Election Day is the most exciting day of the year at American University in Washington, DC.
We tallied this list based on the responses of 122,000 students at 377 colleges to our survey question, “How popular are political/activist groups on your campus?”
To find out what students at American have to say about their school's academics, social life, and student body, read below!
American University exploits its Washington, D.C., location—that facilitates a strong faculty, prestigious guest lecturers, and “a wealth of internship opportunities”—to offer “incredibly strong programs” in political science and international relations. “The poli-sci kids are all going to be president one day, and the international studies ones are all going to save the world,” a student insists. The school of communication also excels, and the school works hard to accommodate “interdisciplinary majors and the opportunities associated with studying them,” which include “taking advantage of the resources of the city. The school values learning out of the classroom as much as learning in the classroom.” As you might expect from a school with a strong international relations program, “AU’s study abroad program is one of the best.” Although AU “does not have the automatically recognizable prestige of nearby Georgetown,” that’s not necessarily a drawback; on the contrary, “The administration and professors go out of their way to ensure a great academic experience,” in part because the school is trying to “climb in the rankings and gain recognition as one of the nation’s top universities.” However, some concede, “The university could improve programs in other fields, aside from its specialties in international studies, public affairs, business, and communication.”
“The greatest strength of AU is the activity level both politically and in the community,” students tell us, noting that during the most recent election the campus “was a proxy holy war...Whether it was signs in windows, talk in the class or in the hallways, t-shirts, or canvassing in Metro-accessible Virginia, students on both sides took November 4 religiously.” As one student explains, “Let’s put it this way: A politician who comes to campus is likely to draw about ninety percent of the student population [and] an AU basketball game, about nine [percent].” Students get involved in the community through “campus outreach by student-run organizations,” which many see as “the school’s greatest asset.” The typical undergrad is “incredibly engaged and active...Students seek internships in every line of work, becoming actively involved in a field of interest before graduation.” When it’s time to relax, “Washington, D.C., offers limitless opportunities to explore.” Many “enjoy partying and hanging out off campus and on campus (even though AU is a ’dry campus’),” but there are also “a lot of people who don’t drink and have a very good time just using what D.C. has to offer: museums, restaurants, parks, cinemas, theaters, and shops.” As one student sums it up: “The city is the school’s greatest resource. You will never run out of things to do in Washington.”
Student BodyAU attracts a crowd that “tends to be very ideologically driven.” “Liberals run the show,” most here agree, although they add that “Plenty of students don’t fit this mold, and I’ve never seen anyone rejected for what they believe.” The campus “is very friendly to those with alternative lifestyles (GLBT, vegetarian, green-living, etc.),” but students with more socially conservative inclinations note that “while AU boasts about the many religious groups on campus, there is still a general antipathy toward piety.” The perception that some departments outshine others is reflected in the way students perceive each other; one says, “You have the political studies know-it-alls, the international studies student who thinks he is going to save the world, the artsy film/communication students, and the rest [who] are unhappy students who couldn’t get into George Washington or Georgetown.”