Living Learning Communities (LLCs): What are they?

Students set up a party in LLCs

Source: Flickr user hectoralejandro.

You’ve chosen the college, now it’s time to choose where to live.

In my experience, choosing the right dorm or being paired with a good roommate can have just as great of an impact on your mood/happiness/level of satisfaction (if not greater) than the actual school you attend.

When I was a freshman in college, I attended a large, public university. I chose to live in the honors dorm with a randomly paired roommate. After two weeks I realized that I’d made a mistake. There was very little socialization that took place. My roommate had set rules for me (like when I could watch TV) and I was miserable. Yes, I was in a club (Women in Science and Engineering) and had a mentor, but I never hung out with the other girls in the group. My classes were 100+ students, I was quiet, and I made no new friends. It affected every aspect of my life: my health (mental and physical), my grades (3.9 GPA to a 1.7), and my relationships with the important people in my life. Without support and friends at school I floundered–so I chose to transfer.

Now, I’m not saying that if you attend a large school you’re going to fail. But, if you’re shy or attending a school with 30,000 other students, it can be harder to find your niche. So how can you set yourself up for social success and have a ready-made support group? Choose to live in a living learning community (LLC) if your school offers them.

LLCs are typically based on majors or interests. If you choose to join one, you’ll be surrounded by peers that are similar to you in at least one way. Examples of different LLCs are: Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), Business, LGBTQIA, Theater, Photography, Pre-Professional majors, Volunteer/Service focused, First Gen Students, and many more.

Benefits of Living in a LLC

Social events

LLCs host events for their residents. You get to know the people living on your floor fairly quickly. Some schools, like the University of Iowa, employ staff to plan events for LLCs full-time. Usually, your RA (resident assistant) will plan events throughout the year too. So, if you’re moving to campus from a different state or different area, living in a LLC will provide a ready-made friend group, or at least introduce you to a few people you have interests in common with.

Service projects

Depending on which LLC you choose to join, you may be asked to participate in various service projects. These are a great way to get involved and have an impact in your community. Volunteering and working towards bettering your community are never bad things. Not only does it benefit other community members, but it also looks good on your resume–plus you never know who you might meet and where a future job offer may come from.

Classes in common

During your first year of college, some schools require you to complete a first year seminar (FYS). This usually takes the place of a humanities or English credit. Sometimes class subjects and participants are determined by major. If you live in a LLC with other first years, chances are you’ll probably be in the same FYS as some of your neighbors. In addition, the professors that teach these FYS classes are a great contact for you at the school. There’s a bit of bonding that takes place, and they’ll be a valuable support for you throughout your 4(ish) years.

Some schools offer courses in common. These usually consist of two or three classes that you take with the same exact people. If you’re worried about meeting people and finding a friend group on campus, classes in common is an easy way to connect with peers. Again, depending on the LLC and courses in common that you select, you may be in classes with the same people you’re living with, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on the fit for you.

Connections with professors

As I mentioned earlier, some LLCs are based on major areas of study. Because of this, professors from that department are occasionally invited to events put on by the floor or house. These events can be a great way to meet and network with your professors. Even if you choose to live in a LLC based on a particular interest, let’s say cooking, you never know which professors will be participating in your events. Faculty like to eat too, and you never know who might have been a chef in another life and regularly attends LLC functions.

Especially at larger universities, it can be kind of difficult to connect with your profs–you and 500+ other students could be fighting for their time. Choosing to live in an LLC could give you the opening you need to begin forming those relationships. Knowing your professors can be invaluable during your undergraduate years. You never know when you’re going to need a letter of recommendation for an internship, job, or graduate school application, and it’s never to early to get on their good side.

So how do you get in?

Step 1: Check with the college’s residence life department to see which LLCs they offer at your school.

Step 2: Pay the fee to reserve your spot and submit your housing application. Typically, the housing application is where you will be able to designate whether you want to live in a LLC or not.

Step 3: Put your top choice as #1. Some schools require you to list a few LLCs you’re interested in. Check to see if there’s an additional application that you need to submit in order to be considered for the LLC. Some schools, like the University of Utah, require separate apps for each LLC.

Step 4: Once you’ve been notified that you’re in a LLC it’s time to choose your room and roommate. At some schools there’s an added bonus to living in a LLC–you get to choose your room before the other students.

Step 5: Enjoy your summer break and prepare yourself for an involved life on campus!

So, if I’ve piqued your interest, and you want to learn more about LLCs or which schools have the best LLCs, visit U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of colleges with the best LLCs.

It’s college! The best advice my mom ever gave me was to step outside of my box (i.e., comfort zone). So that’s my advice to you–find your niche, even if it means trying something new.

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