What is the anticipated size of the class?
The class size for the Accelerated Scholars Program ranges between 10 to14 students depending upon the candidates in the applicant pool. Ultimately, the goal is to keep the class size small enough to provide close mentorship and guidance by faculty but afford students the opportunity to learn and grow with a larger cohort.
Will the Accelerated Scholars Program classes be mixed with the traditional optometry program students?
The Accelerated Scholars Program uses multiple formats for course content delivery including face-to-face lectures, recorded lectures, recitation and laboratory sessions. The small size of the Scholars Program allows students in the program to be closely mentored by the Scholars Program faculty. These approaches are consistent with the recommendations made by the 2010 Carnegie Foundation report regarding medical education. Currently, we don't have any courses that are blended in a live format with the Traditional Program.
What curricular material was eliminated to allow students to complete a degree more rapidly? Will I be prepared for the National Board Examinations?
The Doctor of Optometry Accelerated Scholars Program provides students an equivalent curriculum to students in the Traditional Doctor of Optometry Program. No course material has been eliminated. As with the Traditional Program, the Accelerated Scholars Program places an emphasis on biomedical sciences and clinical patient care. The overall didactic curriculum for the Scholars Program is only slightly accelerated in comparison to the Traditional Program at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) (24 months vs. 30 months). The Scholars Program follows the University’s quarter schedule with each academic quarter being 12 weeks of instruction, while the Traditional Program follows the semester schedule with each semester being 17 weeks of instruction. The unique methods of course delivery and the three-year continuous curriculum allow the students to more rapidly acquire basic clinical skills and to become more quickly immersed in patient care.
Our overall first time pass rate for ALL students who have so far taken the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO) Part 1 exam is 97%. At the time of graduation, 100% of PCO Accelerated Scholars graduates have passed all three parts of the NBEO exams.
Is there a different application process?
The application process for the Accelerated Scholars Program is separate from the Traditional Program. Information regarding the current application process can be found under Criteria & Prerequisites
and Application Process
Applicants must submit an application on OptomCAS (www.optomcas.org), where you are able to indicate in if you would like to apply to the Accelerated Scholars Program, the Traditional Program or both.
Are there any additional requirements beyond those published for PCO’s Traditional Program?
Applicants are required to have an earned bachelor’s degree prior to enrollment in the Accelerated Scholars Program. In addition, applicants must have 100 hours of patient care interaction prior to enrollment. Patient interaction does not have to occur in a Doctor of Optometry office; rather, it must be experience (paid or unpaid) in which the applicant interacts with patients in a healthcare setting.
The goal of the Scholars Program is to enroll students who have the ability to work cooperatively with others, have good problem solving skills, and strong interpersonal skills. Consequently, the Scholars Program uses the Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI) format rather than a traditional one-on-one interview format. The MMI format presents candidates with six to eight different stations to interact with six to eight different student and faculty interviewers. Each interviewer interacts with each candidate on the same brief case scenario for seven to eight minutes. Each candidate is rated compared with all of the other candidates on that scenario without interviewers knowing the performance of the candidate at the other stations. Candidates do not need to have a prior academic background to perform effectively at the different MMI stations. This interviewing technique, developed by McMasters University, is used by a number of medical schools and has been found to be a predictor of academic and clinical success in the medical school setting.
Please note, for those applicants who apply to both the Scholars Program and the Traditional Program and participate in the MMI Scholars interview process, there is no need to have a separate interview for the Traditional Program.
If I graduate from the Accelerated Scholars Program, will this limit my future employment opportunities?
The Accelerated Scholars Program has been approved by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education (ACOE), which accredits the Schools and Colleges of Optometry. The Scholars Program provides a didactic and clinical experience that is equivalent to PCO’s traditional Doctor of Optometry program.
Each state has a State Board of Optometry that regulates the practice of Optometry within the state. State regulations require that candidates graduate from an accredited School or College of Optometry and pass all parts of the National Board of Examiners in Optometry (NBEO). There is no evidence that graduates of the Scholars Program will encounter challenges in state licensure. Thus, employment opportunities will not be limited. Additionally, we have had numerous students go on to complete post-graduate residencies and additional degrees.
How will the tuition compare to the traditional program?
The annual tuition for the Accelerated Scholars Program is the same as for the Traditional Program; however, students in the Scholars Program will incur three year’s tuition as opposed to the Traditional Program’s four years. Therefore, there is an upfront one-year tuition savings.
On top of the one-year tuition savings, students in the Scholars Program will have one less year of living expenses and will be able to enter the job market or their residency one year earlier than those graduates of the four year program.
Similar to students in the Traditional Program, students in the Scholars Program will be considered annually for merit-based scholarships administered by Salus University. For more information regarding tuition please see Tuition and Scholarships
What happens if I start the Accelerated Scholars Program and I do not feel it is a good fit for me?
The Accelerated Scholars Program intentionally begins prior to the start of the Traditional Program to address this concern. The Scholars Program Academic Policy provides for a transition to the Traditional Program if need arises at various points in the program. Specifically, if a student decides after the first quarter that they would rather be in the Traditional Program, they are able to transition at that time. Any requests to transition after that time are evaluated individually and a course of study will be constructed to make sure all requirements are met.
While an applicant can anticipate a challenging curriculum in any optometry or graduate level program, the actual demands and time requirements are different for each student. However, with the support services in place and the similarity in the content that is delivered, we do not believe that the Accelerated Scholars Program is any more rigorous than the Traditional Program.