Pennsylvania College of Optometry
Doctor of Optometry

Scholars Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the anticipated size of the class?
The current class size for the Scholars Program is no more than ten students. Ultimately, the goal is to grow the Program each year, reaching a maximum of no more than 20 students.  Salus University PCO will continue to offer its current traditional Doctor of Optometry degree program.
Will the Scholars Program classes be mixed with the traditional optometry program students? 
The Scholars Program uses different formats for course content delivery including guided independent study.  The small size of the Scholars Program allows students in the program to be closely mentored by the Scholars Program faculty members.  Faculty members who teach courses that use the guided independent study format must also include weekly face-to-face contact with the students. These approaches are consistent with the recommendations made by the 2010 Carnegie Foundation report regarding medical education.

Some courses do use a more traditional lecture and laboratory format.  The courses that use these formats may blend the students into classes within 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 Scholars Program provides students an equivalent curriculum to the students in the Traditional Program; course material is not eliminated.  As with the Traditional Program, the Scholars Program places an emphasis on the 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 PCO (24 months vs. 26 months).  The Scholars Program follows the Salus University quarter schedule with each academic quarter 10 weeks of instruction. 

The unique features of the course delivery and the continuous three- year curriculum permit the well-qualified applicant to more rapidly acquire basic clinical skills, and to become more quickly immersed in patient care than the already early exposure to patient care in PCO’s Traditional Program. 
Is there a different application process?
The application process for the Scholars Program is separate from the Traditional Program.  Information regarding the current application process can be found under Criteria & Prerequisites and Application Process links.  

Applicants must submit an application on OptomCAS, where you are able to indicate in if you would like to apply to the 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 Scholars Program. In addition, applicants must have 100 hours of patient care interaction prior to enrollment.  The patient interaction does not have to occur in the office of a Doctor of Optometry; 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 8-10 different short stations to interact with 8-10 different interviewers.  Each interviewer interacts with each candidate on the same brief case scenario.  Each candidate is rated to all the other candidates on that scenario without interviewers knowing the performance of the candidate at the other stations.  Candidates do not need to have 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 the in the MMI Scholars interview process, will not need to have a separate interview for the Traditional Program as well.
If I graduate from the Scholars Program, will this limit my future employment opportunities?
The Scholars Program is one pathway to the Doctor of Optometry degree.  The 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.  There is no evidence that graduates of the Scholars Program will encounter challenges in state licensure.  Thus, employment opportunities will not be limited.
How will the tuition compare to the traditional program?
The annual tuition for the 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.  Besides the one year tuition savings, students in the Scholars Program will have one less year of living expenses and be able to enter the job market one year sooner than those in 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 Fees.
What happens if I start the Scholars Program and I do not feel it is a good fit for me?
The Scholars Program intentionally begins prior to the start of the Traditional Program to address this concern.  While an applicant can anticipate a challenging curriculum, the actual demands and time requirements are different for each student.  The Scholars Program Academic Policy provides for a transition to the traditional program if need arises.  Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry makes a strong commitment to help all admitted students reach their goal of becoming a Doctor of Optometry.

07.31.2014