Frequently Asked Questions
Skip to a question:
How do I decide which learning community is best for me?
Review the information on our website. See if there is a learning community in your major. Also, look at the programs open to any major. Look at the different program components and see which ones sound like the best fit for you. Contact coordinators of the learning communities of interest to you and discuss your goals with them. They'll help you make the best decision. If you need some general information contact us.
What if my major is undecided?
Identify the learning communities that fit best with your current interests or things you want to explore, then contact the coordinators of those LCs. If you are undecided in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, you will participate in Helping Open option students Manage Exploration (HOME), and can check into one of the additional options "The Sky is the Limit" or "Leadership ISU" learning communities. If you are enrolling in engineering as undecided, then the Engineering Exploration learning community may be what you're looking for. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has Ag Exploration, and the College of Human Sciences offers the Making INformed DecisionS (MINDS) learning community for undecided students
What is the difference between the learning communities?
Good question, though it's tough to give a short answer. Some LCs are based on major. Some expect you to live near each other in the residence halls. Some connect two courses, where others might have two or more courses in common. Most LCs have a peer mentor, and most do interesting and fun out-of-class activities. Talk to the coordinators of different programs about their specific features.
How is being in a learning community different from regular college life?
Actually a LC is "regular" in many ways. The LC doesn't isolate you, but it does provide some structure. You immediately get connected to a small group of people with common academic interests. You have an opportunity to get to know faculty and staff a little better. You can participate in community service projects in most LCs. The LC gives some focus and support to what you're doing in college. You're likely to become friends with the people in your LC because you'll see them more frequently and in some cases you may live near them. But, the LC isn't supposed to dominate your college life and isolate you from others. It really should compliment the diverse activities and people you're going to experience here. Don't think of it so much as "different" from college life - it's more of an additional bonus if you choose to fully participate.
Is there any extra cost associated with being in a learning community?
No way! We know it sounds too good to be true but the university has worked for a number of years trying to develop programs that can really make a difference in the life of our students (think about it-it's our full time jobs to help you succeed!). We know learning communities work and want to keep developing new ones-no fees, no tricks.
How much time will being in a learning community take?
It shouldn't take much extra time, although most LCs offer additional activities like study groups, social events, field trips, getting together for sporting events, etc. So it may seem like you're spending extra time with your LC, but hopefully you would have spent your time studying a lot anyway - the LC can help direct or structure some of your time. The LCs would like you to actively participate but usually you have options. If the LC offers a social event and you have tests the next day, then your priority should be your tests! It's up to you to pick and choose.
Do learning communities last the entire first year?
Most of them do, but check the specific program you're interested in-some are just one semester.
Can I participate in more than one learning community?
Usually you can, but we don't generally recommend it. It just depends on which programs you want, and what your goals are. Students in the Honors and WiSE programs often also join a LC in their major. Talk to the coordinators and see if this makes sense in your specific circumstances. You need to be active and get involved, but be careful not to overextend yourself the first year.
Can I live in a fraternity or sorority or live off-campus and be in a learning community?
Generally yes. A few of the residential learning communities expect you to live in the same residence halls. Ask the LC coordinator for details.
Can I also be in the Honors program?
Yes. Again, mention this to the LC coordinator. Notice a recurring theme here - ask questions. Because the programs are unique and because you're unique we want to be careful about giving advice without knowing you. Asking questions is a sign of intelligence - there are many people at Iowa State just waiting to help.
What benefits will a learning community provide my student?
LC students gain an immediate supportive group of students, faculty, and staff. LCs also provide encouragement to study together-we generally learn best when we share ideas together. In the "old days" we were often encouraged to work alone, but LCs are different. The LC is about "collaborating" - not cheating, but working together and assisting each other - and going deeper into a subject than you can if you only study alone. Hopefully the LC offers balance with both a supportive group of people and yet all the freedom to make friends outside the LC. What's our phrase? Oh, yeah—"THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS"—a small group within the larger community. Almost sounds a bit like a family. You want to spend time together and you appreciate their support but you have plenty of other interests and things to do without them!
What are the academic benefits to being in a learning community? (What's the research on the learning communities?)
Students in LCs have generally earned higher first-semester grades and have persisted longer at ISU. After one year at ISU, nearly 90% of LC students returned their sophomore year compared to about 82% of non-LC students.
We know that 11% more students who were in a learning community graduated after six years than students who weren't in a learning community. Sounds like the claim "support for first-year students is critical for success in college" may be true.
BUT A WORD OF CAUTION: LCs aren't magic. Each individual needs to work hard to be successful. Hopefully the LC provides the environment, structure, and support system for students to be successful. However, ultimately, the student needs to do the work - to get involved, work hard, ask questions, and take advantage of the many faculty and staff who want them to succeed.
Can’t find a learning community that fits?
Get in touch with your academic adviser or with any of the learning community staff in your college. New learning communities are always in the works.
Not sure you're interested in a learning community?
Not everyone is! But, you probably ARE interested in being connected, supported, challenged, and excited during your years at Iowa State, so look for ways to get involved on campus.