Residential Learning Communities (RLCs) at CSU: What’s the deal?

Students study, lounge, and socialize inside an airy, cozy residence hall.

If you’re considering attending college after high school, you’ll likely have to make some decisions about housing. Many students will be required (or prefer to) live on campus to make the transition to college easier, but that doesn’t mean moving into a residence hall is a worry-free event. If you’re hoping to find a living situation that includes people with similar interests, lifestyles, or academic goals, Colorado State has some pretty good options. Read on to learn all about Colorado State’s Residential Learning Communities.

What are Residential Learning Communities?

Put simply, a Residential Learning Community, or RLC, is Colorado State’s way of allowing students to live on campus with others who share interests, extracurricular and/or academic goals, values, or living preferences. Certain residence halls are designated for certain communities, and students can apply to live in the community that applies to them. There are options for first-year students, transfer students, and continuing students (second year and beyond), and there are even a few communities that function as RLCs, but do not have a designated living space. Some communities are academic focused, while others are centered on supporting on identities such as first-generation students, students of color, and even continuing students who want to develop leadership skills and mentor incoming students.

Why should you consider applying to live in an RLC?

There are a few benefits to joining a residential learning community beyond living with like-minded peers, including reducing a bit of the anxiety around living in a residence hall. Knowing that your hallmates also researched the community and agreed to its guidelines ensures you won’t be starting from nothing with a whole group of new people. Some other benefits include:

  • Academic success: If you join a learning community that’s centered on academics, you greatly improve your chances of excelling in your academic path. By living with people who take the same classes as you, you’ll have opportunities to form study groups, compare notes, discuss lectures, and get group work done more efficiently.
  • Opportunities for learning outside the classroom: In some RLCs, you’ll get chances to use what you’re learning in your major in community events, service projects, and even performances — all of which will add depth to your learning experience and look great on your resume.
  • Lasting friendships: Connecting with others who share your interests in your first year is a great way to create friendships that last through (and beyond) your college years. The time you spend together in the residence halls, during activities, and even in classes will connect you across shared experiences.

Meet the Communities

There are many learning communities to choose from, some that require applications, and some that simply require interest. Check out your options here:

  • The Transform Residential Community brings together students of diverse identities and backgrounds to connect, engage in dialogues, and learn across differences. Students will build relationships, skills, awareness, and knowledge that prepare them to take action for social justice and become inclusive leaders on campus and beyond. 
  • The Living Substance-Free Residential Community is for first-year, transfer, and returning students who are committed to a lifestyle free from alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. A wide variety of social events and programs are offered.
  • The Key Communities are comprised of several learning communities, each dedicated to different goals and outcomes for their members.
    • The Key Residential Learning Community provides students from a variety of majors seminar options, while also providing major-specific seminar options for students in the College of Engineering and the College of Business.
    • The Key Learning Community is similar to the residential community, but is for students who have a university housing exemption or would like to live in another residence hall of their choice.
    • The Key Plus Experience is a community for second-year (and up) students who want to develop leadership skills and prepare for career success. Students have a choice of “Key Tracks” to choose from, each with its own goals and requirements, and various living-learning options.
  • Academic/College Communities: These residential learning communities are based around academic majors, colleges, and departments within colleges. Students live and learn together in a cohort-style group.
  • Transfer and second-year Residential Learning Communities are open to students who have already been at CSU for a year, or have transferred from another university or college.
    • The Transfer Residential Communities are open to transfer students with an interest in learning more about the resources at CSU and making connections with other transfer students, offering direct contact with Transfer Transition Leaders to help assist transfers with anything they might need at CSU.
    • Year 2 @ CSU is geared toward the educational goals of second-year students and focuses on career and major exploration, global citizenship and service, academic engagement, and outdoor adventure. Students live together and connect through academic workshops, a fall outdoor mountain retreat, spring service project and a variety of other floor outings.
  • Learning communities without residential requirements offer a less-concentrated cohort experience with the same benefits of a learning community:
    • The Campus Connections Learning Community is a non-residential community open to all CSU majors and years. Students in the program will develop leadership skills, build their resume and professionalism, and help to improve the lives of local youth as they mentor at-risk young people in the local community.
    • The Mentored Research and Artistry Community is a non-residential learning community designed to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to participate in high impact, real-world research or other creative works, and is open to all majors and years at CSU.
    • The Wolves to Rams Learning Community provides advising, scholarships, stipends, workshops, mentorship, and paid research training to students in STEM programs transferring from Front Range Community College. Low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students are particularly encouraged to participate.

Want to learn more about housing at CSU?

Beyond Residential Learning Communities, you have options when it comes to where you live and what kind of living situation you’ll be in if you live on campus.


Prairie Smallwood

Prairie Smallwood is a writer and content creator for the Office of Admissions at Colorado State University. She is passionate about education and exploration, and knows that going to college can be both an adventure and an overwhelming experience. She aims to create content that helps students through that journey — the wonderful, the scary, and everything in between.