What is a Graduate School Cohort?

Participating in a graduate school cohort can be one of the best or worst experiences of your education. Some programs offer cohorts as an optional experience, while others require that all students become part of a cohort. Before you can decide if joining a cohort is right for you, you need to learn what exactly a cohort is and how it can benefit you. 

What is a Graduate School Cohort?

A graduate cohort is a way to keep students together and on-track to graduate. When you enter grad school, your cohort will consist of all the other students entering at the same time. You might share academic advisors or work together on research projects, and you can count on taking the same classes together. At some schools, you are required to stick with your cohort throughout your entire graduate career, while other universities will make allowances for life events.

Cohort Benefits

When you take undergraduate classes, your social group can vary from semester-to-semester depending on who gets into what course. With a cohort, you already know who will be in your classes, and you can stick with your friends. Likewise, you know that you’ll always be able to rely on the experience and knowledge of your peers, because they’ll always be in class with you. Another benefit is class availability. You’ve probably already faced the nightmare of needing a particular class to graduate and realizing it’s not available this semester. With a cohort, your advisor and professors know which classes to offer so everyone can graduate on time. Pursuing a master’s or a doctorate in a cohort means you’ll always have access to the classes you need.

Further, cohorts make it easy for universities to track the performance of graduates and identify problems. If the last few cohorts from your school are having problems finding a job, the university can perform research and discover the problem. You may need additional courses with real-world skills or your cohort might need to add an internship to its program. Ultimately, you benefit from having a better shot at finding a job.

Graduate school cohorts can help each other with the difficulties of pursuing an advanced degree. You might work together with your peers to complete a grant education or share potential job openings. Many students benefit from having friends that are going through the exact same experience. A cohort makes it easy for you to socialize and build strong relations with a small group of peers.

Downsides to a Graduate School Cohort

Attending a program that uses grad school cohorts is not the best option for everyone. If you’re planning to attend school part-time or taking breaks, a cohort will not work well for you. One of the key benefits of graduate school is the opportunity to network with peers and professors, and you may find that a cohort system limits your potential contacts.

Cohorts offer many benefits and some downsides. Like other aspects of graduate school, you must decide if a graduate school cohort is the best option for you.

For more information, take a look at “Top 25 College Scholarships for 2013“.