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American University

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What are the academics like at your school?

I've always enjoyed my classes here. Enjoyed probably isn't a strong enough word-- I've loved everything I've learned. Although I'm a Lit major, my anthropology, sociology, theatre, and psychology classes have also been fascinating. The only class in which the professor didn't know all of our names was my psychology lecture, which I took in my very first semester. That was the only class I had in one of the few lecture halls on campus-- since then, all of my classes have had fewer than thirty students. I've always been amazed by how much my professors remember about our past work and class participation off the tops of their heads. None of them seem like they teach out of obligation-- they all seem excited to share their knowledge with us, and explain things clearly and interestingly. My favorite class that I took here... well, that would be impossible to answer. One of the best was probably the Literary Imagination, in which we read recent works of literature and wrote creative works inspired by the readings. Occasionally, the others even came by to speak with the class. Another favorite was Transformations of Shakespeare. Unlike most Shakespeare classes, we discussed his plays as performance material, not just literature. We saw five local productions of Shakespeare plays-- all very different in tone-- and discussed them, as well as how we would direct or perform them if given the chance. I would never have been so passionate about Shakespeare if it wasn't for that course. My University College seminar class on the Nature of Evil is the most fascinating course I've ever taken, though very heavy subject matter-- fittingly, the next semester, I picked a college writing course on Humor. That was an awesome class, too. Really, all of them were. I've taken two classes on sex and gender, an area I really knew nothing about, and both have changed my world view and the way I think of other people. Even my least-favorite class was still interesting-- Great Ideas in Mathematics. Math was a university requirement, and I was horrified, because I am incredibly terrible at math. This class, however, was different. It was more conceptual and creative, and many of our exercises used logical reasoning rather than actual numbers. The whole class yelled 'WHOA!' on more than five occasions as the professor blew our minds with unbelievable concepts like multiple infinities and dimensions, which our class activities helped us grasp. We ended up learning very high-level mathematical theory, without having to do high-level arithmetic. The only reason why it was my least favorite is because math has always been difficult for me, so I struggled academically with the class. If it had been Pass/Fail, I probably would have loved it. My friends always seem to discuss their classes and assignments, and most seem generally interested in their majors. I've never met anyone who really seemed apathetic about school, although many are very quiet in class. It's often the same people participating in every class, which you could say of any school, but most people here seem intellectually voracious. I've never heard anyone talk about cheating on assignments. I have seen people sleeping in class, though given how busy my friends tend to be, I don't blame them. I understand that AU's changing the way their Gen-Ed curriculum is set up. I don't know much about what it will look like in the future, but right now, you need two college writing classes, a math class, and two classes from five different categories: creative arts, Traditions that Shape the Western World, Global and Multicultural Perspectives, Social Institutions and Behavior, and Natural Sciences. I was exempt from several of the categories because of the AP classes that I took in high school, but the courses that I took all taught me a lot about areas that had previously been mysteries. Most students here have a minor or double-major. I'm only going for a major, in the hopes that I'll graduate early, but I find the requirements for a major or minor pretty fair. It is aggravating how quickly classes fill up at registration-- a commitment to small class sizes means most students don't get the classes they want, and some classes that are major requirements only have one section, which doesn't make sense to me. I think part of it is because Lit is a fairly small department, so there aren't usually a huge number of courses offered outside college writing. So far, this hasn't been a problem for me, although I know one student who worries he'll have to stay an extra semester because there was no room for him in the one class he needed to graduate.

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So far, I have been really happy with American University. I love the location. Washington DC is such a cool city to live in. Though some of the students from Georgetown and George Washington University joke about how American is out in the suburbs, I like it. The area surrounding American is really beautiful, full of trees that look amazing in the fall. It does take a little longer to get downtown, but I'll take a little extra commute if it means I don't have to listen to police sirens and cars all night long. AU's campus, especially the main quad and the amphitheater, is really beautiful and has a nice intimate feeling. I love how I can walk from one end of campus to the other in under ten minutes. On a warm sunny day, I love getting lunch and eating it out on the quad, or getting coffee at the Davenport Lounge. However, while I love the location and campus, I do have some issues with AU. The dorms are not very nice. While they are re-doing them slowly and adding new dorms, AU does have a housing shortage, forcing many freshman to be put into triples and forcing many upperclassmen off campus. AU also has only one apartment-style dorm building. Personally, I love to cook, so having a basic dorm room without a kitchen is not an option to me. Plus, AU's dry campus policy makes living on campus particularly undesirable once you turn 21 and can legally drink. Luckily, there are a couple nice apartment buildings nearby where tons of students live. I've always liked AU academically. My classes are challenging, but usually interesting. I have found, however, it depends on what department you are in. AU is great with International Relations, Political Science, Business, and Communications, but many of their humanities and liberal arts departments fall short. Personally, I'm an art history major, and I find that the small pool of teachers and lack of diversity among them is really frustrating. I feel like I learned far more about art history in the year I spend abroad than in the entire time I spent at AU. One of my favorite parts of my college experience was studying abroad. AU makes it incredibly easy to study abroad and has tons of great programs to choose from. It was one of the deciding factors as to why I chose AU. I wound up studying abroad for an entire year in Rome, Italy and absolutely loved it! One of the cool things about AU is that so many people study abroad. While I was abroad, I had so many friends who were also studying in Europe that I could visit. One of my best memories is visiting a few of my friends who were all studying in Amsterdam. When I got back, I had so many people to talk to about my experience - I remember going to a party with my friend who had studied in Madrid, Spain, and nearly every single person at the party had studied abroad. The experience of travel is so enriching and AU really does a great job of encouraging its students to pursue it. This, combined with AU's large international student population, make the campus a really interesting place full of diverse global experiences. Overall, most students seem to be happy at AU. However, some students seem to feel frustrated with how AU's administration and how it spends money. Our tuition is already really high and yet AU still charges exorbitant amounts to park on campus - more than either Georgetown or GW, both of which have less space available for parking. Also, the new "Wonk" advertising campaign AU strikes many of the students as a waste of time and money. Why spend money posting advertisements all over the DC Metro system when you could be spending money on new books for the library, or renovating housing, or giving out more financial aid? Despite these complaints, I think most students like AU. I for one have been really happy with my college experience at AU.

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Academics at American University (AU) are great. As a communications student, I've had a professor who won two Oscars, an amazing photojournalist and a professor who photographs fashion week in NYC. The professors at American are dedicated, experienced and passionate about teaching. With that being said, as with any university, there are teachers who are better than others. On that note, I feel that it's very important not to simply choose a course because ratemyprofessor.com says the professor is an "easy A." It's also important not to be biased towards adjunct professors. Some of my all-time favorite professors were adjuncts, so it's important to stay open and explore all your options. Even now, as a senior, I have professors from freshman year who still remember my name. There are professors who have met with the class on weekends for field trips and who make extra time after class to chat and answer all your questions. Students are intelligent and passionate. There are so many who are interning on the hill or with non-profits and who dedicate their time to activism and outreach. As the case with any busy college students, there are often times where you can tell a classmate didn't have time to do the reading. However, when it gets down to crunch time, the library is full to capacity and everyone has their noses buried in the books. AU is a great university because it provides you with hands-on-learning experiences. Not many people can sit in a politics class and relate their personal experiences on the hill with class discussions or pop into your film class after their internship with PBS. What I have always loved about AU is that it's a school that allows you to take your learning out into the real world. The university career center is amazing and is always offering workshops to help students succeed. There are constant opportunities to network, take classes, meet with career counselors and to build up your resume. As a senior, I've found that one of the most beneficial things about being at American. I'm graduating not only with a fantastic education, but also with a resume that will appeal to employers. In our fragile economy, this is an incredible asset and something I am truly thankful for.

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All of my professors know my name. My favorite class is Civil Rights and Liberties, the professor is a badass and you learn so much. It's amazing. My least favorite class is college writing, because of the large amount of writing, but I learn many things so it balances out. Class participation is very common, and extremely encouraged. I swear that American students only have intellectual conversations out of class, though this can't be true at any given time you can find people arguing about foreign policy. Students are competitive to an extent, if you talk to any of the students who are majoring in Political Science, they all want to go to law school and become Congressmen/women. The most unique class I have take this year would most likely be my college writing class that is focusing on privacy and surveillance. I really like that they can incorporate things that you like into classes that you don't like. I am majoring in political science at a school that ranks among the top 10 political science schools in the nation. I have had lunch with professors as well as going to office hours to chat. American's academic requirements are rigorous at times. But with so many classes to choose from it is very easy to find something that interests you in the least bit. Education at American is geared both towards getting a job and for learning. Many people go on to pursue masters and phd degrees so it makes sense that they are gearing towards it both.

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Every professor that I have had so far knows my name. My favorite class so far is a tie between World Politics and Macroeconomics--both were eye-opening, stimulating, and solidified that I have chosen the right major. I don't have a least favorite class! Students study on average, at the freshman level, probably about 10 hours a week (not including homework). As you go up in status, I have heard that studying increases as well. Class participation is frequent because many professors do not like to lecture the entire time and prefer seminars. I find that American students have a mix of intellectual and social conversations--everyone here has ideas and opinions, but it's not all school all the time! My majors are international studies and political science. The School of International Service is an amazing school and gives its student's amazing opportunities with events and professors. I truly feel like I'm being prepared for the real world. The School of Public Affairs is equally as good. The professors are brilliant and extremely helpful. Education at American is competitive and stimulating, but is mostly for learning's sake. Events sponsored by the school, the library, writing center, and career center are entities that are geared towards helping students find their careers. I think that that distinction is extremely important for success.

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As a journalism student, the majority of my professors have been adjuncts who either rock or suck. It's mostly been the former. I do like the professional experience that they bring to the classroom. Professors at AU are super helpful if you reach out to them, and they really do like it for the most part when you go to their office hours. I believe our School of Communication is sorely underrated. Again, AU = internship central. There are a lot of folks who aspire to join the Foreign Service, start a nonprofit, or become a Hill staffer. Not all of them are like this, though. AU students are very ambitious, which kicks me into high gear when applying for internships or study abroad programs. Most classes are small(ish) and participation-based. This is good if you are an overly opinionated Olivia like me. Ironically though, the participation-based format of most classes has also taught me when to keep my mouth shut. The best academic experience I've had was through my study abroad program. AU gets this right, for sure. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who has the means to do it. Even if you think you don't, AU still covers your financial aid/most scholarships while you are abroad.

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The classes at AU are pretty reasonable. You might find that the hardest classes are the ones that are not part of your major. If you find something easy, than push yourself. That being said, my number issue with AU is it's thorough General Education Program. With 5 "areas," and two required "clusters" within each area, it's a program to confuse you! By the time you graduate, you will have taken 10 Gen. Ed. classes -- which equates to an entire quarter of your education! But don't let the 100- and 200-level classes fool you in difficulty. Many of these classes are difficult and demanding! My advice: take as many AP classes as you can in high school. While many high schools have been backing off of the AP trend, taking AP classes you can handle will save you lots of time and money. For instance, if you take AP Bio, AP Chem or AP Psychics, you'll receive eight credits! That will take care of an entire general education area. The AP classes will be MUCH easier to stomach. Plus, once you hit 15 credits that you transfer in, you're automatically a semester ahead. That makes it easier to register for classes, and it'll also be easier on your wallet when you can graduate a semester early!

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The academics at AU are the perfect mix of challenging and fun. Once you get past those few lecture hall intro classes (macroeconomics, biology, psychology, etc) the professors truly take the time to get to know you and usually have names down within the first couple of classes. AU has a great mix of fun classes and classes that are needed to survive in the real world. My favorite class at AU was "Personal Finance", and I believe that everyone should be required to take it before graduating. I would say that a students work really hard to achieve their grades, and their amount of studying reflects the grades they get. Personally, I work hard to get good grades; they do not come easy. Similarly, class participation is very common and makes the class more fun and go by faster. However, sometimes you get those people that just love to talk about their "unique" experiences, and therefore annoy the entire class. But there are usually only a few bad apples in each class. I truly feel that education at AU is geared toward both getting a job and learning to learn.

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I am a PhD student, but having been a teaching assistant for the last calendar year, I can comment on aspects of academics that would be relevant for undergraduate students. From what I have observed, most classes are relatively small, thus giving student's the opportunity to interact with their professors and/or instructors more frequently. Students seem to put in good effort on the most part, but my experience is that students at private schools such as American (as compared to my education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my undergraduate and graduate degrees), can expect to receive a bit more support. Given the size of the classes, participation is usually part of the course and this gives students a better opportunity anyway to really internalize the information that they are being taught. In my department of Justice, Law, and Society, students can expect to take classes that are highly philosophical in nature, but which I believe serve to sharpen critical thinking of skills, which can be applied to many other subjects.

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AU doesn't have any classes bigger than 150 students and very few lectures. Discussion is often the way you learn. Class participation is common and I've never had a professor who didn't know my name. Students as a whole study enough to keep up their grade, but don't stress about it. Everyone's helpful rather than competitive and it's common to find people in the dorm lounges at four am discussing presidental primaries or chaos theory. Professor as a whole are very accessible and eager to help putting in at least as much effort to help you succeed as you put into their classes. The General Education classes are annoying to have to get out of the way, but they give you enough choices that you don't hate doing them. AU is very career oriented, but there are classes that are just there for learning too. It's all about who you are and what classes you choose to take. AU has everything from public policy classes geared to helping students with congressional jobs/internships to classes like Science Fiction and modern society.

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