Financial aid, scholarships, and budgeting
The AOA offers students and doctors of optometry tools for obtaining financial aid and also paying back loans, managing finances, finding scholarship opportunities and creating a budget so you can focus on what matters.
Optometry students or a new doctors of optometry may find budgeting more difficult than receiving a regular paycheck, as student loans are usually dispersed in lump-sum quarterly payments. Faced with a large amount of cash on hand, you may find it difficult to keep in mind that a loan of several thousand dollars must cover expenses for nine months to a full year.
There are two important strategies for dealing with quarterly or annual lump-sum payments. You could deposit the financial aid check as soon as you receive it, preferably in an interest-bearing account. Or you could consider the possibility of investing the check in an account or fund that pays a higher rate of interest than a checking or savings account.
Remember, you must work within limited financial resources. Therefore, as soon as you know the dollar amount of your resources for an academic year, take time to plan your annual budget.
Becoming familiar with the mechanics of a budget
To keep a positive outlook, try to view the budget as a challenge that will help you meet all obligations with all available resources. Before you attempt the actual mechanics of budgeting, analyze your cash flow. Is your income on a quarterly or yearly basis? Or is money coming into your household weekly or monthly? Know what your expenses are and how often they occur, as each budget is unique and must consider individual needs, values, wants, and goals.
Next comes the actual mechanics of budgeting. To ensure success, keep your budget as simple as possible. The easier a budget is to handle, the more likely you will be to stick to it.
Develop a budget:
- List your sources of income.
- List your fixed expenses—monthly or yearly expenses in unchanging amounts that are
unavoidable; e.g., rent, car payment, insurance.
- List your day-to-day expenses. These variable expenses occur in different amounts without regularity. Estimate variable expenses by tracking what you spend for at least two weeks, then you’ll see your spending priorities and will be able to allocate your funds accordingly.
Lastly, savings is not just an option for leftover money but should be a planned expense and treated like a monthly bill.
Guide to grants and scholarships for students and residents
Optometry school costs can be high. The AOA offers student members tools, resources and guides for obtaining financial aid, including optometry scholarships and grants.
Below is a comprehensive list of general and school-based scholarship and grant resources. Remember to check back regularly, as we’ll update this guide with new information as it becomes available. In addition to the lists below, also check with your state affiliate association for further assistance.
General optometry scholarship and grant resources:
- American Academy of Optometry/American Optometric Foundation
- Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO)
- College Scholarships.org
- Indian Health Service Scholarship — Contact Dawn Clary, O.D.
- Kansas Resident Scholarship Information
- Maryland Higher Education Commission
- NIH Loan Repayment Program
- North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority
- Northern Plains Eye Foundation
- Optometry Cares ®–The AOA Foundation
- Optometry's Meeting Travel Grant Information
- U.S. Air Force—Contact Annette Williamson, O.D.
- U.S. Army—Contact Denis Descarreaux, O.D.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Health Resources & Services Administration
- U.S. Navy—Contact Matthew Newton, O.D.
- Walman Optical Scholarship Information
School-based optometry scholarship and grant resources:
- Illinois College of Optometry (Chicago, Illinois)
- Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana)
- Inter American University of Puerto Rico, School of Optometry (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
- Marshall B. Ketchum University Southern California College of Optometry (Fullerton, California)
- MCPHS University (Worcester, Massachusetts)
- Michigan College of Optometry, Ferris State University (Big Rapids, Michigan)
- Midwestern University - Arizona College of Optometry (Glendale, Arizona)
- New England College of Optometry (Boston, Massachusetts)
- Northeastern State University, College of Optometry (Tahlequah, Oklahoma)
- NOVA Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida)
- Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)
- Pacific University (Portland, Oregon)
- Salus University/Pennsylvania College of Optometry (Elkins Park, Pennsylvania)
- Southern College of Optometry (Memphis, Tennessee)
- State University of New York (New York City)
- University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, Alabama)
- University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, California)
- University of Houston (Houston, Texas)
- University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio)
- University of Missouri (St. Louis, Missouri)
- University of Montreal (Montreal, Canada)
- University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada)
- Western University College of Optometry (Pomona, California)
The Resident’s Guide to Resources in Research and Scholarship
The Resident’s Guide to Resources in Research and Scholarship from the AOA was developed by the Council on Research to advocate for optometric research. Browse the available travel and research grants and fellowships.
With the Department of Veterans Affairs decision to modernize its electronic health record (EHR) system and its desire to standardize processes, procedures, data and coding, formation of new practice standards is being proposed for all non-MD/DO specialties—including doctors of optometry.
An updated paraoptometric examination candidate handbook is available for reference as staff prepare for their certification exams.
Children’s vision was already a public health concern for the AOA. But then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and doctors of optometry are increasingly alarmed by the growing prevalence of eye conditions exacerbated by remote learning due to the crisis. The AOA is lending its voice as a leader in eye health and vision care through a yearlong conversation on children’s eye health at a critical juncture.