The term residental college refers to a particular type of residence hall that's become more and more popular in colleges around the USA. They are based off the model of traditional residental colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, where in students will live together in a community environment. Many big colleges claim that their residental colleges give a small college feel in a big university life.
While the original residental colleges usually housed people of one particular major or field of study, modern ones often known to house an eclectic mix of students from across the boards, although some do still keep it limited to certain studies.
The exact rules for being a residental college are rather loose as there aren't official standards. All residental colleges focus on community and student involvement, but how this is done differs greatly from school to school, and often from individual hall to hall if a school has multiple residental colleges.
Residental colleges are marked by a high amount of student run iniatives. Often, many aspects of the hall, such as running the cafeteria, designing and maintaining the gardens, and keeping up aquariums, are run by students. Since the focus of such halls is community, there is usually a closeness between hall members that most other halls do not obtain (or encourage).
Some, but not all, residental colleges have the power to fund student run commitees through a budget, often pulled from student activity costs (sometimes resulting in higher prices to stay in the hall). While some of this goes towards the more mundane aspects of keeping up appearances in a hall, this can also lead to such things as field days, movie nights, ice cream socials, gaming supplies, books for in house libraries, and many other things.
There are, however, downsides. Residental halls can easily be percieved as being cloistered and seperated, and this can easily happen in truth. Since so much participation is encouraged inside the hall, participation outside the hall can often be lower than the average students. Friend circles will often form exclusively in house, and often students will attract friends to move into the community. Some residental colleges require applications to get in, often increasing the perception that such houses are exclusive and/or snobbish.
Most residental colleges are also living-learning communities, so there is an equal focus on academics and community through tutoring programs or grade point requirments to stay in house.
Some of examples of residental colleges include the following: