Finding Your Best Fit School: Spotlight on American University

Friday, March 9, 2012

These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things…

American UniversityAt IvyWise, we love helping students discover the schools that will be a great academic and social fit for them, where they will be happy and successful. That said, when given the chance, we never hesitate to give a shout out to our own alma maters and share what made that school a great match for us. Previously, members of our team told tales of Turkey Trotting at Lehigh, classes in the Commons at Emerson, and following in the footsteps of strong women at Barnard. This week, the newest member of the IvyWise team, our Executive Assistant Ashley, tells us about her experiences at American University in Washington, DC:

One of the best things about American is undoubtedly its location; it’s close enough to downtown DC to provide all of the benefits of an urban setting, but with a traditional campus nestled in a suburban neighborhood. AU has its very own Metro stop within walking distance of campus, which provides easy access to explore the entire city. But when the hustle-and-bustle of Capitol Hill and K Street overwhelms, students can relax in the beautiful outdoor amphitheater or on the lush main quad – the campus is a registered arboretum, so you’re surrounded by exotic greenery year-round.

Even if, like myself, you’re not interested in working for the federal government or becoming a professional activist, it’s almost impossible not to get swept up in the political excitement. And why not? It’s great to get involved, and many students become passionate about the issue of securing voting rights for DC’s elected officials. On any given day, the campus might be swarmed with Secret Service agents, roads might be closed to allow the presidential motorcade to pass through, or the quad might be occupied by a student demonstration. But it’s all part of the fun, and you’ll get the opportunity to see some historic moments – during my sophomore year, I watched Barack Obama accept Ted Kennedy’s endorsement in AU’s Bender Arena.

What really made me fall in love with the university, however, was the faculty. AU’s most popular programs, and the ones that receive the most attention in college guides and other independent sources, are majors like political science, international studies, and economics – not surprising, given it’s location. People often gave me quizzical looks when I mentioned I was studying literature and cinema and ask, “Why would you go to AU for that?”

The truth is, AU’s smaller academic departments are its hidden gems. I attended a very small high school, where class sizes were rarely above 15 students and I benefitted from lots of personal attention from my teachers. I fully expected that experience to end in college, but in fact, just the opposite was true. Every professor I had in my four years at AU, from those who taught my major requirements during freshman year to my thesis advisors, were deeply invested in my success. My friends at other schools were always surprised when I mentioned having dinner at a professor’s house, or taking a class trip to see a theater production – not as part of the curriculum, but for fun. This was the norm in my department, and by the time I graduated, I felt like I was a member of a quirky family of scholars.

Insider tip: Steak n’ Egg, Tenleytown’s 24-hour greasy spoon, is most popular with students after midnight on weekends and for late Sunday brunches. But if you avoid these times, you’ll also avoid harried servers, loud frat guys, and lots of spilled drinks. Go on a weeknight after class and you’ll have the place to yourself! The owners are great guys who know lots of fascinating DC history.


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