Students visit college options, seek best match for future selves

Swasti Singhai, Staff Writer

After spending six hours in the air on a red-eye flight and waiting for delayed connections to Washington D.C., Ananya Narayanan (12) arrived two hours after American University’s admitted students program began, uncomfortably aware of the gazes following her as she squeezed into a tight space in the crowded plaza. She became hesitant, unsure if the rest of her day could be any better. 

Over spring break, Narayanan chose to attend the admitted student programs at American University, George Washington University (GWU), and Dickinson College,  hoping to discover which school she was most excited about—a school that would feel like home for the next four years. 

“After flying overnight and missing the first two hours of the program, the whole start of the day was pretty terrible,” Narayanan said.  “But then, we went for a campus tour, and the campus [American University] isn’t huge, but the architecture was really pretty. The buildings are European style, and since the school is in DC, the buildings almost mimic the style of government buildings.”

On the other hand, GWU’s main campus is located in the center of downtown, causing the campus and city life to be nearly indistinguishable. 

“I couldn’t tell if the people on campus were students, or just people downtown,” Narayanan said. “When I tried to talk to people, some people were definitely really nice but other people just told me they didn’t go to the school, so I wasn’t really fond of the fact that just anyone [not attending the school] would be often walking on your campus.”

At Dickinson College, Narayanan said she had simply felt out of place. With a freshman class of approximately 600 and a primarily white student body, she was unable to form connections with the attending students. 

“I couldn’t see a single person of color and people were giving me weird looks so about halfway through, before the programs, we left,” Narayanan said. “Even though it was a very small college, nobody talked to me. In American, I was sitting alone with my parents during lunch, but a girl came up to me and talked to me and we got along really well. That didn’t happen to me anywhere else.”

Throughout the week, even while visiting other campuses hours away, Narayanan always returned to American University in the evenings, eager to explore more. 

“We [my parents and I] drove back to the campus every day,” Narayanan said. “It felt like that was where I wanted to be compared to the other schools I had seen. Everyone smiled at me, and really, it was just so nice. Every time I just walked there, I felt like I could see myself there.”

Narayanan said that though the campus contributed to her decision to commit to American University, it was truly the programs that solidified her choice. 

“Two of the deans in the School of Public Affairs were talking about all the majors,” Narayanan said. “They were giving examples of past students and the internships they’ve had. They talked about a lot of different programs and all the opportunities to intern on Capitol Hill, all of which were really pushing me to the school.”

Narayanan’s interests lie in politics, global policy, and public affairs, fields that the university particularly specializes in. 

“Other schools [I visited] were very limited [with political programs and majors],” Narayanan said. “At American [University], there are so many majors that I couldn’t pick. They are all really interesting, and I felt like I would fit in there more than another school.”

One of the programs that she became interested in applying to is the School of Public Affairs leadership program, a two-semester program where students research issues that minority groups face, problem-solve, and then present their findings to the school in the second semester. 

“As soon as [I realized] I wanted to apply for [the program], I realized that I would have to go to the school to do so and that really cemented my decision to go,” Naryanan said. “I saw so many people interested in the same things that I was, and I feel like going to a school where everyone is like-minded is so beneficial and uplifting in a way because everyone has the same goals and we’re all encouraging each other to work towards the same thing.”

Because the school is on the East Coast, she said she’s excited to move to a new environment and experience a change of pace from living in San Diego.

“I want to be in a place where I have to meet new people, where I almost have to feel uncomfortable, especially after living in such a nice place in California,” Narayanan said. “I’m excited to live near Capitol Hill, and I’m excited to learn and hear new perspectives.”