Frequently Asked Questions

Watauga Sun

What is a residential college?

A residential college is a federated program within a university that concentrates on integrating academic and co-curricular programs. Students work with professors both inside and outside the classroom in an inquiry-based, experiential approach to learning that connects academic course work with personal and social development. Students live in the same residence hall, the Living Learning Center (LLC), take many of their classes there, and share meals with each other and with their faculty. Classes are small seminars and students learn not only from one another, but from students who have already successfully navigated the first year of their university curriculum. On their part, faculty concentrate their efforts on providing a superior undergraduate education for students, rather than on conducting their own research at the expense of students.

How is a residential college different from a residential learning community?

The primary difference is that the experience offered by a residential college is both deeper and broader than a residential learning community. Residential learning communities are centered in and around concepts and principles of residence life. Residential learning communities may require participation in one or two classes, but faculty involvement in residential learning communities is limited and usually concentrated on those few classes that are often dictated by the theme of the residential community. In a residential college, by contrast, faculty leadership of and student integration into the ethos of the college are crucial. The curriculum reaches across several years of a student's experience, not just one or two classes. Faculty and students develop close and cohesive relationships, sharing not only the residential situation but meals and numerous other co-curricular as well as curricular learning experiences.

What is inquiry-based learning?

In inquiry-based learning, students, rather than concentrating on finding the "right" answer, learn to ask questions that encourage creative and interdisciplinary thought. Much of the value of higher education resides not in simply satisfying degree requirements, but in developing a restless, curious, and critically-informed mindset. This is the purpose of inquiry-based learning. Faculty using this method do not think of themselves as experts, but as fellow travelers on a journey of intellectual and personal discovery.

Can I do both Watauga and the Honors Program?

Yes, you can. In fact, there is an Honors section of Investigations: Local in the fall, so one course can give you credit in both programs. If you feel that trying to meet the requirements of both programs will be overwhelming, we recommend that you start in both. You can then make an informed decision about doing both or choosing one over the other.  

Are there programs that conflict with Watauga?

Residential Learning Communities such as ACES and others that require you to live in a different residence hall will not work with Watauga.  Our expectation is that you live in the Living Learning Center for at least your first year.  Marching Band and Watauga do not work together for the first year only.  Marching Band practice conflicts with our shared lunches.  However, many music and music education students will participate in another instrumental group their first year and then will join marching band their sophomore year.

How do I apply for Watauga?

As one of Appalachian's premier programs, there is a separate essay for Watauga Residential College For more information on applying to Watauga go to the Admissions Website.

How are Watauga classes different from most freshman/sophomore-level classes?

Watauga classes are interactive, interdisciplinary, internationally-focused, and especially challenging, requiring you to use information in new and creative ways. The classes emphasize analytical reading and writing, creative research, and individual and group projects leading to public presentations. The fall and spring freshman core (Investigations: Local and Investigations: Global) form a coordinated curriculum leading to global awareness, beginning your journey to global competence.

When will I take classes in my major?

The 21 semester hours of Watauga classes are spread over five semesters, diminishing in percentage as you take more classes in your major. From your first semester at Appalachian, you will integrate Watauga courses, major courses, electives, and other requirements into a balanced schedule.

Will I lose credits if I transfer to another college or university?

No. Watauga credits transfer just like Appalachian credits.  Some universities, however, have different general education requirements and so transferring from any program to another university never guarantees a seamless move.

Should I enroll in the First Year Seminar if I'm in Watauga?

No. Much of what happens in the First Year Seminar is incorporated into the Watauga curriculum. In the fall core class, Investigations: Local, you'll receive credit for First Year Seminar and First Year Writing.

Does Watauga affect my choice of major?

No. All freshmen must fulfill core requirements regardless of major. What you will experience in Watauga will enhance any major and subsequent career you choose.

Am I required to live in the Living Learning Center?

Yes, at least for your first year. Living together is an important component of Watauga.

What if I have AP or other credits coming in?

You will retain all previously earned credits and earn additional credits in Watauga that meet general education requirements.  If you are coming in with credit for RC 1000, you will still be required to take our 6 CH WRC 1103.  We will find another place for your incoming first-year writing credits to count in your degree plan.

Does Watauga cost more?

Tuition is the same. Students pay for the type of housing in which they are assigned. Please check out the housing rates for the Living Learning Center for rates at

What does it mean to "graduate" from Watauga Residential College?

It means you've completed the Minor in Experiential, Integrative Learning, a 15 credit hour minor that consists of 12 hours of WRC sophomore and junior courses and a 3 credit hour senior seminar in which you intentionally reflect upon your experience in Watauga by compiling a portfolio of your course work and by studying residential colleges in cultural and historical contexts.