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American University

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

College can either be the best experience of your life or the complete opposite. Going into this next chapter of life, I’d advise you to take your time. Everyone has this idea that you must graduate in 4 years. Don’t try to rush through. Taking 12 credit hours versus 15 credit hours can make all the difference in a successful semester. It may take an additional semester or two, but your GPA won’t suffer. Don’t forget the reason you’re there. College provides some of the greatest learning opportunities as well as many amazing parties. That’s part of the experience, but don’t lose sight of your goals. A party should not replace your study time. You may have to pass on some social activities in order to get work accomplished. Be involved on campus. Meet people and begin networking. Join clubs and become part of different organizations, holding leadership roles if possible. The bonds you form with students and faculty are what really make college worthwhile. This provides a chance to try new things and create lifelong memories and friendships. These things will make for the greatest experience of your life, your college experience.

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I was certainly excited come my junior year in high school to begin the college search process. My school had provided me with tons of resources on "finding the best school" and I had read additional literature, as well as talked to my older college friends. Yet, what I've come to realize is finding the right college is not a question that can necessarily be answered through a book, statistical ranking or even a campus tour. For me, the perfect school just fit right. Upon visiting the school, I felt a strong sense of community. It was a place in which I felt comfortable, and could imagine myself becoming apart of. I was accepted to more prestigious schools and offered better financial aid packages at other universities -- but this particular school felt better than the rest. Granted, there are many practical factors that may affect your decision (financial, location or otherwise), but to the extent which is possible, I would ask you to choose what feels best for YOU -- don't overemphasize college rankings or suggestions from others. Remember, the college decision is ultimatly yours to make. Do what feels right. Good luck!

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Compare the college process to carving a wooden object (it can be anything you desire). Prepare your tools: Get ready to carve your niche in the world! Clich?, I know, but think of your unadulterated potential. Try an online college personality matcher like the one on collegeboard.com. Once you have found the perfect school, go there. You'll find a way to pay off your loans in the future (don?t forget about scholarship opportunities). Use those artistic juices and get to work: Variety truly is vital. Diversify your classes. You may have a major in mind, but nothing is set in stone (we're carving wood, remember). Get involved in an activity that you've never done -- or even heard of. As always, keep an open mind. You?re in dorm life now and will be bombarded with a slew of different personalities. Proudly display your masterpiece: You've worked diligently; you've earned bragging rights. It may be the end of your first semester or already spring break, but don?t forget to reward yourself. Whether it be a weekend vacation or simply an escape to your favorite spot on campus to enjoy a new novel, indulge!

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Rejected. I was distraught, but over a year later, I have embraced my ?second choice? of AU. Summer with old friends from high school meant leaving new friends from college. They are the ones you first met when unpacking your bags, nervous about living away from home, but determined to hold back tears from equally nervous parents. You met them while campaigning for the student senate, while riding the shuttle to the Metro to your internship, while playing club soccer, while campaigning for Obama, or while joining SigEp. You seized every chance to grab ?free? food and make the most of a hefty student activity fee, but you balanced your social life with work, and will never have a GPA hole from first semester. You celebrated when the Eagles defeated Holy Cross and you cried when Villanova denied us our Cinderella story. It is easy to call home every night, even easier to stay inside and pout away the hours. It is difficult, maybe even awkward to meet new friends. But you will share nearly every meal with them, will wake up for 3am fire drills with them, and will cry with them when the semester ends. Accept the opportunity.

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There are many factors to consider when thinking about college. The first is whether or not it's academic prorgams fit your needs. American University has one of the best International Affairs schools in the world, so I knew that it was a natural fit for my South Asian studies interests. Secondly, location is also an important factor, since you will be spending four years at the school. It's important for me to see beautiful architecture on my way to class, landscaped campus meeting spots, and the knowledge that fun activites are near by, both on and off campus. Student body is important as well. It's important for me to be surrounded by a diverse group of people whose interactions will teach me things both inside, and outside the classroom. And lastly, you must visit the school to check out it's "vibe". As unscientific as that may sound, does the campus "feel" right? Do you feel safe and comfortable walking to class? Do you feel that your personality, intelligence and talents will be developed, recognized and nurtured at the school? All of these factors helped me in discovering my perfect fit, American University.

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Do you remember what you felt like on your first day of kindergarten? Chances are you don't, but from experience I can tell you it is equitable to your first days at college. Just like when you were 5 years old, your mom and dad are going to be nervous about you leaving the nest and you will worry about making friends, navigating campus life and succeeding in your classes. Unlike kindergarten, however, the choices you make are solely your own from this point on. Though you will feel overwhelmed, just remember what you are going to college for. It isn't only about learning; it is about finding yourself and your place in the world. So, while you are choosing a college, look at what opportunities you will have there for personal growth, whether they be internships, Greek life, interesting classes, study abroad or any of the endless chances there are to mature. At the right school you will catch a glimpse of yourself as a confident, optimistic person, not just a student. Make the most of your college experience by following your desire to explore life, try new things and better yourself. Have no regrets!

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Knowing what I know now about college life, I would give myself some major advice about life and making the transition from a high school senior to a college student. I would talk to myself about the possible majors I could choose from. I would take some more time and learn about different possibilities. I would tell myself that I have made a good choice in attending the community college first to get my AA in early childhood education before transferring to the 4-year university to become a psychology major. I would assure myself that although life may throw me some mean curve balls; I have the power, intelligence and courage to continue to persevere through any challenge. My parents have raised me well. I am a fighter, and I will never give up. The most important thing I would tell myself would be to always strive to do my best. Anything is possible with continuous effort. I would be sure to thank all my family, friends and teachers for the extra efforts they provided to me. Overall, I would be very supportive to myself and take my advice. Who knows, maybe I could win a scholarship! Thank You.

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"If you're gonna do it, do it to it." This may seem like a nonsensical piece of advice, but it has been my guiding light throughout my college search and first year and a half of college life. It means, essentially, that anything worth doing is worth doing well. A thorough college search and aggressive scholarship application system were two things that allowed me to discover and attend American University, which was the single best decision of my life. I took online surveys, read college magazines and online reviews, and spoke with teachers and guidance counselors at my school as well as alumni. Once I decided American was the right fit and applied there, I went to work applying for scholarships--24 in all--and ended up with enough money to pay for my first year of studies. But it's not enough to just find and attend the right school. Get involved right away--go to dinner with students on your floor, explore the campus, explore the surrounding neighborhood, join an a capella group, join an intramural sports team, check out Greek life. After all, it's your college now. Do it to it.

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College is about developing yourself more than it is about getting a degree. The most important thing for students to keep in mind when looking for a school, and while at that school, is to be true to themselves. No other time in your life gives you the opportunity to experiment and broaden your horizons; every day you spend on your campus you should be sure of why you chose that school and that it's giving you what you wanted out of it. Students and parents need to be open to making changes, whether it's between majors, housing arrangements, or even schools. Campus tour guides usually mention some intangible criteria for choosing the right school even as they show off the campus, buildings, and dormitories; pay attention to these! Visit your top choice schools more than once, if possible, and stay overnight. Explore the surrounding area as well, but try taking public transportation if you're in the city even if your parents brought their car. Pay attention every minute to what feels right. As long as a school has the programs you want, rely on the intangibles to make your final decision.

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As I reflect on my college search I remember asking lots of the number questions. How many students went to each school? What percentage of students were from varying racial groups? What percentage of students lived on campus or got a job after graduation? How much did everything cost? What I discovered when I enrolled is that while those things play a part in your college experience they don't mean nearly as much as you think. When searching for colleges I would make sure first that you really reflect on what YOU want in a school. This is perhaps the most difficult part. Think about what you value in your own life. Are you someone who loves to learn? Do you have a strong committment to social change? Do you value a campus with a lot of spirit or a diverse student population? These are the questions that matter because you ideally want to surround yourself with an environment that you are comfortable in. Once you have made a short description of what you want you can more easily rule schools in or out. Lastly, don't be afraid to be different from your friends. Do what you want.

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