Working through Graduate School with a Cohort

When I first started taking my doctorate courses, I really had no idea what working in a cohort would be like since I have never experienced this type of schooling before. Since the DET program at Central Michigan University works through the degree as a cohort model, I did not know what to expect. However, after a year of working through my degree program with my cohort, I would not want to attend graduate school any other way.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a cohort as “a group of people banded together or treated as a group.” This allows students the opportunity to build relationships with like-minded individuals all over the nation and all over the world. The cohort works together online through all courses in a small group format. While some of my cohort colleagues are based in Michigan, we have three members from regions across the US including Iowa, California, and Washington DC. Despite the time zone differences, we have become close through our shared cohort experience.

According to Grad School Hub, “a healthy cohort relationship should result in shared teaching, where cohort members teach other.” Even though we come from all different walks of life — some of us are in the field of education already, whereas others are from government and industry — we are constantly learning from each other and we have the desire to achieve one common goal (to be graduates of this unique, fully-online program). Even though the DET program is completely online, we still have synchronous class sessions, either in small groups or with the entire cohort, that give us the opportunity to catch up on each other’s personal lives and professional lives, bounce ideas off each other along with faculty, and discuss current course material.

Recently, I read an article by Pemberton & Akkary, in which they discuss the many benefits to working in a cohort, and some include being able to network, to motivate each other, to build connections with classmates, to improve academic performance, and to have a sense of belonging (2010). In my opinion, the cohort model motivates us to be supportive and empathetic of each other. I think it helps us become fully invested in the graduate school experience because not only do we want to succeed, we want each other to succeed. We stay connected, of course, through our regular class meetings on Zoom, as well as through email, texting, social media, and our own separate video conference calls.

While I am in the midst of my second year, I am already thankful for the relationships I have built with my cohort-mates from all over the nation. It is only a matter of time before we are all walking down that aisle in Mount Pleasant, Michigan to officially be graduates.


Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

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