I transferred into AU after 1 1/2 years at a small liberal arts college. I was excited by the stimulation at AU where there were students from all over the world, and lots of interesting and varied things going on.
There were lots of international students in my classes because of the large international population in the area and the English language classes at AU. A lot of foreign embassy personnel's children attend AU. Yes, there were also a lot of students from New York and New Jersey. Nothing against those people, but I would rather have lunch with someone from Brazil or France than someone from New Jersey just because it is interesting to hear a foreigner's perspective. I met students from all over the world, and one has become a lifelong friend.
I found the extra stimulation I was looking for at AU. I took classes in French because I wanted to learn both the subject matter and French at the same time (more interesting than taking classes in English).
However, I would not choose AU for the natural sciences or math or computer science. I took a computer programming class and the professor was horrible. On the other hand, I took a bunch of classes in German because I just enjoyed listening to the professor- he was so intelligent and well-versed on many different topics.
Social sciences, international relations, and languages are good. Many professors like being in DC as it is the happening place if you are really into international relations or government. It is easy for AU to recruit top professors because there are many smart PhDs in the DC area already and they don't have to convice someone to move to some small town to teach college there.
DC is politically aware/active. If you aren't from DC, beware. Everyone reads the Washington Post and everyone talks about what is in the newspaper every day. If this isn't interesting to you, then perhaps DC isn't the place for you because you will not enjoy the conversations there.
I like the fact that AU doesn't have a football team. It does change the atmosphere. There is less of a football-tailgate ra-ra atmosphere and fewer jocks walking around like they are God's gift. I think it detracts from the academic mission of a university to put so much emphasis on football.
DC is also very career-oriented. It is a great place to make connections and to do internships. But that also means that lots of people are working on their resumes at AU.
I also liked the fact that there wasn't as much of a college social scene at AU. There are clubs, dances, etc., but it's not the typical party scene at other universities. There is the whole city of Washington to explore. Students get out and get off campus more at AU than other colleges.
AU also brings in great speakers to campus. Almost every week, there is a nationally-known speaker there. They don't have to tell you who it is because it's someone famous. President Kennedy gave a famous speech at AU.Students are not Ivy League caliber. They are above-average students, but it's not hyper-competitive. It is a more expensive, but more cosmopolitan alternative to going to a state school, like Maryland or George Mason.