Keeping up with politics in college

College is a place for young adults to encounter and explore a great diversity of ideas and cultures whether they come from a rural town of only 50 people or from large cities like Austin, Houston or Dallas. For many students, college is where they encounter ideas different from their own for the first time.

Often, as students start to become politically aware, they will naturally gravitate toward like-minded individuals as this offers a comfort zone. The most political engagements or thoughts many students have had up until this point is from their family and their local community’s perspectives. The college environment offers many opportunities to become politically aware of the current issues and is a great space in which to expand one’s understanding and perspective. However, students often report they feel pressured by others to agree or change their thinking. Some feel pressure to change their thinking from faculty lectures, others feel uncomfortable speaking up during class or group settings if they perceive others believe differently than they do. However, students should embrace the academic environment as a safe space to develop their own individual political voice.

Your voice and opinions are as important as those of others. Learning to listen to the perspective of others is a valuable part of your college education and so is learning to express your educated perspectives on issues.

College students are a critical and rather large constituency who are often at the forefront of political activism. Programs and events put on by campus or local political parties and campaigns seek to engage students and explain different views on issues relevant to college students. The internet can provide a large amount of information on candidates, issues and elections, but students must put in the effort to seek out information from credible sources. Students should focus on gathering information from non-profit and non-partisan organizations that provide more reliable and unbiased details on candidates’ positions and election issues as well as from quality news sources. Political party websites are also a good source of information on initiatives, candidates, and their policies, but keep in mind these may be biased.

Studies have found that voting, like many things (i.e. studying) is a habit and that people who become involved and vote as students carry the voting habit throughout their lives. Among 18 to 29 year olds, only 46.1% of the eligible population voted in the 2016 election according to This means that slightly more than half of the eligible voting population did not vote. Voter turnout is critical to a healthy democracy. Since the 1972 presidential election less than 50% of eligible voters cast ballots with the percentage continuing a downward trend. However, research from the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education found a 21% surge in college student voter turnout for the 2014 elections and found that 7.5 million college students had voted. says, “in 2020 we in America have the opportunity to add 12 million new voters to the electorate and shape voter turnout patterns for generations to come.”

In 2018, 40% of all voters used an alternative voting method as opposed to voting on Election Day. Alternative methods include early voting or absentee ballots, both which can be used by college students away from their home address. However, to take advantage of the flexibility these methods offer, students must pay attention to early voting dates so they can plan when to return home to vote or they must determine how to obtain an absentee ballot in time. A search of local county websites will provide valuable election and voting information. Voting is the single most important and easiest way to become involved in the future of your country and in your future. For Texas residents, offers an easy way to register to vote. For out of state residents search offers interesting information on voter demographics and turnout. In 2016, this was once again the case, as citizens 65 years and older reported higher turnout at 70.9%. While 18- to 29-year-olds turned out at 46.1%. This means that over half of the eligible voting population of 18 to 29 year-olds did not vote. The effect of this extremely low turnout rate means older generations are setting the agenda for the issues that will have a more lasting impact on the less involved younger generation (your generation).

Besides encouraging you to register to vote and then actually voting, a great resource to use is the stateguides/Texas.

Lastly, here is some advice on how to engage in political activism on campus:

• Pick your battles. You won’t convince everyone to agree with your position. Don’t feel like you must go to every protest, comment on every social media post or right every wrong you perceive. There are many issues to engage in, pick those in which you feel you can make the most difference.

• Practice good self-care. Everything in moderation is good advice when being politically active. Taking care of yourself is something everyone should do. Although for some taking care of themselves is not always their first thought, we should all work towards practicing good self-care.

• As in all things and especially at college, take care of your friends and have them look out for you too. You need people who will tell you honestly if they think you’re doing too much, getting too angry or taking unwarranted risks.

• Find your squad. Others on campus will be concerned about the same issues you are, so work together. If an issue concerns you but is not being addressed, consider forming a new group or look for effective ways to have the issue addressed on campus or in the community. Every issue that gets attention started with one person saying, “this matters to me.” Being with others helps fight feelings of isolation and makes your efforts more effective. You can go onto TexanSync to find organizations on campus that you might be interested in joining.

• Be compassionate and considerate. At times it is hard to see the other side or understand why someone believes differently than you do. Loving people with differing opinions and life styles changes things though, especially our own hearts. Find points of agreement. Compromise on issues that allow for more than one approach or solution.Solutions to issues don’t have to be all or nothing. Finally, remember sometimes it is okay to agree to disagree.