American University (AU) was born of George Washington’s vision of a national university, open to Americans and students worldwide. While technically the brainchild of Washington, it was John Fletcher Hurst who actually founded the school in 1914.
Since it first opened, AU has cultivated a reputation as one of the country’s top universities and consistently ranks as one of the best universities in the country by Princeton Review’s Best Colleges and U.S. News and World Report.. The school attracts students from around the country and the world. Students hail from more than 145 nations to comprise 10 percent of the university’s 13,000 undergraduate, graduate, law, and study abroad students.
A private liberal arts school, the institution holds accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional degrees in addition to certificate and non-degree programs with professors typically holding the highest degree possible in their fields. The faculty/student ration is 13:1.
The College of Arts and Sciences, Kogod School of Business, the School of Communication, the School of International Service, the School of Public Affairs, and Washington School of Law are the main colleges. The university offers 57 undergraduate degrees, 53 graduate degrees, and 10 doctoral degree programs.
The university has also become well-known for its Washington Semester Program, which allows visiting students from around the world and the United States to study at the university and to undertake internships in the nation’s capital.
The Kogod School of Business has been named one of the nation’s best business schools by Business Week, The Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report, and Washington Business Journal. It attracts students from more than 60 countries because of its unique dual degree programs. Students can earn degrees in both business and law, can opt for a business and music degree, or can create their own interdisciplinary degree. The Kogod School of Business currently offers a range of majors, including advanced tax concepts, entrepreneurship, real estate, sustainability management, and taxation.
The School of Communication’s doctoral program can be completed in only three years, allowing students to cut down on the traditional four to six year completion rate and to get into the workforce more quickly.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Admissions are competitive with 53 percent of applicants receiving acceptance letters each year, earning the university a spot on U.S. News & World Report’s 100 Lowest Acceptance Rates. In addition to high school transcripts and test scores, generally the SAT or the ACT, the admissions committee evaluates applicants based on letters of recommendation and a statement of interest. International applications are required to demonstrate a proficiency in English by submitting TOEFL or IELTS scores.
Applicants who have been homeschooled must, in addition to the normal freshmen applicant requirements, submit the curriculum that was followed, including but not limited to readings and descriptions of courses, and a statement outlining the homeschooling philosophy. Applicants may be contacted for further information after the initial application materials have been reviewed.
In addition, there is an early decision application option for freshmen applicants who have chosen the university as their top school. Applicants, however, must agree to attend if they are accepted and must have their completed application materials sent to the school by mid-November. Acceptance letters, including financial aid and scholarships offered, are generally sent out at the end of December.
All other applicants must turn in their applications and supporting materials by mid-January for the fall semester and by the beginning of October for the spring semester.
Applicants to the graduate school or Washington College of Law are required to submit the relevant test scores (GRE or LSAT) and must apply for admission through the school to which they are applying. Applications and financial assistance information is available directly through the individual colleges.
Students often fund their education through grants, scholarships, and loans with more than 80 percent of all freshmen receiving financial aid.
AU accepts grants from several states, in addition to the District of Columbia, including Vermont, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Delaware, and Connecticut. Students should be advised that states typically require their funds be used in-state, although some exceptions do exist.
Students may qualify for grants from the federal government. Both the Federal Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant are available to students who demonstrate considerable financial need.
The university also offers its own grant program. The American University Grant is awarded to students based on financial need and can only be used to pay for tuition. Students also receiving scholarships and other grants may have the amount of their grant adjusted accordingly.
Incoming freshmen and transfer students are automatically considered for scholarships, including the AU Freshmen Merit Scholarship, the Presidential Scholarship, and the Leadership Scholarship. Recipients generally exhibit strong leadership skills and possess a strong academic record.
The Athletic Department also offers athletic scholarships to standout transfer and freshmen student athletes.
In addition, eligible students are automatically considered for a limited number of privately endowed scholarships. The one-time only awards generally range from $100 up to $10,000.
Other Funding Options
Students can supplement their grant and scholarship funding by participating in the Federal Work Study Program or by taking out a loan. Students and their parents have several loan options, among them The Stafford Loan and The Parent Plus Loan.
Students and their parents have the option of paying tuition in installment plans. The academic year installment plan generally requires between 10 and 12 payments while the semester installment plan is paid in three payments. Each requires students to reapply for the payment plan after the current one ends.
Students needing assistance with financial aid issues can visit the Financial Aid Office on campus.
Student Financial Aid Details
The campus is located in the heart of Washington DC with easy access to the suburbs of Northern Virginia and Maryland. The metro and bus system provide quick access to just about anywhere in and around the city and the campus.
Students who opt to live on campus may live in one of eight residential halls on the South, North, and Tenley Campuses. Anderson Hall is the largest residential building, is laid out in traditional dormitory style, and caters to freshmen and sophomores. Students share hall bathrooms and can seek assistance or advice from the two Resident Assistants (RA) living on each floor. Nebraska Hall, on the other hand, offers apartment-style living with one to four bedroom apartments, living rooms, private bathroom, and a shared kitchen.
In addition to residencies, the university also features several Living-Learning Communities. Living-Learning Communities allow students with common interests to live together and to engage in educational opportunities together. One of the current Living-Learning Communities is The Sophomore Seminar. Residents of the community, who must be sophomores, all live together on one floor and will take a general studies class together.
Amenities in residential halls include cable television, wireless internet, and furniture. Residents in each building also have access to common lounges and fully equipped kitchens on each floor.
In a move designed to become more environmentally conscious, the residences provide showering students with water from solar thermal units. The university also uses wind power for 100% of its purchased electricity.
Students can peruse dozens of clubs and student organizations, ranging from academic (Anthropology Club and International Communication Student Forum) to social justice (Dignity for Women Worldwide to STAND: An Anti-Genocide Student Coalition). There is a strong Greek system with more than 20 fraternities and sororities.
Students can keep up with the latest campus news through student media, which is all run entirely by students. The Eagle Online, the campus newspaper, provides students with the latest news both on and off campus while ATV, the official campus television station, airs student-produced programming 24 hours a day. Politically minded students might want to join or just read the once-a-semester student magazine American Way of Life.. The American Literacy Magazine, American Word Magazine, and The Talon Yearbook round out the officially recognized publications on campus.
The Student Activities organization sponsors and plans many of the activities on campus, including concerts, movies, workshops, and lectures.
Students who want to experience the District with other students can join Experience DC, sponsored by Student Activities. Experience DC provides students and faculty with the opportunity to see and experience all the city has to offer, from nighttime bus tours to taking in a dinner theater alongside visitors to the nation’s capital.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
As on most university campuses, sports play an important role in university life. The Eagles, who wear orange and blue, have a long and celebrated history, with the men and women’s basketball teams first making their debuts in 1925.
The Eagles have a winning history in both men and women’s sports in the Patriot League. The women’s volleyball team claimed eight Patriot League titles in a row from 2000 through 2008; the women’s field hockey team earned champion status in the Patriot League for seven consecutive seasons from 2001 to 2009; and Steve Jonnings, the women’s field hockey coach, went to the Olympics, acting as the assistant coach to the U.S. Olympic team.
- Cross country
- Swimming and diving
- Track and field
- Cross country
- Field hockey
- Track and field
- Swimming and diving
Intramural and Club Sports
American University also has a thriving intramural program and club sports. The intramural program allows students to play in one of two leagues – the Eagle or the Clawed League. The Eagle League is ideal for students who want to be more competitive while the Clawed League is played more for fun.
Club sports, which pit AU teams against other schools, also have a strong presence on campus. Club sports include baseball, crew, cricket, cycling, field hockey, ice hockey, gymnastics, rugby, sailing, ultimate Frisbee, and volleyball.
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.