In all honesty, picking a college is one of the most difficult decisions one makes in their lifetime. You are picking the “next chapter” of your life that will have a significant role in writing some of the later chapters of your life. Are you feeling pressure? If you are, do not worry: I was in your shoes only a couple of months ago. Close to Christmas, I had learned that I would be attending American University in Washington, DC. I applied via the Early Decision plan because I knew that AU was the one for me. But, what influenced my momentous decision?
1. Its location
At the beginning of my college search, I desired a campus in an urban setting and out of state. As I had added more colleges to my list, I started to refine my preference of location from region to city. As time progressed, I focused my search from Mid-Atlantic/New England to that of the DC area. In the DC area, I found that AU is not in the middle of the city, but rather in a more suburban green area. So ultimately, in the beginning, think of a type of region and campus type that you are comfortable with (urban, rural, suburban) and filter your search with these preferences; but, consider the possibility that this may change!
2. The opportunities
As you may know, DC is buzzing with politics, as it is our nation’s capital. I consider myself to be a very political person and I would like to be involved with advocacy in social justice movements, so DC is the place to be! Frequently, AU features many notable speakers that interact with its students. Past speakers have included former President Barack Obama and incumbent Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In my interview, I told the admissions counselor that I had heard that the current Human Rights Campaign Communications Director had graduated from the school. Immediately, the counselor stated that he knows her personally and that he could get me in touch with her should I be accepted! Knowing that my university had connections with influential political figures was a big factor in my decision.
3. Its traditions
I cannot count the number of times that I have heard, “Our campus is distinct from others: we play Quidditch on the Quad each Saturday!” This particular tradition, because almost each university advertises it, does not seem like a local tradition and one that caught my interest. In contrast, each Halloween at AU, the students trick-or-treat at the Embassies of Embassy Row. Each General Election, the Democratic and Republican Student Clubs host a watch party, together. These are traditions that entice and interest me.
4. Its connectivity
In the college search process, you will find that many universities prohibit first-year students (or all students) from bringing their cars to campus. This is sometimes because parking space is limited. My top two choices both prohibited freshmen parking, but one was in the city of DC while the other was in rural Pennsylvania. In DC, having a car is almost practically unnecessary due to its mass transit system. I learned later on that AU students are the only ones in the DC area that receive an exclusively discounted “Metrocard.” So, not only do I never have to worry about how to get from Point A to Point B, but also about those pesky rush hour fares!
5. Its academic opportunities and room for curiosity
As you may know, almost every college nationwide has offerings that are popular, such as anthropology and psychology. Another is political science. I was torn between political science and communications, as I want to pursue a future involving advocacy. However, I eventually discovered an interdisciplinary major within the School of Public Affairs, called “CLEG: Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government.” Of course, I have enough time if I want to change my mind because I only have to declare a major by the end of sophomore year. Remember that just because one particular major sounds unusual does not mean it should not be considered!