You may have walked across your campus and noticed students marching for women's rights or going around and signing up people to vote. Activism is a growing interest among college students. Concern about financing college, racial tension in the United States and the legalization of marijuana are just a few of the hot political issues discussed by students. If you’re wondering what you can do, take a look at these five ways that college students can impact politics.
1. Join a Student Organization
You can impact politics on a local level, just by banding together with other students to learn more about a political issue. The beautiful thing about college is the opportunity to find a student organization that matches your goals and interests. You might be surprised at how passionately you feel about a particular topic, given the chance to talk about it with your peers. Most student organizations work together to educate the campus about their cause. Consider joining a social justice group, environmental organization, violence prevention education team or religious club. Even departmental clubs often explore political issues for college students as they relate to subjects like engineering, communications or business. Getting involved is an effective way to make an impact on politics.
2. Get Out the Vote
One of the most powerful ways to impact politics, as a college student, is to encourage other students to vote. College life can be busy and it may even seem like it’s too hard to figure out where to vote. Get together with some of your friends and table in the student union to spread the word about voting locations or provide rides to the voting polls. A college student's political affiliation is not important. If you want to impact politics, urge your peers to get out and vote. You will be igniting democracy and instilling a sense of civic engagement if you spread the word that voting is important.
3. Run for Office
Get involved in student politics at your university. Run for student senate or residence hall government, or join a committee that’s looking for a student representative. You can learn about political issues that are important to college students by getting involved in shared governance on your campus. In addition to gaining insight about how a big organization functions, you'll learn about the skills necessary to serve in a leadership role on campus. Maybe you will even run for public office after you graduate.
4. Participate in or Organize Political Rallies
Don’t be afraid to advocate for a political issue that’s important to you. As a college student, you may be unsure about your political affiliation, but likely, you feel strongly about a variety of topics. Join a rally or march to add your voice to the choir. Or, if you want to be an organizer, hold your own awareness-raising event. Once you determine a pressing issue, learn all you can about it. Look for other students or community members that feel the same way. Work together to plan an event that will spread the word about your issue. If you’re going to have an impromptu march in the park, you may not need any money to make it happen. If you have something bigger in mind, contact state or national groups that might be willing to help you out.
5. Vote! Vote! Vote!
One of the most powerful ways that you can fight for political issues as a college student is to vote. It may seem like a simple task, but when done right, it takes time and preparation. Print out a sample ballot so that you know what it looks like. There are likely some candidates that are your favorites, but it’s important to know as much as you can about everyone that’s listed. You will be faced with the task of voting for non-partisan positions like judges or the town mayor. Be an informed voter by doing your research in advance. Schedule enough time to vote so that you won’t be rushed or stressed out by long lines at the polls. Finally, invite your friends to go along.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.