What is a living learning community?
This post is for the eager freshmen who wants to engulf themselves in everything medicine related on campus. Since Rutgers is such a large state university with over 60,000 students in attendance, it was really important for me to try to make it seem as small and intimate as possible. When I was considering which campus and which dorm I wanted to request, I came across what Rutgers calls their "Living Learning Communities" (LLC) located on the Livingston campus. I believe the dorm is now on Busch campus in BEST hall, which is actually a much nicer dorm so that's a plus! I looked into it further and found out that it was a dorm specifically for pre-med students interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. Most other large universities have something very similar to this, so I encourage you to look on your school website for more specifics. The health and medicine living learning community at Rutgers is a place where students can share residential and academic experiences while making new friends and exploring common interests together. There are so many perks from moving in early, to getting a special orientation, to finding your classrooms in advance, to getting familiar with the busing system, to sharing classes together. Everything you do is guided with your new group of friends by your side, so college seems a little less intimidating and a lot less lonely. The academic and personal advisement helps guide students to be as successful as they can be during their first year, and it aids the transition from high school life to college life by providing students with all the resources they need at a school that's known to be very "do it yourself".
What were some of the social advantages of joining a living learning community?
At first, I thought this may be a little overboard. I'm a big nerd and all but was this too far? I didn't want to socially isolate myself from the social scene on College Ave even though Livingston was the hip new campus back in 2012. One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to avoid the "loud party girl roommate". That just wasn't gonna fly with my hours of bedroom studying ahead. I mean the biggest decision after choosing the perfect college is probably choosing the perfect roommate! I wanted to share a room with someone with the same aspirations and work ethic, and this was a great way to almost guarantee that. It turns out it's actually ironic that I chose to live in this dorm for the sole reason of wanting another pre-med roommate because there ended up being an odd number of students and I was the one dorm room with a random roommate. Everything ended up working out with my roommate, Cindy, who was a theatre major from China. Cindy is to this day one of my best friends so there are no hard feelings there. It certainly was a surprise however to find out that she faints at the sight of blood the first time we ever met LOL. It's funny how life works.
What were some of the academic advantages of joining a living learning community?
The LLC set up our schedules for us so that we were taking general biology and expository writing together. This was awesome because as a Freshman I never felt alone in any of my courses and there was always someone right down the hall for nightly homework help or study group sessions. We were also all enrolled in a 1 credit first-year interest group seminar (FIGS) that met once a week with all the members of my dorm to discuss specific topics of interest to pre-med students. Through my dorm I was able to attend a lot of programming I would have otherwise not had the opportunity to attend such as personalized tours of all our classrooms prior to the first day of classes, connecting with professors on a more personal level, pre-med student advice panels from more senior students, volunteer opportunities, study skills workshops, medical museum field trips, social events, and so much more.
What kind of mentoring do you get by joining a living learning community?
As a member of a LLC, I had a "peer mentor" who was a year older than us (and lived in the pre-med LLC the year prior) who lived in the dorm with us. It was so nice to have someone who just went through the exact same class schedule as you to ask for advice and study tips. Anything from professor recommendations to passed down study guides, our peer mentor was an extremely valuable resource to have. So not only did I have an RA to go to for regular freshman type questions, but also a peer mentor who had a year of experience in our shoes and a year of advice to give. It's so nice to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share the same passions and goals as you do, especially when the road ahead looks like a bumpy one. Misery loves company... I've definitely said that during PA school once or twice too, but it's so true. The motivation surrounding me in my LLC only made me want to work harder. I met some really awesome friends from my dorm that I still keep in touch with today. The living learning community can also provide you with a potential leadership opportunity if you so choose to become a peer mentor the following year. Apparently now there is even a "sophomore experience" option for students that wish to continue living with the same group of students, which was not a thing at the time I joined. Just more proof that students really do enjoy living with other like-minded individuals.
What are the eligibility requirements to join a living learning community?
The health and medicine living learning community is a self-selected group of first year students. In other words, you just have to apply! To be eligible to apply, students must be enrolled in either the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, or the Business School. Students must place into expository writing and pre-calculus or higher. Lastly, students need to submit an application online. Once you submit your application, someone will call you for a very quick phone interview just to double check you’re a good fit and have all the proper information. Pretty simple, unlike PA school application requirements!
All in all it was a great experience for a little fish in a big pond, and I'm really happy I decided to go for it!