All first-time full-time freshmen are asked to complete the Freshmen Census during their first week at American University. This national freshmen survey, affiliated with the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, gathers information on many different aspects of previous experience as well as expectations for college. Because the survey is administered to thousands of freshmen across the country, it provides valuable comparative information as well. American University is a charter member of the HERI Cooperative Institutional Research Project and has been participating in this survey since its inception in 1973. Traditionally, the results of this survey receive attention in the national media.
Fall 2011 Selected Results
- AU’s location makes it truly unique. Most respondents (88%) said that the location of the university in Washington, D.C. was a very important reason in their selection of AU. Eighty-seven percent cited the opportunity to co-op or intern in Washington, DC as very important.
- Freshmen are also drawn to AU’s global orientation. Most students (82%) want to improve their understanding of other countries. Study abroad is a very important reason for an increasing percentage of students to choose AU (75%, compared to 46% at peer institutions.)
- AU students display high aspirations. Most respondents reported planning to continue their education after graduation: 46% plan to get a master's degree, 21% a Ph.D., and 16% a law degree. Seventy-one percent reported that becoming an authority in their field is a very important or essential goal.
- Students share AU’s political focus. AU freshmen were more likely to report frequently discussing politics (58% versus 37% at similar universities). Keeping up to date with political affairs was listed as a very important or essential goal by 71% of respondents, compared to 38% at similar institutions.
- Students are also socially conscious. More AU freshmen reported that it is very important or essential to become community leaders (58% compared to 37%),and 77% report that it is very important or essential to help others in difficulty.
- Freshmen at AU are also environmentally conscious. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said it is a very important or essential goal for them to adopt green practices to protect the environment. This compares to 43% of students at similar universities.