CM’s Guide to American University

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Overall Experience:

“Lots of wonks.”

-Matt Newman, Finance major, Class of 2019 (see Top 5 Quirks)

“There’s always something weird happening in the best way possible. This morning I saw someone carrying a plastic skeleton across the Quad.”

-Melissa Baney, Psychology major, Class of 2019

“AU students are smart slackers with an eye to the future.”

-Anna Schwartz, International Studies and French major, Class of 2018

“AU in one word: pretentious.”

-Christina Hwang, Biology major, Class of 2017

“AU definitely has its perks, but like any school, there’s things that can be improved. I’ve had a good academic experience and good professors, that’s the important thing. I’m here to get an education by any means necessary.”

-Griffin Harris, Class of 2019

Student Scale:

Academics: A 

“I transferred here last semester, and I’m loving it so far.” -Ana Tarlas, Journalism major, Class of 2018

Social Life: A

“My floor is very social. I’m not even in Greek life, but there’s always something happening. This might not be a typical experience though,” Tarlas said. 

The Vibe: It’s all political

Walking across the quad, you’ll see student groups advocating everything from vegetarianism to an international issue you never knew existed. Last weekend, I stumbled across a protest against the Indian caste system. I definitely learned a lot in that short 5-minute walk. If you think the food you eat, the sex you may or may not be having or the brand of toothpaste you use has nothing to do with politics, AU may not be for you. An ordinary class discussion will devolve into a political debate (no biggie, just practicing for our presidential runs). With overwhelmingly liberal vibes radiating from most students, tensions run high between the political parties.

What It Feels Like to Go Here:

At AU, “Where are you interning?” tends to be the first question you receive during welcome week, as opposed to the “So, what is your major? standard. Of course we like to party (we are in college), but many of us have our eyes set on future careers in the federal government. Translation: if you expect a raging foam and keg bash every weekend, you might be disappointed when you find more casual wine nights in an apartment. As for fashion, people will rarely blink an eye when they pass by one person in sweats and another in a crisp business suit. That business suit also screams to others that your major may be international relations. While your school’s most popular major may be psychology, AU specializes on mastering those international handshakes. Once when I introduced myself as a journalism major, I received the response of, “Thank God, I’ve just talked to like 20 IR people.” However, the students majoring in IR do get a coffee shop in their building, so I can see the incentive.

Never Have I Ever:

Q: How much are students partying?

AU students do party, but if you’re looking for a wild and crazy time, maybe check out the University of Miami. Students over 21 are more likely to hit the bars than party at someone’s apartment, and luckily you can find a bar on just about every corner in D.C.

Q: What will you get in trouble for at your school?

You traditionally think of college as a big party; like the ones you see in those unrealistic teen films, but better because you’re apart of the movie now. At AU, however, the school prides itself on being a dry campus, meaning no alcohol even if you just hit the big 21. You may have struggled with ‘dry January’ this past month, but your resistance has nothing on an AU student’s. If we can’t throw a few back, of course smoking also happens to be a big no-no on campus. Even with all of these massive college restrictions, surprise surprise, students still find a way around the rules.

Q: How much sex are students having?

Since AU has an overwhelmingly large female student body, all ladies looking for a gentleman need to snag him during welcome week or you’re single the next four years. The men of AU take advantage of the lack of competition, so when you see a dude casually hooking up with several women at once, don’t be surprised. I didn’t say I agreed with it, I’m just relaying the facts.

Top 5 Quirks:

1. The “wonk” campaign: “wonk” means to know something backwards and forwards. The campaign basically says that AU students know their stuff. The word “wonk” can be found plastered on every bus in northwest D.C.

2. Actress America Ferrera did a semester program at AU during her college career.

3. We couldn’t care less about sporting events. 

4. We have a sculpture of a Democratic donkey and a Republican elephant in front of the School of Public Affairs.

5. Students call the Spiritual Life Center the “flaming cupcake” because it looks exactly like, well, a flaming cupcake.

Top 3 Majors:

1. International Relations

2. Business Administration

3. Political Science

Bragging Rights:

1. #4 Most Politically Active Students according to The Princeton Review.

2. Top Producer of Fulbright Scholars.

3. A Top School for Students Holding Internships.

Getting In:

AU looks mainly at your academic achievements in high school when determining if you’re a good fit. GPA (3.5-4.0) and how much you academically challenged yourself takes precedence over those extracurriculars of cheerleading or basketball. You also have to be super passionate about AU in order to get in (crazy, right?). Got a love for D.C? What about the government? Be sure to state your case in your personal statement with as much vigor as possible. As a transfer student, my experience entailed the school looking at my grades from my previous college, as well as determining if my reason for transferring held up. My passion for AU’s journalism program literally leaped from my personal statement and smacked the admissions board in the face. I think it worked out pretty well.

Elizabeth Lowman is a senior journalism major at the American University. She can usually be found eating cupcakes or petting other people’s dogs, sometimes at the same time.

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