American University

Washington, D.C.: I was very apprehensive about visiting American University. After looking at their viewbook and devouring their website, American seemed like the ideal school for me and I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. Then I would need to get my hopes up about another school. On this latest trip looking at colleges, I had already been disappointed twice.

The second my taxi pulled up in front of Centennial Hall, the admissions office, all my worries vanished. I knew right away that this school was right for me. I was already pretty sure I wanted to be in Washington, but I wanted a school with a campus – and did this school have a campus! The school’s grounds consist of 84 acres of light-colored buildings which house six residence halls and five academic divisions: the College of Arts and Sciences; Kogod School of Business; School of Communication; School of International Service; and School of Public Affairs. AU is in the northwest part of the city, which is an area so safe that it is actually situated at the top of Embassy Row.

The information session was led by an upbeat admissions counselor who kept the atmosphere very relaxed. He was well-informed about the university’s many programs and conveyed this information clearly. Everything he said about the college made it seem more and more like the perfect fit for me. The fact that American is one of the top 77 best-value colleges due to its combination of impressive academics, moderate tuition, and competitive financial aid packages doesn’t hurt, either.

Then out of nowhere, a peppy tour guide burst into the room, announcing that she was ready to take people around the campus. Her major was communications, which is what I plan to major in, so I knew I should stick close to her. She skipped from building to building, explaining American’s challenging yet relaxed atmosphere. She emphasized the importance of speaking out during class, which is easy to do since the average size is only 23 students. An interesting option American offers is the choice between large lectures or small classes; you don’t have large lectures unless you want them.

I asked about the school’s religious affiliation, and she clarified that although the school is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, the majority of students aren’t too religious and people of all faiths are accepted. I asked her to describe the typical American student, but she couldn’t because the students are so diverse. American University matriculates about 11,000 students, equally divided between graduate and undergraduate students. Students come from over 130 countries and all 50 states.

My guide answered all my questions honestly and enthusiastically. One high point of the American experience, she noted, was the amazing food in the cafeteria. She raved about the all-you-can-eat food with different options every day.

For those interested in sports, American University offers NCAA Division I sports to eight men’s teams and nine teams for women.

After the tour, the guide invited me to come into the admissions office with her to continue learning about the school. We ended up talking for another 20 minutes. She assured me that with what she could infer about my personality after the time she spent with me, American University seemed like the right fit for me. I believe her completely.

Reviewed in 2004