For nearly 40 years, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry
and now Salus University has hosted the Optometry Learning Experience (OLE) annually. Both academic- and career- related, the program offers participants the opportunity to investigate the academic study associated with the the University’s Doctor of Optometry program, along with the profession itself and the many career opportunities available to optometrists.
Originally conceived as a two-week campus stay with a single institution in 1979, OLE has evolved to more than two and a half days of experiences for students from an increased number of institutions. The program is open to undergraduate students who are interested in Optometry as well as those who are undecided about their career paths. The application process requires an essay and transcript, and participants are typically freshman, sophomores, or juniors.
This year’s OLE sessions took place last week, with 28 total students attending either January 9-11 or January 11-13. Participating students’ undergraduate institutions included SUNY’s Binghamton, Albany, and Oswego campuses, Rowan University, Shippensburg University, St. Joseph’s University, Montclair State University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Juniata College, Arcadia University, Widener University, Washington & Jefferson College, Ursinus College, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, and Elizabethtown College.
“Many [participants] have written us to say that their experience on campus has solidified their desire to become an optometrist and/or Salus student in the future,” according to Melissa Tran, MA, associate director of Admissions.
The program is created with prospective students in mind, including lunch with current students, plus lectures, laboratory sessions, and seminars designed specifically for the OLE participants.
“They attend classes, see clinical skills demonstrations from our students, get a tour of the Elkins Park and Oak Lane (The Eye Institute) campuses, and hear from admissions, the dean, financial aid, the externship office, and career services,” said Tran. “It’s all a way for them to get more familiar with what optometry is and how student life feels at Salus.”
Many students who participate in OLE decide Optometry is the career they want to pursue and Salus is the institution they want to attend. Not all former participants end up attending Salus, but many do. Plus, the positive outcomes of the overall experience extend past the field of Optometry.
“Many participants form friendships that extend beyond the end of the program,” said Tran. “In fact, I’ll often see former participants when I am recruiting at their undergraduate institutions and they’ll update me on how their fellow OLE participants from other institutions are doing.”
History of the program