Wharton’s Undergraduate Cohort System: the Real-Life Hogwarts

When I received notifications from the Facebook group “Wharton Class of 2017 Official Cohort Peso,” I thought it was a class. Worrying that I already had summer work to do, I frantically messaged Dave Thomas, who said he was our cohort director. I thought this was the equivalent of a TA, and I asked if I had missed any assignments. Thankfully, he was kind enough to explain that cohorts are not classes; in fact, they are designed to foster smaller communities within and among class years, both in and out of the classroom. I was embarrassed, to say the least, but I also wanted to learn more about the undergraduate cohort system.

Now, as the freshman representative of Cohort Peso (#PesoPride), I finally feel knowledgeable enough about cohorts to share my experiences. An analogy I find helpful is that the cohort system is like Hogwarts. In Harry Potter’s magical school, there are four houses, each student is strategically placed, and they compete for the House Cup by garnering points throughout the year. Likewise, in Wharton, there are nine cohorts, each named after a currency of the world; students are placed based on an algorithm for diversity to ensure that every cohort is as diverse as possible; cohorts compete for the coveted Cohort Cup through a variety of events, starting as soon as the new freshmen arrive on campus.

There are a few different types of events that cohorts hold. First, there are “points” events. These generally involve all nine cohorts, and they feature activities like sports challenges, pumpkin carving, and gingerbread house making (cleverly named “The Amazing Cohort Race,” “Hauntsman Halloween,” and “Winter Whartonland,” respectively). In addition, there are “point transfer events,” in which two cohorts can compete against each other in some activity, with the victorious cohort actually receiving points from the other cohort. It is important to note that these first two kinds of events delegate points based on participation and performance; that is, usually about 2/3 of the points are gained by attendance, and 1/3 of the points are gained by how well a cohort does in the activity. Finally, there are individual cohort events, which are intended to bring the community within a particular cohort closer together; these are not for points, but their value is just as great, if not more.

As someone who is involved in cohort leadership, I obviously attend as many events as possible. However, cohorts are an incredible resource for all Wharton undergraduates. Placed in Management 100 classes in freshmen fall based on cohorts, students meet their fellow cohort members before anyone else in Wharton; in fact, their cohort director reaches out to them over the summer! Once the school year begins, students can interact both horizontally and vertically. What I mean by this is that we encourage freshmen to hang out outside of Management 100 and come to as many freshmen-oriented cohort events as they can, but we also encourage the interaction vertically, among class years, as freshmen can benefit greatly from learning from and networking with upperclassmen. This is an incredible opportunity that might not exist without the cohort system, and it is just one of the many reasons why I love cohorts. By the way, in case you didn’t catch the announcement on Wharton social media, the winner of this year’s Cohort Cup was none other than Cohort Peso!

Cohort Directors - 2013
The nine 2013-2014 Cohort Directors

Nick is a member of the Wharton Undergraduate Class of 2018, and he is so excited to be a Wharton Ambassador. At Penn, Nick is a Management 100 TA, he is on the Junior-Senior Programming Advisory Board, and he is the Artistic Director of the Arts House Dance Company. He enjoys dance, theater, music, and retail, and he recently returned from a gap year performing on Broadway in New York City.