Trip review: American University

9 May

American University (AU) was the last college we visited in the Washington D.C. area in February.  Located off Massachusetts Avenue within walking distance of the Tenleytown metro stop on the red line, AU is similar in size to Georgetown with 6,300 undergraduates.  Most of its campus buildings are arrayed around a large green quadrangle and the buildings are an eclectic mix of modern and neoclassical architecture.

We were shut out of the information session (AU requires early registration to attend an information session) so we waited around for the campus tour to begin.  There were others who were also waiting for the tour and soon more and more people were coming in.  Seeing our growing numbers, an admissions officer decided to create an informal information session just for those of us waiting around.  She had extra chairs brought into a smaller room nearby and ushered us inside.  Even though we were packed cheek to jowl in the small room, it was considerate of them to accommodate us this way.

There are five undergraduate schools: arts and sciences (the largest school), business, communication, international service, and public affairs.  In addition to the standard majors, they offer some unusual ones, such as a major in business and music (good for those wishing to work in the music industry), an interdisciplinary major in communication, legal studies, economics and government, and audio production/technology.

There is an emphasis on languages across the schools.  For example, the Kogod business school offers a major in business, language and culture studies with tracks in Arabic, French, German, Russian, and Spanish (alas, not in Chinese).  The School of International Studies (the largest international relations school in the US) offers language and area studies in French/Europe, German/Europe, Russian/Area Studies, and Spanish/Latin America.  The School of Communication offers a major in Foreign Language and Communication Media.

The strength of the university lies in its international relations, political science and business programs much like other D.C. universities that benefit from Washington’s location as the nation’s capitol.  For prospective students who want to be in D.C. and wish to study those disciplines, AU is easier to get into.  This year’s admission rate is 41% and the number of applications grew 10%.  The freshman retention rate of 91% indicates that most students are happy with their education here.

The top 15% of admitted freshmen are eligible for the honors program.  Academic merit scholarships are also available.  Tuition is about $37,554 for the 2011-2012 academic year, and average room and board costs $13,648 a year.  By now we had gathered from our visits that living in D.C. is expensive but for those who are interested in politics, government, and international affairs, you cannot beat Washington D.C.’s location with its access to international organizations like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and all the foreign embassies.  It would be an exciting place to spend four years.

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