By EDWARD B. FISKE
The allure of American University is simple: Washington, D.C. American has a nice campus in a nice neighborhood with easy access to the Metro (subway).
Located just a few miles from where the country’s leaders make decisions of national and global impact, AU is a breeding ground for the next generation of reporters, diplomats, lobbyists and political leaders who will shape domestic and international policy. Alongside these eager buzzhounds is a host of students taking advantage of AU’s strong programs in the arts and sciences and business.
“American University is a diverse, pulsing and dynamic school driven by some of the best faculty, staff, scholar, and students in the world,” a senior says.
Thanks to phenomenal internships, a comfortable location, and a strong international focus, AU continues to attract top students from nearly 130 nations and all 50 states.
AU’s 84-acre residential campus is located in the safe northwest corner of Washington, D.C., just minutes from downtown; free shuttle buses transport students to the nearby Metro station. There’s a mix of classical and modern architecture and flower gardens alongside the parking lots. The quad has numerous sitting areas for reflection and study.
All AU undergraduates must demonstrate competency in writing and English, either through two courses or an exam; for math or statistics, it’s one semester of class or placing out through a test. The general education program requires 30 credit hours from five areas: the creative arts, traditions that shape the Western world, global and multicultural perspectives, social institutions and behavior, and the natural sciences. The requirements are typically completed during the first two years so that upperclassmen can study abroad or participate in an internship or co-op — of which there are more than 100 in 41 nations, thanks to the school’s relationships with more than 900 private, nonprofit or government institutions.
In the classroom, AU has outstanding programs in political science and government, international studies, business and communications. Nearly half of all classes taken by undergraduates have fewer than 20 students. An honors program offers a select group of entering students small seminars, special sections of many courses, and designated floors in the residence halls, plus a senior capstone experience. In all, students may choose from more than 70 programs and have the option to design their own interdisciplinary major.
“Students are friendly and intelligent in the classroom, as are the professors. The courses are challenging but are not extremely hard,” says one senior.
The School of International Service, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Public Affairs offer a three-year Global Scholars bachelor’s degree program.
“AU is a very international campus,” observes one senior.
Eight percent of the student body is African-American, 9 percent is Hispanic, and 6 percent is Asian-American. Unlike many college campuses where apathy reigns, AU is politically active.
“What really sets AU apart from other schools is that when AU students are unhappy, they do something about it,” a student says.
More than two-thirds of AU students, mostly freshmen and sophomores, live on campus.
“The housing options are not great,” laments one student. “The rooms are pretty small, and there are many many forced triples.”
Campus dining receives good reviews for its taste and variety. Students say they generally feel safe on campus, noting public safety officers are visible. A good deal of the social life revolves around campus-related functions, such as room and fraternity parties.
A student says, “On campus, American University Student Government holds events. From political speakers to comedy groups and musical performances, students can always find something to do.”
The immediate area around AU has restaurants and shops, but you need to get a bit farther away for true nightlife in Dupont Circle and Georgetown. Popular road trips include Baltimore, Annapolis, Williamsburg, the Ocean City shore and nearby amusement parks.
Although there’s no football team, American competes in Division I athletics. Students are particularly enthusiastic about the men’s basketball team, which has made the NCAA Tournament three times in the past eight years. There’s also a slew of intramural and club sports.
AU and Washington, D.C., are a top combo for a rich college life. The opportunities for real-world experience — in fields ranging from business to international studies to political science — are outstanding. But AU is small enough to keep students from feeling lost in the fast-paced city.
“We are a small campus, which gives the feeling of being out of the city,” a junior says, “but yet the city is at our fingertips.”
Adapted from Fiske Guide to Colleges 2016, © 2015 FGC Associates, LLC. Used by permission of Sourcebooks.
Fiske Guide to Colleges is available as an online program at www.collegecountdown.com/store.
PHOTO CAPTION: Students can take advantage of Washington, D.C.’s many offerings, including paddle boats in the Tidal Basin.