The goals of the optometry program are to graduate optometrists who are knowledgeable, clinically competent, professional and ethical. In addition, we seek to prepare our students for the future of optometric practice by teaching them to think critically as life-long learners who understand the scientific basis of the profession and apply the fundamentals of evidence based practice to patient care. The program is also designed to provide opportunities to customize learning to student interests on advanced topics through elective courses and the selection of advanced clinic assignments.

The professional program leading to the Doctor of Optometry (OD) at the SUNY College of Optometry is four years in duration. Advanced standing options are available for qualified students.


The curriculum integrates the basic biological and vision sciences that form the foundation of clinical practice, teaches the fundamentals of optometric practice, and develops critical thinking and the application of evidence based practice in clinical care.

Patient care begins early in the program and continues throughout all four years with increasing responsibilities under the supervision of our clinical faculty at the University Eye Center (UEC) and through fourth year externships that include sites around the country and abroad.

SUNY Optometry considers the whole student during the admissions process. A high undergraduate GPA and high OAT scores are only two of the factors that we use to decide if a candidate is a good fit for us. The Admissions Committee also considers the quality of the candidate’s undergraduate institution, type of program pursued, progression of grades, extracurricular activities, leadership and community involvement, communication and interpersonal skills, letters of recommendation, personal interview and commitment to the profession. Only the applicants with the strongest credentials will be invited to the College for an interview.

Out-of-state and foreign residents are encouraged to apply. We do not discriminate against out-of-state residents for admission. Most out-of-state US citizens are eligible for in-state tuition after one year at SUNY Optometry.

What you learn in OD Program (Learning Objectives)

By graduation, students in our OD program will have demonstrated knowledge of the programmatic learning objectives, their application to evidence-based clinical optometry, and the professionalism and ethics expected in healthcare professionals. These outcomes are described in each of the areas that follows:

Demonstrate a command of knowledge on…

  • Systems anatomy and physiology, with special emphasis on the eye and visual system
  • The various pathological processes and causes that lead to dysfunction and disease, and the effect that these processes can have on the body and its major organ systems, with special emphasis on the eye and visual system
  • The cellular, molecular and genetic basis of the development, physiology, and pathology of the body systems and their relationships to diseases of the eye and visual system
  • The structures and processes contributing to the development of refractive errors, binocular vision anomalies, and other optical and perceptual abnormalities of the visual system as they relate to, but not limited to, strabismus, amblyopia, oculomotor function, accommodation and visual perception
  • The optics of the eye and ophthalmic lens systems (including spectacles, contact lenses and low vision devices) used to correct and treat the development of refractive, oculomotor and other vision disorders
  • Mechanisms of action of the various classes of pharmaceutical agents and laser and surgical treatments, their interactions
  • Vision therapy and other rehabilitative methods used for the management of common visual disorders
  • The psychosocial dynamics of the doctor/patient relationship and understanding of the social, psychological and economic forces affecting diverse patient populations
  • Community health care resources and delivery systems to improve care
  • Practice management structures and strategies as they pertain to the various practice settings
  • The role of the optometrist in the health care delivery system and as part of an interprofessional health care delivery team

Demonstrate clinical competence in…

  • All the skills required for the triage, diagnosis, management and/or treatment of common visual conditions, including or resulting from:
    • refractive errors
    • abnormalities of accommodation, monocular or binocular vision, oculomotor and sensory/perceptual dysfunctions
    • ocular disease and trauma
    • ocular surgery and laser treatments
    • systemic disease
    • environmental or occupational conditions
    • congenital or hereditary conditions
  • The ability to understand, evaluate and apply the use of contemporary refractive and imaging technologies in the provision of eye and vision care
  • The critical-thinking skills needed to assess the patient’s visual and physical status and to interpret and process the data to formulate and execute effective management plans using the fundamental principles of evidence based practice
  • The ability to order and interpret frequently needed laboratory and diagnostic procedures as indicated for the delivery of appropriate problem oriented care
  • The ability to prescribe or use ophthalmic materials, contact lenses, vision therapy, low vision devices, pharmaceuticals and certain laser and surgical procedures to treat and manage vision disorders and disease
  • An understanding of nutritional influences and vitamin supplements on ocular physiology and systemic health and disease
  • The ability to recognize and initiate the coordination of patient care for conditions requiring advanced medical, systemic, interprofessional, or specialty care
  • The ability to recognize life-threatening conditions and to initiate immediate intervention
  • Effective interprofessional and personal communication skills, both oral and written, to maximize successful patient care outcomes
  • The ability to use appropriately all supporting healthcare resources available, including the use of electronic health records, ancillary personnel, co-management of intra- and inter-professional collaborations and referrals, to ensure the highest quality patient care
  • The ability to access, accurately interpret, and apply information for evidence based practice in decision making for patient care and health care delivery
  • Cultural competence and the ability to embrace diversity and individual differences that characterize patients, populations and the health care team
  • The ability to work cooperatively with patients, and collaboratively with other healthcare professions and care providers, to provide the effective delivery of healthcare services.

Demonstrate professionalism and ethics through…

  • A commitment to life-long learning and providing the highest standard of care
  • The ability to acquire, analyze and apply new information while making reasonable and informed decisions that are consistent with the interests and needs of the patient and broader community
  • Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that integrate current knowledge, scientific advances and the human/social dimensions of patient care to assure the highest quality of care for each patient through the principles of evidence based practice
  • The ability to recognize personal limitations regarding optimal patient care and to work with the broader health care community in providing the best care possible
  • An understanding of professional ethics and challenges to the optometric profession posed by conflicts of interest inherent in health care delivery, and the ability to incorporate those principles into decisions affecting patient care, always keeping the patient’s welfare foremost
  • Professionalism, by demonstrating honesty and integrity in all interactions with patients and their families, colleagues and others with whom the optometrist must engage in his/her professional life
  • A respect for the dignity of every patient and a commitment to empathetic and confidential care
  • A commitment to work as an integral member of the larger interprofessional health care team to improve patient care outcomes
  • A commitment to be actively involved in organized optometry and the community

The OD program learning objectives are based on the Attributes of Students Graduating from Schools and Colleges of Optometry, published by the Association for Schools and Colleges of Optometry (2011)

How we help students succeed in the OD Program

The college uses various teaching, delivery, and assessment methods to help students meet the programmatic learning objectives and apply them for effective patient care.

  • Each course in the OD curriculum identifies learning objectives that support attainment of the program learning objectives
  • Assessment of student knowledge and competencies supports attainment of the program learning objectives
  • Students having academic difficulties are given assistance and provided opportunities for remediation to help them fulfill course and clinical requirements
  • Preclinical courses, in which students learn clinical skills and procedures, have laboratories that support and assess the development of these skills and procedures using high fidelity simulators or actual clinical instrumentation where students perform procedures on each other or actual patients
  • Students participate in clinical patient care starting in the first year with clinical responsibilities increasing as the student develops competency
  • During the entire third professional year and at least one quarter of the fourth year, students render direct patient care in the UEC under the supervision of members of clinical faculty
    • Students spend most of the third year in the Primary Care Clinic
    • Third year students have small group integrative seminars with supervisors built into their primary care assignment to discuss current cases and clinical management
    • Students rotate through the UEC’s various specialty clinics
    • The student to doctor ratio is generally 3:1 in third year and 4:1 in fourth year.
  • The fourth year is divided into 4 quarters with students typically assigned to external sites for at least three of these quarters.
  • Externship rotations are designed to provide each student with comprehensive clinical experience in:
    • Refractive error evaluation and management
    • Motor, sensory, and perceptual dysfunction
    • Ocular disease and trauma
    • Interprofessional collaborative care
  • Student clinical performance is assessed with respect to clinical learning objectives that derive from the curricular learning objectives. Students are assessed on:
    • Patient care abilities including technical skills, data interpretation and case management
    • Interpersonal and communication skills
    • Professional and ethical behavior
How the College Assesses Its Performance in Helping Students Meet the Learning Objectives

Assessment of student learning at the program level occurs through multiple mechanisms including measurement of key performance indicators

  • Performance on national licensing examination (NBEO)
    • Part 1: Applied Basic Science*
    • Part 2: Patient Assessment and Management*
    • Part 3: Clinical Skills*
  • Percentage of graduates who intend to enter a residency program*
  • Graduation rates*

Other sources of information tracked:

  • Quantity and quality of each student’s patient-care experiences for each educational assignment
  • Annual exit surveys
  • Annual alumni surveys
  • Curriculum Committee assessments

The College’s assessment plan can be found at:

Key performance indicators designated with an asterisk are published in Factbook

How the College Continually Improves the OD program

Data collected for the OD program are analyzed by the Departments and the Office of Academic Affairs to determine if students are meeting the program’s educational leaning objectives. When data suggest substantive shortcomings, potential solutions are formulated and implemented.

While the analysis and formulation of potential solutions may be initiated at various administrative levels related to the OD program, the forums/offices best suited for analysis, planning and implementation are:

  • Open faculty meetings
  • Department Chairs
  • Curriculum Committee
  • Clinical Education Council
  • Dean’s Council
International Applicants

Except applicants attending English-language Canadian universities.

In addition to the application materials required of all incoming students, you will need to have your high school and college records evaluated by World Education Services, Inc. More information is available at World Education Services.

If English is your second language, you will be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if you’ve been in the United States for fewer than three years or if the  Admissions Committee requires it of you. A score of 550 or greater is required. More information is available at the Education Training Service.

Graduates of foreign colleges of medicine, dentistry, osteopathy or veterinary medicine can be considered for admissions by meeting all regular admissions requirements, but will not be considered for Advanced Standing. Exemption from individual courses shall be determined by the Dean of Academic Affairs in conjunction with department chairpersons and the course instructor.

Foreign Optometric Programs of Study

Graduates of international colleges of optometry seeking advanced standing must apply through OptomCAS; submit two letters of recommendation; detailed syllabi of all post-secondary courses taken; submit Part 1 of the NBEO (or the OAT); and all other regular admission requirements. The advanced standing application is processed separately from the regular first year admissions process. In its deliberations, the Admissions Committee considers, among others, the following factors:

  • Whether the candidate would have qualified as a first year applicant.
  • Performance in their completed optometry program.
  • Compatibility of the foreign optometric curriculum with the SUNY College of Optometry’s course of study.

Based upon a recommendation from the Dean’s Council, a decision on admission, program design and requirements for the program completion is made by the Admission Committee