The Washington College of Law
The Washington College of Law|
STUDENTS: Extremely competitive. Are you obsessed with politics? Were you one of those kids in high school who wanted to be class president or involved in student government? If so, this is a good match. If you weren't interested in those things (even remotely) then you should just take this school off of your list. I began college with the objective of doing really well in my classes, and even as someone who is competitive academically I couldn't take people seriously because they were so OBSESSED with becoming the next Francis Underwood. During elections for student government there were scandals of people being paid off to drop in the race, etc.
COST: I was paying full tuition, which is close to 65,000 a year with costs considered. My dorm room was extremely old, and clearly hadn't been remodeled since the 1960's... stains on the carpet, old furniture, etc. The elevators were broken every week. Food was bad, and staff was usually extremely rude at TDR (where you'll be eating with your meal plan). Lots of racial tension. The campus is very small, you can walk from one end to the other in less than five minutes. If you get a dorm room in Anderson/Letts, I pity you. They flooded during the first week of classes last year, and also during that time over seventeen people were taken to the hospital for various reasons related to drugs/alcohol. The RA's are strict, and they WILL catch you if you try to smoke weed or something in your room. Three students were expelled in the first two weeks for this reason.
CULTURE: This is not a party school. At all. DC in general is full of functioning alcoholics, and that's what AU is also about. If you do want to party, join a fraternity or sorority. Although they are off campus, you may have some luck there. To get to the parties you'll gather behind Anderson/Letts and wait for the frat boys to select you out of a crowd (if you're hot enough) so that you can get in their car and be driven to the frat house... which is usually tiny and not nearly as great as everyone claims. Yes, this is exactly as sketchy as it sounds.
The culture of the school was very PC. I found myself censoring some very neutral opinions in most classes because the student body lives in fear of their classmates, should they say anything politically incorrect. Get ready to use doublespeak for everything. People are judgmental and can be extremely rude. You WILL be judged on your appearance, because the competition to get internships is so intense, speaking of which...
INTERNSHIPS: It is an unspoken rule that as a student at AU you should have an internship every semester. Yes, you will be judged on the kind of internship you have. Ideally you should work off campus, downtown, and hopefully in government at least once. Otherwise, why are you here? Get ready to use the metro every day, even though it frequently floods/catches fire and the metro workers are extremely rude.
3/4 of everyone that I spoke to was either THINKING about transferring, ATTEMPTING to transfer out, or had given up, although they felt that they should transfer it was just, "too much work, and I'm already here anyway." Rarely I would meet someone who was happy that they had gotten in, but that was very rare. Most people at AU were rejected by their top choice universities such as Vanderbilt, Rice, Georgetown, etc. and are either resigned to their fate or using it as a placeholder school while they try to get out. 2/3 of my friends successfully left AU and of the remaining 1/3 those who couldn't leave for some reason ended up staying, although it wasn't because they loved the school.
I successfully transferred out. The university failed to send my transcripts out, however, and it was only after multiple calls to the dean that I was able to get the situation sorted. By then I had been rejected from most of my transfer schools due to American University's failure to send out the transcripts. This also happened to two of my other friends, and it was not resolved until our parents were involved and threatened the school with legal action. After this happened I received a call personally from the dean of my college (liberal arts) asking me why I wanted to leave, and even requesting that I reconsider my decision. My friends receiving financial aid who were planning to transfer did not receive such a call, however all my friends paying full tuition did. Coincidence? I think not.
The university does not care about you. It's a machine that is there to take your money. Despite spending big bucks on advertising and marketing (many people I meet at my new school mention having applied to AU) they do NOT live up to the hype. They continue to lower their acceptance rate to artificially inflate their reputation and standing, but I assure you, this is just a trick. They accept many students through programs such as the "Washington Mentorship Program" and joint programs between the University of Delaware/Maryland and AU that are not factored into their total number of "accepted students" or their statistics. The students who get into these programs are not allowed to use their financial aid until they matriculate as "full" students of American University, although they are living on campus, paying for dorms, paying tuition to AU, paying for meal plans, and living without restriction in the way that any other student would. I'm surprised that this isn't illegal, but AU has certainly found a loophole to exploit.
I am personally offended by the way AU treated me. They will make you pay for everything, and you will be disappointed by everything but the professors. Although the professors are certainly not impressed by the school leadership either.
In sum... do you want the college experience? Clubs, friends, sports, etc? Free T-shirts? Work hard, play hard? If so, don't go to American University (go to GW or Georgetown). If you want to work a job and classes full time with access to downtown DC, come to this school. That's pretty much the only reason why. If I could go back I wouldn't change my decision because I made some amazing friends and ultimately had some great internships in DC... however, I'm glad that I left, because I really would have regretted my college experience if I had stayed.
The first thing I would like to make a point of is that AU has just switched more of their aid from merit based to need based financial aid just like every other school in the nation. Lots of rich people come to AU so when you see the comments about financial aid getting cut... that's what it is. The university is not corrupt or some sort with your financial aid.
Secondly, a lot of people seem to be offset by the campus dining options and how far away the city is. There is only one dining hall but plenty of places to use your meal swipes like the Tavern, McDonalds, Eagle's Nest, etc. Not to mention that there is a Whole Foods, CVS, Safeway in Tenleytown and food all over the place in Tenleytown and Georgetown... so I don't' see this as a big deal. Also, transportation is a plus at AU in my opinion -- the metro is close in Tenleytown and you can take it anywhere albeit sometimes it takes awhile to get places but you can plan around that. Not a big deal to me as some others have made it out to be on StudentsReview.
To sum up my experience at AU thus far -- I would say it was the perfect place for me to come in order to get an education in International Relations. The SIS program for International Studies is great and I feel challenged by all my classes already and feel like I'm getting a world class education. Looking at the numbers, AU's undergraduate program ranks 9th and its grad program ranks 6th. Those are pretty good numbers and you will definitely have a career/job coming out of SIS. In terms of campus life, I've been very surprised to have met Robert Gibbs (White House Press Secretary), Janet Napolitano (Security of Homeland Security), Jane Goodall (UN activist & world figure), and next week we will be hearing and seeing from John Legend (artist) and this has only been my first MONTH at AU.
AU is not as recognized as other schools if you come from places like I did... like California. But in DC and the New England area AU is definitely recognized and growing in prestige and academics. AU has plenty of opportunities from what I can see in IR, Social Sciences program in our School of Public Affairs (SPA), and Kogod School of Business. Also, I work at our International Students program and I see many royals from Arab speaking countries come here along with many international students. AU's grad programs are really doing well and offer much more in my opinion.
AU will be expanding more with its 2011 Campus Plan to its Tenley campus and WCL will be expanding more if your concern is that AU is too small. Honestly, I enjoy the 15-30 people classes and the fact that I can get from my dorm to any class in max 10 minutes.
I think AU is right for anyone who is considering a world class education at the most diverse university in DC who is also looking for internships and study abroad. AU has the highest amount of interns in the country at 81% and many students do study abroad here. It's a place full of opportunities.
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