BLOG: All Things Higher Ed

Why choose a residential college or living learning community?

Deciding where you'll live in college is a significant decision. It’s not just about finding a place to sleep. It’s about choosing your home for the next few years.

You may know about university dorms, but have you heard of Residential Colleges and Living Learning Communities? Both are great in their own ways and can make your college experience something special. By digging into what makes each unique, you can pick the perfect fit for your academic journey and your quest for new friendships.

What are residential colleges?

Residential colleges have been around for a long time in higher education. They started in medieval Europe and were later used by Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England. These colleges are like self-contained communities within a big university. They provide students with a place to live and a tight-knit community for academics and socializing.

Key features

  • Integrated living and learning: Students live and learn within the same community often referred to as your “house.” In a true residential college, students live, have classes, study and eat together all in the same building or group of buildings. They form a close bond with the members of their college while enjoying the full resources of their university. 
  • Faculty involvement: Professors often have rooms or offices within the residential college, providing mentorship and guidance beyond the classroom.
  • Traditions and events: Each residential college has its own traditions, events and activities, enhancing the overall student experience.

What are living learning communities?

After World War II, more students started going to college. Living-learning communities became popular as a new type of residential college that was more inclusive and modern. LLCs focus more on engagement, inclusion, shared interests, majors or themes rather than creating a totally contained experience.

Key features

  • Theme-based living: Students live with peers who share similar academic interests or goals, such as sustainability, arts, diversity, healthcare or engineering. They take classes across the entire university, increasing their interaction with a wide variety of people and views.
  • Enhanced learning opportunities: LLCs offer specialized programming, including guest lectures, workshops, events and field trips related to the community’s theme. Sharing common interests often leads to a better understanding of the range of opportunities related to those interests.
  • Collaborative environment: By living with like-minded peers, students have greater opportunities for collaboration, study groups and networking.

It's springtime on campus. a male and female student sit together at a picnic table by a landscaped pond with a central water fountain.

Benefits of residential colleges and LLCs

Academic support

Both residential colleges and LLCs provide substantial academic support. In residential colleges, faculty involvement is a cornerstone, with professors available for informal discussions, mentorship and academic advising. LLCs also offer increased access to a variety of professors as they focus on thematic learning, offering tailored academic resources and programs that align with the students’ interests.

Social connections

Building lasting friendships is a huge part of the college experience. Residential colleges provide a tight-knit community atmosphere by providing shared living spaces, dining halls and common areas. These settings provide daily interactions among students, encouraging the development of deep connections and friendships.

Living-Learning communities, offer a unique approach by creating bonds through shared academic interests and targeted activities. These communities allow students to connect deeply over common goals, passions and academic pursuits.

Personal and professional growth

Both options help you grow personally and professionally, just through different paths.

Residential colleges promote leadership growth by encouraging students to take active roles in student-run organizations and committees. This hands-on approach helps students develop leadership skills, encourages teamwork and rewards community building.

Living-Learning Communities offer specialized themed programming to help improve career readiness and practical skills. Students can explore themes related to their academic interests and career goals, helping them connect their studies to real-world experiences.

Winter on campus. A red brick building stands out against snow covered walkways and trees with red berries.s

Examples of U.S. residential colleges and living learning communities

Residential college

Yale University: The rich traditions and community life of Yale's residential college system are well-known. Each of the fourteen residential colleges has its own unique culture, complete with a dedicated dining hall, library and various social spaces such as common rooms and courtyards.

These colleges serve as a foundational community for students throughout their time at Yale. Each offers its own blend of academic, social, and cultural opportunities. This system builds a close-knit community and a home-away-from-home atmosphere where students can build lifelong friendships.

Living learning community

Central Michigan University: CMU's Living Learning Communities offer a dynamic, engaging environment tailored to students' unique academic and extracurricular interests. These communities create a deep sense of engagement and belonging among students who live together and share academic or thematic interests.

CMU offers nine LLCs focused on: 

  • business 
  • education 
  • health professions 
  • music 
  • honors students 
  • leadership 
  • multicultural advancement 
  • public service 
  • science and engineering

Each provides residents with opportunities for specialized programming, including relevant guest lectures, cultural events and field trips.

Making the right choice

When deciding between a residential college and a living-learning community, consider the following factors:

  • Academic goals: Are you looking for a broad academic support system or a focused, theme-based learning environment?
  • Social preferences: Do you prefer a close-knit traditional community, or a collaborative environment centered around specific interests?
  • Personal interests: What extracurricular activities and opportunities align with your passions and career aspirations?

Both residential colleges and LLCs offer unique advantages that can significantly enhance your college experience. By understanding their differences and benefits, you can choose the option that best fits your needs and sets you up for success both academically and personally.

Interested in a Central Michigan University living learning community?

To live in any type of on-campus housing, you must first apply to CMU, be accepted, put down a deposit to hold your place and then sign up for housing. When you fill out your online housing application, you’ll check the living learning community that interests you. Once you do this, Residence Life will contact you with more information and instructions about completing the application for the LLC.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
The views and opinions expressed in these blog pages are strictly those of the page author.