Opinions are easy to have. It takes very little effort to lounge on a dorm couch and strike up an idle conversation about your thoughts on the latest healthcare reforms with a roommate, especially if that roommate happens to hold similar beliefs to yours. The chat might even end with mutual grumblings and complaints about the changes you know need to take place in order to eliminate the flaws you see in current policies. But by the end of the day, you decide that there isn’t anything that you, a college student, can do to back your words.
You would be wrong. College students have more power than they know; according to data from the 2014 Census, there are over 27.5 million United States citizens between the ages of 18 and 24. The reported number is far from insignificant – so why do college students so often feel that their beliefs don’t hold sway? Unfortunately, their own lack of action may be at fault: of those 27.5 million potential voters, only 4.7 million, or 17% of the pool actually submitted a vote.
These numbers are troubling, and reveal more than anything that while opinions may be easy to have, real change requires action more effort than what might be contributed to a dorm-room conversation. Luckily, there are a multitude of ways that college-age voters can enter into their political community.
Find an on-campus political group that aligns with your personal beliefs.
Nearly every campus will have clubs devoted to representing the interests of College Republicans or College Democrats – and often similar clubs for those who lean Independent or third-party. Decide which organization aligns most closely with your own political leanings, and send its president or communications officer an email! In all likelihood, they’ll welcome a new member.
Hold on-campus registration events.
The best way to combat political apathy in college students is to convince them that their voice matters. Encourage potential voters to do their part at the polls by holding voter registration events on-campus. In doing so, you’ll not only boost voter engagement, but foster a constructive climate of political activism at your school.
Bring a political candidate or activist to campus.
It’s all too easy for a student to disappear into the schoolwork-dominated campus bubble and lock out happenings in the non-academic world. Bring the political world into the academic sphere by inviting local political figures or activists to speak on campus. Even the students who don’t necessarily agree with the perspective your guest offers will benefit from the constructive debate that their visit will inevitably prompt. Moreover, a student’s renewed or changed feelings might inspire them to vote on the issues when they reach the polls.
College students are a vital subset of the voter population, and work needs to be done to boost their currently disheartening levels of engagement. Change is made by those who act – so get off the couch! Join whichever on-campus political organization you feel best represents your beliefs, and make the difference you want to see in your government.