Global Scholars Program A three-year undergraduate degree

students hang out in the branches of a tree in Costa Rica

The Global Scholars Program is a highly selective course of study designed for outstanding entering first-year students passionate about creating meaningful change in the world. Global Scholars admits 25 School of International Service (SIS) first-year students to complete their academic requirements on an accelerated timeline, by taking a full course load in the summers after the first and second years. Through a carefully planned sequence of courses, students will:

  • Take two SIS foundation courses as a cohort;
  • Have the opportunity to study abroad during the summer or the academic year;
  • Receive support from program faculty, staff, and SIS alumni with career/internship placement; and
  • Engage in community service and other activities outside of the classroom as a cohort.

The Global Scholars Programs is designed for incoming first-year students, therefore current AU/SIS students are not eligible to apply. Global Scholars students can apply for financial aid, including scholarships, toward expenses associated with summer study abroad and/or summer classes, which may be taken online or on campus. Financial aid can be used for a total of eight semesters, including summer course work done after the first and second years of study. This program requires completion of 120 credits.

All students interested in joining the Global Scholars Program should first apply to American University/School of International Service, adhering to all application deadlines and requirements. In addition to the application, Global Scholars applicants must complete a program application, which can be found at the Special Academic Programs page.

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Students enrolled in the Global Scholars Program have a carefully sequenced course of study. The program is designed to allow for the completion of 45 credit hours of coursework each calendar year, but recognizes that some students may already have earned college credit prior to matriculation. All Global Scholars are required to complete standard American University requirements-General Education courses, College Writing and Math classes-in addition to SIS coursework, totaling 120 credit hours.

In year one, the sequence of study would include three required courses taken as follows, all of which are taken as a cohort:

  • Fall: 15-17 credits, including World Politics (3 credits)
  • Spring: 15-17 credits, Introduction to International Relations Research (3 credits)
  • Summer: 12-15 credits, including Advanced International Studies Research (3 credits)

Coursework in years two and three is tailored to the specific needs of each student in accordance with their interests and remaining requirements. In order to complete all university and SIS requirements within three years, it is critical that students work closely with their academic advisor to develop an academic plan.

Students may study abroad between the summer of their first and second year and/or during their second or third academic year. Students can take advantage of the six-week summer study abroad program at AU's premier Madrid and Brussels Centers, crafted specifically for the Global Scholars Program, or they can choose any study abroad program offered through AU Abroad or SIS Abroad.

Upon successful completion of the Madrid and Brussels Centers program, students will earn nine AU credits that apply to their SIS major. Participants spend three weeks in each city and take multiple day trips in each city. This study abroad program is led by Global Scholars Director Professor Anders Hardig. The abroad program application opens in December and is due by February 1.

Global Scholars spend their first year of study together in a living learning community (LLC), housed within the residence halls. Through the Global Scholars LLC, students attend monthly community meetings, along with the faculty director, to share dinner, discuss program business, and listen to guest speakers from the university, the federal government, and non-governmental organizations. Global Scholars also attend community trips to venues around the Washington, DC, area.

The LLC is supported by a student program associate (PA). The PA is a Global Scholars student in their second or third year of study. They attend the cohort classes; work with the faculty directors to implement the experiential, co-curricular, and service components of the class; live in the same residence hall as the first-year students; and act as a mentor and role model to first-year students.

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Traveling the World with Global Scholars

Mei Miller, SIS/BA ’25

SIS helped give me the skills that were necessary to navigate my time abroad.

My regional focus is on Europe, and having never been abroad prior, this program has helped give me a better understanding of what I am studying at SIS. In the future, I will use what I have learned throughout the rest of my time at AU and beyond.

Learn more about Mei’s experience with the Global Scholars Program.