Choose Cohorts for College Success

In the legend of Harry Potter, every student at Hogwarts is assigned to a house. That house is the student's group of cohorts throughout their educational journey. So when Harry or one of his comrades achieves something amazing, say, exterminating a goblin, their Gryffindor House wins points for that individual's success. The group wants their house to win, therefore each cohort takes great effort to enable success of one another. Both house and individuals in it win.

In the legend, the complicated task of finding the right cohorts for each Hogwart's student is left to the cunning intuition of the Sorting Hat. The magic hat determines which community, or house, is the best match for personal and collective success.

No Sorting Hat for your college success? It's hard enough choosing the right college, but when you get there what are the chances of completing your degree? The chances increase radically if you find the right cohorts. Today 60% of students drop out or fail out of college, and among the top reasons they do so is failure to find peers that are interested in their success. Cohorts are your partners for success. United by similar goals, knowledge and camaraderie, they lift you up when you're down and celebrate your achievements with you.

Some colleges have formalized a Cohort program, such as
Albright College. They offer an accelerated degree program in a cohort-based system. Eight to 12 students form a cohort group and enjoy collaborative learning. Albright boasts an 88% retention rate- on par with that of Harvard, and more than double the national average.

There are also cohort groups that form before even going to college. The Posse Foundation identifies and recruits students in urban high schools, and sends them to top colleges and universities in teams of 10. Posse Scholars start bonding in monthly meetings during senior year in high school. They bond over their differences related to very sensitive issues such as sexuality, race and other challenging topics.

By the time the Posse arrives in a college environment the 10 leaders share a deep connection and common ground. They are committed to support each other throughout college, and the Posse Scholar graduation rate is 90% -- outstanding considering only four colleges in the entire U.S. achieve that.

Then there are cohorts that stay with you through college and beyond. That's the angle The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) takes. Students in the top 20% of their class are invited to join this community of 800,000 + high achievers during their first two years of college. Then NSCS engages these cohorts to support one another and remain high achievers. There are over 300 colleges in the U.S. with a chapter of NSCS and colleges with a chapter have a 20% higher graduation rate than the national college average.

Most other honor societies induct students at the end of their academic career, when it does little to serve student success. NSCS helps you through the journey. "This isn't your grandfather's honor society," says one Chicago-based NSCS scholar, Glenn Madigan. "It's a community of people working toward mutual success." NSCS also provides members with community service opportunities, local and national co-curricular programs, resources for leadership and personal development, not to mention access to a quarter of a million dollars in member scholarships annually. And once a student joins NSCS, they become a member for life, so even post graduation the relationship continues.

So when evaluating colleges, look beyond the brand and national best college ratings. Dive deeply into retention and completion rates to ensure the odds are stacked in your corner. And increase your chances of success by choosing your cohorts wisely.