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American University

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What should every freshman at your school know before they start?

* You really, really, really don't need the unlimited meal plan. You probably don't need the 200 meal plan, either. The dining hall food is actually pretty good, and I'm generally satisfied with it, but you would get tired of eating there every single meal seven days a week. You probably won't be eating three square meals a day, either-- I always did until I came here. Almost everyone has leftover meal swipes at the end of the year. *Do rent a mini-fridge, and bring a small vacuum cleaner. The instructions say not to get extra-long sheets, but my regular-sized ones always had trouble fitting on the mattresses (which are extremely comfortable, by the way). *The metro is awesome, but the costs do add up. Bear that in mind when saving your cash. That said, there are many wonderful free things to do in the city. Sign up for sites like Scoutmob and Groupon that will help you find deals! The metro also frequently has delays, so always leave a little bit earlier than you need to. *Don't worry about picking a major right away. You don't have to declare until sophomore year. Take classes in areas that interest you to help you narrow it down-- you might like the idea of majoring in International Relations, but you might hate the classes themselves. *No matter what, you will never get as much sleep as you think you will. *Don't just cling to the same people that you met during welcome week. The people I know who formed super-super-de-duper close friendships during the first days generally feel awkward around those people now. Take it slow and be open-minded in making new friends-- it's not summer camp, and it's not middle school. *The Davenport Lounge in the SIS building is awesome, much better than Starbucks. I don't even drink coffee, and it's still one of my favorite spots. *Wearing WONK t-shirts is not a good idea at all. Students here HATE Wonk. *Joining a club that you love will change every aspect of your college career. Don't be scared to try new things-- you'll have so much more fun (and if you decide to drop an activity, don't worry. It's the beginning of the year, and people won't judge you). *Most places on campus are closed after 8 on weekend nights. It's very hard to buy food on-campus in the evenings. Luckily, lots of restaurants off-campus deliver. *Definitely go to office hours with your professors. *Smithsonian museums (and the zoo) are FREE! Lots of people don't know that, and they're one of the best parts of the city. You can also get tours of places like the Capitol building for free. *Best inexpensive and delicious place to eat? Amsterdam Falafel in Adams Morgan. A college student's best friend for sure. Even if you've never had falafel, pay them a visit.

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I would suggest that students should pick their college based upon their awareness of 'who' they are, 'what' their future goals are, and 'where' they would like to see themselves after their college experience. First, students should select a college that will provide them with an academic and a social environment that is conducive to their personal and intellectual growth. Potential students should consider the following criteria when selecting their school: the size of the university/college, its academic resources, its educational philosophy, student-teacher ratio, career services, housing and dining options, student activities, its social culture, research opportunities, and geographic location among other criteria. Furthermore, when students arrive on campus, they should think of this as an opportunity to realize their full potential academically and personally. Students can make the most of their experience through getting to know their faculty early--professors can help students with clarifying their academic and professional goals. Secondly, students should take advantage of research and internship opportunities early in their academic career. Third, students can enhance their undergraduate experience through studying abroad--this will broaden their worldview and expand their cultural awareness. Finally, students should have fun while challenging themselves at the same time!

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So far, attending American University has been a wonderful experience. In 2009, the school was rated by the Princeton Review as the #1 most politically active schoool in the country. As a devout Republican, this attracted me to the school; however, most politicaly active, translates into "most liberal." As a conservative Catholic from Central Florida, my first months at American were definitely a wake up call. However, soon I assimilated into the school culture, and got used to the campus climate. Soon, through rational discourse and debate , I opened my mind to diverse ideas that I had previously had not been exposed to. While possessing my conservative beliefs, I became involved in many community service projects that were often supporting causes not supported by the conservative base. I figured, that if I hold beliefs that may make others uncomfortable, that I might as well still show my support to people affected by the impact of my beliefs. While Republicans may not be traditionally supportive of the environment, I involved myself in tree plantings and environmental clean ups to show that I believe these to be worthy causes. My experience at American allowed me to open my mind to worthy causes.

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I would advise students to do as much research as possible about college choices. Many times, students apply to a college because of previously held assumptions or because it is well-known. You should really look for a college that fits your personality and where you think you would succeed the most academically. When I applied to American University, I had been researching colleges for months. I religiously combed through college advice websites to see what current students had to say and I often took online quizzes to help me figure out which kind of college I would want to attend, which helped tremendously. What many prospective college students have to understand is that college--at least my university--is nothing like how college life is oftentimes depicted. Most of the time it is hard work, academically and socially, with learning to self-motivate, adjusting from the culture shock that arises when one leaves home for a new place for the first time, finding your niche in the campus community, and other obstacles that come with the newfound independence. College, unlike high school is a place where you can pursue what you are truly passionate about and consequently find yourself.

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My college experience has been nothing short of one of the most fulfilling journeys of my life. I entered AU as a high school graduate ready to leave home, meet new people, explore the world, and experience 'college life.' Four years later, I left AU as a college graduate who had grown immensely- academically and personally. I made friends from different political, socio-economic, and geographical backgrounds. During classroom debates, I engaged with students whose backgrounds ranged from royal families to blue-collar households. I not ony learned from my professors, who inspired and led lessons outside of the textbook, but I also learned from my peers and alumni, with whom I continue to network and foster relationships. It has been valuable to attend AU because I graduated a stronger, more mature and well-rounded adult ready to tackle the challeges of adult life and thrive in the workforce. I acquired skills that equipped me with the means to pursue my goals- working in finance, travelling the world, living and working abroad, and working towards an MBA. AU provided me with the foundation to reach my goals and be a successful individual who will make a change in society.

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My college experience has been a constant adventure in discovering who I am as a developing adult. The fast pace college lifestyle has challenged me to balance large amounts of schoolwork, all-nighters, the thrills of dorm life, past friends and new friendships, part-time jobs, family, and large amounts of free food. My college experience has and is continuing to prepare me for working in the feared "real world", whether learning how to manage my finances or how to manage my increasing pile of dirty laundry. My college experiences have allowed me to travel to Switzerland and Italy to study with students from around the world, and these multicultural relationships are truly valuable as I pursue an education in International Relations. My college experiences have opened new opportunities for me to understand with increasing clarity the world Ilive in and how I can contribute to the bettering of it in my future. College has been so valuable to me because I am being pushed to seek the tools necessary for my future success. I am constantly motivated to understand, appreciate, experience, and learn about the world that interests me to no end. I am thankful for my college experience.

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The best way to find the right college is to go there in person. Walk around the campus, talk to the students, and tour the neighborhood. Can you imagine yourself living there? Pay attention to your gut feeling. Once you're actually in college, challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone. Sometimes all it takes is realizing you are different from someone to discover your own individuality. College is a unique opportunity to reinvent yourself by engaging in new experiences. So make friends, do an internship, talk to your professors, study abroad, help someone, jobshadow, listen to a speaker, volunteer, do whatever seems even slightly interesting. Make smart choices (flying to New York with a stranger may not be wise), and get good grades, but don't feel pressured to plan out your entire life immediately. Part of the beauty of life is appreciating the unexpected - you never truly know what will happen or where your path will lead. Many people don't specifically use their degree in their career, anyway, so follow your interests and passions and see where they take you. Just enjoy college and make your experience even better than it was for your parents.

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Some students visit a campus and experience that revelation, that moment of, "this college is for me." Most of us are not so lucky, and the uncertainty is often present well into the first semester of school. I would contend that finding the right college is less important than taking advantage of the right opportunities at whichever college the student chooses. There was never a time during the college selection process that I knew American University was perfect for me. It wasn't that simple, and it rarely is. Entering college with a positive attitude is perhaps the most important step that an incoming freshman can take. I can guarantee that if a student enters college believing that he will hate it, then hate it he will. A positive attitude and a forward looking outlook are all important, as they enable students to see opportunities before them and take advantage of them before they slip away. Worrying is the wrong tactic. The focus should be on enjoying whichever school you select, not choosing a school you think you'll enjoy. Dragging feet will ensure stumbles, but a head held high and facing forward will enable you to visualize your goals.

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Dear Gianna, Stop worrying and take a deep breath because college is not as difficult as you think it is going to be. The transition will go much smoother than you can even believe imaginable right now! A few points of advice: 1. Read more! Learn to enjoy reading, become faster, and learn how to pick out important information. This is essential for college, your teachers are not lying. 2. Utilize the library and take your research papers seriously. You must become an expert database navigator, so practice now and become friends with the librarian. 3. When your teachers say revise, revise. You can raise your grade by an entire letter. Seriously. 4. Pack less! Everything you are used to at home will be available where you are going. 5. Talk to kids who are already in college, especially ones who are already attending your college. They will have tips and secrets to make life and the transition easier … and ways to save money! * Most importantly enjoy your last few months of high school and when you get to college, enjoy every second and take advantage of every opportunity because it flies by just as quickly as high school did!

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To have the best college experience, you need to find the college that is just right for you. In my experience, it was necessary to visit the univeristies I was applying to in order to determine my perfect match. I recommend taking your parents with you when you visit schools. While it is helpful to involve your parents int he college search process, remember the decision is ultimately yours. When you visit a school, talk to students, eat in the cafeteria, pick up a copy of the student newspaper, and sit on the quad and observe. Also, reach out to professors and administrators at your top priority schools. The treatment you receive as a prospective student will be indicative of what you should expect when you enroll. When looking at schools, keep your priorities in mind. What kinds of academic options are important to you and want kinds of extracurricular activities do you want to pursue? Let your passions guide your choice. Once you arrive at your chosen school as a student, don't hold back! Be curious, be adventurous, and most importantly, be you. You are the only one who knows what feels right for you! Choose wisely!

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