You are here: General Education

General Education

Welcome to AU’s General Education Program

The General Education Program, or GenEd, is American University's liberal arts requirement. (What some institutions call a core or distribution requirement.) Schools with a core liberal arts program believe that there is a certain body of knowledge that all educated adults should possess. Those with distribution requirements think students should learn about subjects outside their main course of study. We agree with both of those philosophies.

At AU we do things a bit differently. We reject the idea that there is any single body of knowledge that constitutes "what all educated people should know." What we care about are learning outcomes-that is, how your education helps you become who you are. We believe that our graduates should be equipped with certain intellectual skills and resources if they are to understand the complex dynamics of an increasingly connected global environment.

How It Works

  • Take two courses in each of the five Foundational Areas
  • At least one course in Area Five must include a lab science component
  • No more than two courses can have the same course prefix (BIO, LIT, etc.). The only exception is GNED, the interdisciplinary prefix used for Wildcards and Sophomore Seminars.

Read the Undergraduate Academic Regulations and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for more details.

Changes Coming: AU's New General Education Program

Beginning in Fall 2018, new degree-seeking students enrolled at American University will not complete the General Education curriculum as part of their undergraduate degree. Students will, instead, be expected to satisfy the AU Core curriculum. 

Learn More


Student Planning is the registration system students use to plan, register, add/drop, and waitlist Gen Ed courses. To access Student Planning, log into and click on the Eagle Service link in the Academics menu.

Go to the Portal


The university awards credit for some Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, CLEP and foreign academic qualification exams. Please note that a maximum of 4 out of the 10 General Education courses can be fulfilled through credit-by-exam.

Learn More


The American University Catalog is published annually, and includes the approved courses and undergraduate regulations effective Fall 2016 for Academic Year 2016-2017. Previous years available are in online and PDFs format below, depending on the catalog year.

View the catalog

Experimental Courses

Periodically, faculty teach experimental courses (Wildcards) that students may use to satisfy Gen Ed requirements. These courses provide faculty with an opportunity to explore new pedagogies, subject matters, or delivery modes before determining that the courses should become a regular part of the curriculum.

Wildcards are scheduled with the GNED course prefix and published in Student Planning.

General Education Faculty Assistance Program (GEFAP)

Established in 1990, GEFAP ensures that faculty teaching General Education courses, especially those teaching large courses and/or multiple sections, have the time and resources to deliver quality instruction by employing undergraduate peer assistants. GEFAP student assistants directly contribute to student learning because they have previously taken the course and possess sufficient understanding of the material to assume a position of leadership among their peers.

Learn more