PCO gives it to us during our White Coat Ceremony in our 1st year, which is in August. But after the ceremony, they take it back to stitch our name and school logo on it. Then we get it back about 2-3 months later.
I go to UMSL. We get our white coats the May of our 2nd year. Our white coats are received when we have passed a comprehensive exam on all the basis clinical skills of optometry. My school calls this the Clinical Privileging Exam. Contrary to getting it in the first year, when we receive it we are ready to do anything in the clinic that we may encounter with a patient. Prior to the white coat, we are practicing all skills on our fellow classmates in pre- clinic and can bring in friends/family/significant others as well to practice on. In the second year we begin shadowing in the clinic, performing screenings at schools, etc.
At MCPHS you get your white coat ceremony in the middle of your first semester, first year (ours was in October). It's part of our dress code to wear it (although most of us don't all the time), but you must wear it in clinic and in OTM pre-clinic courses. We start screenings in 2nd semester, and clinic at the beginning of 2nd year. If you don't wear it, you can lose professionalism points. It's just meant to get you used to being dressed a certain way that is appropriate for a doctor.