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Frequently Asked Questions

As you learn more about the undergraduate programs and opportunities offered by the School of Public Affairs, we have put together this FAQ site to help provide answers to the questions you have. If you have a question not listed please contact


Special Academic Program Questions

Below is the current list of authors and texts used during the first two years of the program. These will change over time as the program develops further. Rev. 4/2021

The Problem of Freedom (Fall, First Year)
Martin Luther King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”*
Declaration of Independence (published version and Jefferson’s draft)
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Dover)
Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro”
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (Dover)
Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments”
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Individual Freedom vs. Authority (Spring, First Year)
Plato, Apology, Republic
Aristophanes, Clouds
Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery
W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Michel Foucault, “Panopticism”

Roots of Political Economy (Fall, Second Year)
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Social Contract (selections)
Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations
Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto, German Ideology (selections), “On the Jewish Question”
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics
John Maynard Keynes, General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (selections), “The End of Laissez Faire,” other selections
Friedrich Hayek, Road to Serfdom (selections), “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” “Why I am Not a Conservative”

Politics and Literature (Spring, Second Year)
James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son
Homer, Iliad
Jane Austen, Emma
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

Every spring we take students on a retreat. The focus of the retreat is a common text, usually something contemporary. We provide all students attending the retreat a copy of the text. Below are the texts used for our retreats

2019: Patrick Deneen, Why Liberalism Failed
2020: Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft
2021: Zena Hitz, Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life

Yes, students can apply to whatever program(s) they are most interested in. There is no rule that limits students from the number of programs they can apply for. However, students who may get admitted to multiple programs may need to decide on what one to accept and decline if they are not able to complete each program’s requirements. 

Lincoln Scholars takes about 25-30 students per year due to the required cohort courses.

The Lincoln Scholars program is open to all incoming first-year students at AU regardless of major/school affiliation. It works with any major offered by AU.

The target cohort is around 25 students each year.

Yes you can apply for the special academic programs you are most interested in.

You can do as many as you like and that you can complete during your time at AU. You will need to check to each program’s requirements to ensure you can complete them.

Students apply for PPL when they apply to AU. They complete the additional questions located in the admissions application. Once admissions determines a student is admissible to the university, they determine if the student should move on to the next round of the PPL application process. PPL admission decisions come out in late spring. 

The PPL program is a required living-learning community in the first year. After the first year, PPL scholars do not have to live together. There are no other living-learning communities specifically connected to SPA.

Students can apply for this certificate program at any time once they are at AU. This program has a rolling admissions process.

Student Organizations Information

It is becoming more and more competitive to make it on a team. Mock Trial will hold info sessions followed by auditions at the start of the school year for any students interested in joining. These are open to all students regardless of year and or major. In total there are about 30-40 total spots between the A, B, & C, teams. The number of people who follow through and make it on the team varies based on how many people audition. A couple of years ago 85 students auditioned for about 10 spots as an example. There are First-Year students who have made the team so you are encouraged to audition if you are really interested. You can also audition in a later year if you do not make it initially. 

No. Student Government is an organization open to all students across campus regardless of their major/school affiliation. It falls under the Center for Student Involvement. SPA students do tend to take a strong interest in Student Government but that is more about the personal choices of the student and not because they are in SPA. 

Yes. Mock Trial is open to all students who wish to participate. They will hold open auditions at the start of each school year to find their new members. Students can audition in the future if they do not make it on the team initially. 

The Washington College of Law provides a Moot Court Honor society that includes competitions but that is for their students only. Some professors do a moot court simulation in their classes but that is up to the discretion of the professor and how it would fit into their course.

Studying Abroad

No, students can choose to study abroad in a later semester. It will depend on what your major is, the semester you want to study abroad (there are fall, spring, and even summer options), and where you want to go. You will be able to work with your school-based advisor to plan this out starting in your second year. You can also attend info sessions held throughout the year by the AU Abroad office to help you learn more and make more informed decisions. 

Yes, they could, and some students have done this. It will depend on many factors like your major, when you want to study abroad, the places you want to study abroad, and how the courses you take will come back and help you make progress with your degree. This is something you can learn more about by speaking with your school-based advisor, attending info sessions hosted by AU Abroad throughout the school year, and checking out their website. 

Students study abroad all over the world. It really comes down to the student's personal preference of where they would like to go and how the courses they take while abroad will count towards their degree. Most students study abroad for a semester because most programs are for a semester (a few are for a full year and are noted as such). Students can go in either fall, spring, or even summer - it depends on the student and how studying abroad fits in their plan to graduation.

Advising & Course Registration

AU holds classes all day into the evening. The first class period starts at 8:10am and the last class period starts at 8:20pm. Classes are typically taught twice a week Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday for an hour and fifteen minutes each. Wednesdays we have block classes, which means the class meets once a week for two and a half hours. We also have evening classes which meet once a week for two and half hours like the Wednesday block classes. 

New First-Year students who have paid their enrollment deposit will be contacted by their First Year Advisor to begin the pre-registration process in late May. New First-Year students do not register for classes until June. 

AU accepts credits earned through dual enrollment and or AP/IB exams. You need to have the final transcripts and or test scores sent to AU. 

Students can pursue double majors, minors, and even certificates across the entire university based on their interests. Students need to keep the following in mind when considering this - the size (how many credit hours) of each program and do they share any curriculum? To graduate students must have 1) 120 credit hours, 2) complete the AU Core, and 3) a major - anything else is up to the student and what they can complete by their graduation date. 

All incoming First-Year students who submit their deposit (letting AU know they plan to attend) will work with First Year Advising (FYA) in late May to begin the pre-registration process. New First-Year students register for their fall courses in early June. 

All incoming First-Year students will be assigned a First Year Advisor who will work with you for that entire first year at AU. In the second (sophomore) year, students will transition into the school advising office based on their major and work with a school-based advisor. The AU Career Center has career advising teams who work with specific schools/college. Students in SPA will work with the SPA Career Advising team during their time at AU. 


SPA only has a limited number of donor-funded undergraduate scholarships available to current students not for incoming new students. This is because there are stipulations on the scholarships such as an established AU GPA, studying in a specific field, being a certain classification (junior, senior, etc.). Incoming new students receive their financial aid offer with their admissions decision. Questions about that offer should be directed towards the Financial Aid office and or your admissions representative. 

We can tell you that SPA students have opportunities to get to know the faculty and staff outside of the classroom to begin building professional relationships that can span past graduation; students have access to engage in research opportunities at the undergraduate level regardless of their major in SPA; being in DC provides unparalleled access to internship opportunities you probably won’t be able to get elsewhere and also will give you an advantage by living in DC during the fall and spring (DC runs on interns year round but if you go to school elsewhere you probably can only come in the summer); and you have the opportunity to take what you are studying in the classroom and put it into practice the next day so you get that real life hands on experience employers are looking for. We strongly encourage everyone (students & family members) to check out what our graduates are doing six months after graduating through our WEKNOWSUCCESS site

We are going to reframe our reply to this as how AU helps students with their post-graduation plans whatever they may be. The University Career Center offers a lot of events and programs throughout the course of the school year to connect students with employers and alumni so students can hear directly from them about what they are looking for, things to take into consideration, and how to stand out as a potential applicant.

Events include info sessions, tabling, mock interviews, resume reviews, industry-based networking receptions, and the largest signature event is the Job & Internship Fair every semester. SPA hosts a few industry based networking receptions throughout the school year as well around industries like Intelligence Community, Non-Profits, Campaigns & Lobbying, and the Legal system. These are all free events open to any student, regardless of major/school affiliation, who is interested in learning more. 

AU offers all students, regardless of major/school affiliation, thinking about law school a combination of strategic advising between faculty who have gone to law school and the Career Center along with workshops throughout the year. Workshop topics have included a panel of law school admissions representatives talking about what they look for in an application, an overview of the financial costs associated with applying to law school, and personal statement writing workshops. 

In order to graduate from AU with a degree you need to complete three things: 120 credit hours, the AU Core, and a major. The university will not require you to do anything else.  If you want to add on double majors/minors/certificates or any special programs that is totally up to you. Most bachelor’s degrees will take a total of 8 semesters assuming 15-16 credit hours per semester/30 credits a year/120 credits over 4 years. If students bring in dual enrollment or credit earned from AP/IB exams that could help complete things sooner, but it will vary based on the individual student and what their plan is. Students will begin working with their First Year Advisor and tackling university degree requirements over the first year then transition to the school-based advisor to help them finish remaining university degree requirements and major requirements. 

No. Students should focus on enjoying their time in high school and doing well. Once you are at college you will have many opportunities to study what you are passionate about along with experiences to help make you a well-rounded person ready for your post-graduation plans. 

It does not look like anything because it is not an official thing. Law schools will be looking at test scores, GPA, and writing ability not what you studied in undergrad. AU offers students strategic advising between the AU Career Center and faculty who have their J.D. to help them understand and navigate the law school admissions process. This can include one on one advising appointments, workshops on writing personal statements, and even law school admissions panels. 

AU has small class sizes not just in SPA. The average class is 24 which provides students the opportunity to get to know their professors and peers well. Faculty use a wide range of methods to help students understand the course material including guest speakers, group projects, small group discussions in class, online discussion boards, and more. 

Credit-Bearing Internships

Often but it comes down to the student's interests. SPA students intern at a wide range of places. Check out to see a sampling of places.

AU provides many ways for students to find out about internships. There is the university Career Center which provides a wide range of opportunities for students to connect with employers. Faculty have their professional networks which they are willing to access for students that have built a relationship with them. SPA provides a wide range of networking events over the course of the year for students to connect with employers and alums as well. 

To get academic credit, students must meet the pre-requisites for the internship course before they are allowed to register for it. Pre-requisites can be an established AU GPA, class standing, and or completion of introductory foundation level courses. Most students do their credit-bearing internships in their junior and senior years. Like applying for a job, internships will have application processes as well. Depending upon where you want to intern, will determine how long the application process will take. Internships that require any type of security clearance or background check may require additional planning before being considered.

Students typically take about five (5) courses a semester. If they are pursuing a credit-bearing internship, then that will be one of the five courses they take that semester. The number of credits a student gets for the internship will be determined by the number of hours worked at the internship. The average is three (3) credit hours for about fifteen (15) hours a week.