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Externship Program

Externship Program

Mission Statement:

To expand the educational and clinical experience of Southern College of Optometry students in order to provide larger numbers of patient encounters and exposure to additional off-campus health care settings in support of the mission of the Southern College of Optometry.

During their fourth professional year, SCO students spend one term in a clinical experience at the Eye Center, one term in a private practice, and one term in an institutional site. This variety in practice modality affords the students the experience of a higher volume of patients, significant ocular disease, multi-disciplinary exposure, practice management, community involvement, and increased intensive academic rigor. In addition to their clinical work, students are also expected to complete online SCO course(s) and SOAP (Subjective Objective Assessment Plan) case assignments.

SCO offers over 100 extern sites with broad geographical locations across the USA. All sites have been vetted and approved by SCO. The Director of Externship and Residency Programs also plans regular visits of extern sites to ensure quality. A detailed list and site evaluations can be accessed in the Externship Office located on the 10th floor of 1245 Madison Avenue, Memphis, TN 38104. SCO students select their sites during the summer of their third academic year (a year in advance). Assignments are based upon student preference, preceptor availability, local/regional need, financial considerations, and GPA.

Extern Program Contacts

Cheryl Mengelt, O.D.
Director of Externship and Residency Programs
[email protected]


Externship Handbook for Preceptors

Download the Externship Handbook PDF

Externship FAQs


Are there extern sites in each state?

We currently have active sites with active primary preceptors in 33 states.

Are there any international extern sites?

There are 2 sites in the province of Alberta.

How are externship sites assigned?

Students are given preferential consideration for their state of record. Students are assigned in order of their class rank (GPA).

When are externship sites assigned?

Assignments are made in August of the third academic year.

How can I learn more about each extern site?

Detailed site information is available in the Externship Office, Suite 1008 and is made available to students for several weeks prior to their site selection.

Can I set up a new extern site?

At this time the Externship Office has a sufficient number of high-quality sites available. Adding sites will be considered on a case-by-case basis with the Director.

Will housing be available at my extern site?

Housing options vary among sites. This information is available in the Externship Office and is made available to students for several weeks prior to their site selection.

Is my schedule/calendar the same as the College?

Externships begin and end on the same academic calendar as internal courses. Everyone is granted the standard 2-week winter break. Weekly schedules are dictated by the site itself so don’t count on extended spring breaks/Thanksgiving breaks, etc. Everyone is granted two PTO days to use as necessary (including taking Boards). Any days missed in excess of 2 days necessitate make-up.

Will I have any assignments to complete while away from College?

Yes. Assignments vary by site type. Case reports and practice management assignments are expected. 

What criteria should I consider when choosing my extern site?

You should first evaluate the educational opportunities available at the site. Is the focus of the practice something you wish to gain additional experience in? Are there non-clinical opportunities available? Is the program large or small (multiple externs vying for patients)? Location and timing…Can you survive Alaska in December? Financial considerations should be explored. Rural vs. urban site? Review feedback from previous students. Can you handle the pace, demands of preceptors, the complexity of cases, and the expected number of daily patient encounters?