College Spotlight: American University
Freshman Year Update
By Elizabeth Anderson
College Expert Counselor: Ryan Luse
American University is located in the northwest corner of Washington DC, a few miles from Maryland. The campus is a half hour metro ride from the National Mall and with metro passes provided by the university, it costs students nothing to go into the city. Being near the heart of DC has its perks; students have free admittance to all National Museums and Monuments, access to diverse restaurant selections, and freedom to explore Washington. Rock Creek National Park is located fifteen minutes North of campus, and the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers are prime spots for water sports in warmer months. My favorite spots in the city are Chinatown, where you can always find talented street performers and really good fried rice; the Eastern Market, where vendors sell delicious food near the famous Capitol Hill Bookstore; and Blind Whino, an old church that was painted with vibrant colors and renovated into an art gallery.
The most attractive quality about American University, in my opinion, is its passionate students. Whether that enthusiasm is for academics, a sport, a language, or anything else, I have yet to meet an American University student who lacks passion. The majority of students are highly motivated and work hard in classes. Some people assume that the American campus must be very political; however, politics do not define the campus. While the College Democrats and College Republicans groups have high participation rates, there are many people here who are uninterested in politics. Living in DC does not mean that you are plugged directly into politics any more than another university campus. American University is a Division 1 school for sports; however not many students attend the games. Students are very proud to say they attend American (especially when talking to someone from George Washington University, our rival university), but sports don’t account for much of our school Spirit.
There is a large party culture in DC and huge crowds of students go out every Friday and Saturday night. Between American, GW, and Georgetown University, you will never have to look hard to find a party. During my first semester at AU, I would get dragged along to parties by my friends relatively often. By my second semester, I realized that I really did not like going out and that I would get a chance to be productive and relax if I was to stay in. And if you choose to stay in, you won’t be alone. It took me awhile to connect with those people, but now I always find fun things to do on-campus on Friday nights. There is also a huge variety of campus sponsored activities, as well as many fraternities and sororities. Anything from College Dems to Kpop Dance Groups can be found, and it is easy to start a new club if your interests are not currently being met.
When it comes to academics, American is very strong in International Relations, Political Science, Pre-Law, and Communication Studies. The largest school is the School of International Service, and a wide variety of courses are offered for students studying IR. However, there are also many diverse majors offered for students. In my time here, I have met Literature, Dance, Biology, and Theater majors. While there is not a very extensive course offering for these majors, the programs are still offered. Most class sizes are small, allowing for personalized work with your professors. My largest class was held in a 250-person lecture hall. For bigger lecture sections, most professors offer supplemental instruction sessions and discussion sections, where students can get help from TAs and obtain extra credit by attending. I have never had trouble getting help in a course. American offers free tutors in a wide variety of subjects as well as a writing center with English graduate students who can help with papers. I have gone to the writing center eight times so far, and each time it has improved my essays significantly.
The only issue I have had with American University is the housing. In my time at AU, my room has had three mice and a cockroach. That’s almost one pest per month! Just last night when I was washing dishes in my lounge, I watched a mouse run across the room. This is not due to the cleanliness of my room. My roommate and I clean every day and never leave dishes or food on the counter. The maintenance crew is punctual in bringing mouse traps and taking them away if a pest is caught; however, I am already looking forward to the days when I no longer live on-campus.
Despite the low-quality dorms, American University is a well-known institution with very passionate students. There are a large variety of activities and sports to be found and the location of the campus makes it easy to plan a trip into the heart of DC. Students here are motivated and professors are supportive of students in their academic endeavors.
I would recommend anyone interested in American University to visit the campus and reach out to an alumni to discuss their experience. What I have said in this blog post reflects my personal opinion; however, there are many sides to any university, so do not let what I said determine whether or not you apply to American University. Do your research and make sure it’s a good fit for you. Go Eagles!