Residential colleges began at Oxford and Cambridge in Britain and eventually made their way to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. The primary idea behind the residential college is to provide an integrated and holistic education by combining the classroom experience with the residential experience.
The purpose of education has traditionally been to provide space for students to explore the meaning of life and why life is worth living. In recent years, there has been a slow movement away from this as education's primary purpose and it has shifted to preparing students for the skills and qualities needed for various careers. A residential college seeks to integrate a student's educational experience, by giving them the opportunity and space to continue to explore life's questions and to make sense of how their world fits together. Students are given the freedom to explore a broad array of different ideas and topics and are taught how to do this in a meaningful and constructive way. Through this, students will come to understand the process of their own learning and will develop an innate desire to learn.
Another advantage of a residential college is that they promote the informal interaction between students and faculty. A student's ability and success at learning depends in part upon their relationship with their professor. By bringing the classroom and faculty into the residence hall, a residential college creates an environment that is more conducive for these interactions to take place, thereby enhancing the overall learning experience.
A vital component of any residential college is the community life. A residential college by nature provides a more intimate, inclusive environment as well as a tight-knit community for students. It is a place where everyone belongs and each is known by name. A residential college also provides social stability for its members by providing a consistent rhythm of life. Community events happen on a regular pattern including daily, weekly, monthly, annually, as well as the spontaneous gatherings. These events provide the regular space and opportunity for regular meaningful interactions to take place. By participating in these community events, members are invited to be a part of the immediate community as well as the greater community. By participating, current students will be participating in the same traditions that members before them participated in as well.