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What is a Cohort?

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The Cohort Program in College

  • General Definition
  • Types of School Groups
  • Program Intention
  • Benefits of a Program
  • Potential Downsides to a Community

A cohort of students is often a great way to have a community working towards the same goal, which is graduation. In higher education, a community of students working together can be a cooperative learning process that fosters educational excellence.

General Definition

A cohort is a mass of people who are grouped together based on certain characteristics they have in common. Millenials are cohorts because they were all born in the same span of years. Women who smoke or men who work from home are also technically cohorts. In education, the term is applied to students who are attending school during the same period of time or who are in the same classes. Groups can be divided in many ways through age, race, gender or academic data. They might also be called intentional learning communities. In a paper presented to the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, educators discussed cohort programs in higher educational environments.

Types of School Groups

In colleges, community programs are being established to group certain students based on their program of study. It could be business, accounting or chemistry students who are grouped together. Intentional learning communities might include students who are studying in a graduate program together. They are meant to start off together, remain in the group through their time in school and progress as a group.

Program Intention

The programs are meant to allow independent learning within an environment where members teach each other too. In a graduate program, students keep each other on track with their academic advisors and research projects. While classes fluctuate within the college and graduate school environment, with a cohort, the group knows exactly who will be in their courses. When pursuing a graduate degree within a cohort, professors are available based on the cohort. There won’t be a semester where students struggle to find a course to graduate on time.

Benefits of a Program

Within an intentional learning community like a cohort, students will know the group as time progresses. They’ll know the experience and knowledge of others in the group, and students won’t have to worry about finding a group to study with during their classes. Whether it’s a research project or a presentation, the entire class will understand the program and know how to help each other. In the end, graduates will be able to find a job because they have a cohort to fall back on socially as well as in the business.

Potential Downsides to a Community

When a person isn’t going to school full-time or plans on taking a break in their classes, a cohort might not work. It’s meant to be a place to network and study with students who have the same characteristics. This network also limits the contacts the student might make in college.

The community that works jointly on their goals of graduation will see success that might not often be achieved by individual students who don’t have that network to support them. It’s a great way to provide students with a network that grows closer as the years pass instead of finding themselves in classes full of strangers.