Optometry Learning Experience (OLE) student groups have visited the campuses of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) and now Salus for four decades in order to gain insight into the academic life of an optometry student. The unique program came to life in 1979 when Dr. John Crozier, former PCO director of Admissions, extended the first invitations to participate to five colleges in Pennsylvania that had academic agreements for a 3 + 4 program with PCO: Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), Washington and Jefferson University, Albright College, Gannon University and Wilkes University.
When PCO moved to the Elkins Park, Pa. campus and student housing was no longer available for visitors, the length of the program was adjusted. What was once a two-week long stay at PCO is now a two and a half day experience for undergraduate students who are interested in optometry or undecided about their career paths. The application process requires an essay and transcript, and participants are typically freshman, sophomores, or juniors.
The OLE program
was designed to offer participants the opportunity to step into the shoes of graduate students undergoing the Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree program, as well as offer a general outlook on the profession of optometry as a whole.
The OLE schedule is filled with a number of counseling sessions, interviews with admissions representatives, tours of the campus and The Eye Institute, PCO’s clinical facility, attending a live lecture with current optometry students, clinical skills experience in addition to the clinical skills laboratory, lunch and dinner with current students, and a financial planning seminar. The days are jam-packed with activities that allow prospective students to get a feel of life here at Salus.
The University’s Office of Admissions organizes and runs the OLE program smoothly each year, in addition to working with other departments to ensure the event is a success. Often, the OLE program is what gives students their first impressions of Salus and PCO. Many students that participate in the program often end up matriculating at the University or pursuing optometry as their profession at another institution.
“The staff of the Office of Admissions enjoyed hosting the first summer OLE, providing a group of highly engaged students with hands-on activities and counseling sessions to assist in their career decisions,” Nancy Griffin, associate director of Admissions said.
Third-year optometry student, Maya Panchal, had nothing but positive feedback for the OLE program:
“I had known that I wanted to pursue optometry since my freshman year of college, and when I heard about the OLE program I knew it was a great opportunity that would help me decide if this profession was a good fit for me,” she said. “No other optometry schools visited my Rowan University campus to offer undergraduates a similar experience. I remember how excited I was to visit Salus for the first time and how in awe I was when I toured the clinical skills lab and TEI. The admissions staff was so welcoming and the students I met gave me great insights and advice. I knew right away that Salus was the place, in which I belonged. To this day, I still keep in touch with some of my fellow OLE-goers. It is just amazing to look back on my first Salus memories from the OLE program and fast forward to all I have achieved now at the University.”
This year’s visiting schools included students from Rowan University, University of Pittsburgh Greensburg, Shippensburg University, Seton Hall University, and Binghamton University.