What is a Cohort?

A graduate school cohort is organized differently depending upon what school you’re looking at, but with the rising prominence of graduate degrees, understanding what exactly this refers to in general has become a much more critical issue. Here, we will try to explain what exactly this grouping of students and faculty is, how one is organized in terms of common characteristics, and what its relevance is to the academic and post-academic careers of today’s graduate students. You’ll learn why the graduate cohort is becoming more popular, and why some of the most prominent graduate programs in America are focusing specifically on the graduate cohort.

There are a few important things to consider, when looking at this level of graduate school organization.

Cohorts Work Together to Share the Load

Generally speaking, this consists of groups of graduate students who come together to reduce the demands of an intensive program involving study, research and experimentation. Depending upon the school in question, a cohort may be a loosely organized group of students who agree to work together for the duration of their graduate program, or it may be a more recognizably united group with faculty sponsorship.

Cohorts Help to Diversify Responsibilities

Through joining student organizations during their graduate-level academic careers, students are able to develop their strong points, and find ways to cope with those areas of academic and professional expectation where their performance could use improvement. These types of groups split responsibilities, share obligations, and work together to acquire all of the necessary information to complete a project. Everyone is expected to pull their weight, while help is made available for those who may require additional assistance. This is an initiative, reflected in several prestigious institutions, which incorporates all of the positive aspects of teamwork and organized problem-solving.

There are Local and Long-Distance Cohorts

Most of the time, student groups of this kind involve students working at a single university. This makes sense, as the partnership and networking involved will last for the duration of a graduate program, and most programs are not 100% compatible from one school to the next. However, some groups do work with long-distance relationships. This may take one of two forms. Exceptionally compatible programs may feature groups that actually cross institutional boundaries; more commonly, two groups will form separately as sibling-style organizations, then network extensively on difficult and important projects.

Cohorts Help to Establish Professional Networking

By joining academic organizations of this kind, particularly those which are led by one’s peers, a student learns how professional networking develops within the research and academic world. Perhaps even more importantly, they lay the groundwork for their own post-academic networking by establishing their first major contacts. Through their student group, such individuals develop contacts among their peers in the same area of study, both at their own institution and elsewhere around the world. These contacts frequently persist once the students have graduated, and are actively involved within their field on a professional level.

The popularity of the graduate cohort is easily explained by the results seen at prestigious institutions, including those in the Ivy League. Today, many programs are focusing on how to develop the networking opportunities inherent to such a group, by fostering a sense of shared achievement. In the process, new strategies and ways of thinking are introduced to each member of the cohort, study habits are improved, and overall academic performance is accelerated.
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