty, our admissions and student affairs team, and other staff at the College.

While many will not offer their internships, we felt that it is better to have a virtual program, than no program at all.

If you are interested, please check out our application for eligibility requirements and to apply here: CSTEP Application

We are standing by for any questions you may have. Email: cstep@sunyopt.edu

Thank you, and stay safe.

Quy H. Nguyen, O.D.
CSTEP Director

** Due to high demand, we are extending the deadline of our CSTEP applications and supplemental documents for this cycle until Monday, 11/30/20 by 5pm EST.


Summer Academic Program

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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.

Some highlights of our Summer Academic Program include:

  • Take the “Introduction to Vision and Optometry” course with our optometry faculty, and gain 2 elective credits
  • A CSTEP symposium to include workshops to help gain a competitive edge to optometry school, a OD student panel, and networking opportunities
  • One clinical observation in our eye clinic, the University Eye Center
  • Network with our faculty, staff, and students
  • Receive career, admissions, and financial aid counseling

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.