Here Are the 10 Best Optometry Schools in the US

We all know that graduate school in the health sciences is hard, and with good reason. No matter which branch of medicine in which a future doctor specializes, we only want the best of the best going into the world to practice. Whenever human health is involved, there cannot be room for error. 

Despite this truism, medical school rankings tend not to focus on pass rates. The quality of alumni, research endowments, and famous alumni all matter, as do students’ GPAs and test scores. But at the end of the day, most patients care most about the basics: did the person performing a procedure pass medical school. 

With that in mind, College Gazette presents this list of the top ten American optometry schools, ranked according to “ultimate pass rates” of optometry board exams as reported by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry. Our list limits itself to the 50 U.S. states, not including territories. 

These criteria result in a surprising list, which includes the private institutions and R1 state schools that one would expect, which have optometry programs in their medical schools, but also smaller colleges devoted solely to the study of human vision. By including such a wide range of options, College Gazette’s list can help future eye doctors make their plans according to the issues that matter. 

10. University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Optometry (Pikeville, KY)

University of Pikeville
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Based in the Appalachian Mountains, UPIKE offers Kentucky’s only college of optometry. But the school does not rest on that exclusivity. Since it was founded in 2016, the UPIKE College of Optometry has already improved the health of its community by training future doctors in their state-of-the-art $60 million+ Health Professions Education Building. Furthermore, the school takes active steps to support their future students, creating a grant to help offset the costs of those taking the Optometry Admissions Test. 

At 38%, UPIKE’s optometry school has a relatively high acceptance rate. But despite that high number, the school boasts an impressive 91.89% pass rate, proving its commitment to equipping its students. As those numbers demonstrate, the UPIKE College of Optometry is committed to preparing the next generation of vision specialists

9. UC Berkeley School of Optometry (Berkeley, CA)

UC Berkeley
Louis H. G., Memorial Glade, CC BY-SA 4.0

Founded in 1923, UC Berkley’s School of Optometry was just the third university optometry program in the United States. Over the years, the school’s list of faculty and alumni includes presidents of the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Optometry. And yet, the 92.54% pass rate shows that no matter how many accolades the school has accumulated, it still prioritizes students going through their program. 

That number grows more impressive when one looks at the intensive quality of the training students receive. Optometry students begin working with patients during their first year and spend approximately 2500 hours working with them by the end of the program. Also, students can advance their research agendas in their award-winning Clinical Research Center, or through several other support systems. 

8. Illinois College of Optometry (Chicago, IL)

Illinois College of Optometry
Garvin58, ICO RC, CC BY-SA 4.0

We’ve all said that some great development is “the best thing since sliced bread.” The Illinois College of Optometry must be even better because the inventor of the bread slicing machine, Otto Frederick Rohwedder, graduated from ICO

While most of ICOs 160 graduates each year go directly into practicing optometry instead of revolutionizing the bread industry, its 92.54% pass rate speaks to its devotion to students. Students receive their training at the Illinois Eye Institute, where they receive hands-on experience. ICO also offers residency programs in everything from vision rehabilitation to ocular disease. 

These resources are housed in a beautiful campus in the heart of Chicago, which results in a student body that feels both supported and challenged. In the end, ICO creates some of the best eye doctors in Chicago and the Midwest in general. 

7. University of Missouri at St. Louis College of Optometry (St. Louis, MO)

University of Missouri St Louis
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

The UMiss-SL College of Optometry has an acceptance rate of 31% and a pass rate of 95.65%, which tells you that they’re doing something right. They draw future optometrists from across the country and support them throughout the entire program to make sure that the overwhelming majority of their students graduate. 

That commitment to students dovetails with the school’s values of growth, responsibility, discovery, and community. Students and faculty have been involved in programs that improve vision care to those who most need it, from low-cost optic kits, programs for diversity and inclusion, and increasing accessibility to the low-income population in St. Louis

Students planning to go to UMiss-SL’s College of Optometry should plan to procure strong letters of recommendation and substantial service hours, as well as high test scores and GPA. 

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