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  • Writer's pictureLFaits

How Does Externship Selection at ICO Work?

At ICO, we are very lucky to have a plethora of locations to choose from when it comes to selecting externships. We have sites in almost every state in the U.S. as well as international sites. This is great because, if you’re like me, you may not be 100% set on where you want to practice post-graduation or post-residency.

This year, our selection process was completely revised. Selection used to be done all in-person, but starting this year, it was moved to online-only. At ICO, we complete 4 externships. One is required to be at the Illinois Eye Institute and the other three can be anywhere of your choosing. So, if you want to go home for one, you can do that. If you want an adventure while you continue to learn optometry, Hawaii or Australia may be for you. There are two main parts to the selection process: buckets and priorities.


Our selection choices are broken up into 4 categories: IEI, VA Hospital, Specialty 1, Specialty 2. Your buckets determine which quarter you will complete each. For example, I am “Bucket A,” which means I have IEI in the summer, Specialty 1 in fall, VA Hospital in winter, and Specialty 2 in spring. Each bucket has a different mix of these. Students were first given either bucket A, B, C, or D, and then a few weeks to swap if they had a different preference.


After buckets were given, priorities were then released. Priorities were 1, 2, 3, and 4. Basically, this was the order you pick. So, say you pick your VA site as your 4th priority; you will have to wait until the end of the selection process to pick your VA Hospital location.  If you have your heart set on one location, you can trade with people to make sure that location is your priority 1 so that you can select it first.

Selection Nights

Once all of the buckets and priorities are determined, different nights are dedicated to selecting certain sites (for example, maybe Aug. 25 is IEI selection night for priority 1 people). When it comes to selecting, there is a certain time that the sign-up website opens. From this point on, it’s basically fastest person to select the site in your priority group will get it. This may make it harder to get some of the more popular sites, but I didn’t find that there was a problem for me.


All of the sites we can choose from are listed on a website specifically for ICO students. It tells you which requirements (aka specialty 1, 2, VA etc) the site fulfills and any other information you may want to know. You can find the hours you’ll be working, if you need your own car, if it’s a residency site, and many other things.

This may seem like a lot, but overall, I felt that the process this year was very smooth and easy to understand. Almost everyone I have talked to received their top choices and is very excited for 4th year to arrive. Now, we just have to finish third year… Oh, and pass boards!


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