If you’re a college freshman like me, 2020 will be your first time experiencing an election year as an eligible voter. Increasing your political awareness will allow you to make an informed decision when casting your vote and keep you in-the-know with breaking news in the political world. Initially, getting involved and educating yourself about this may seem intimidating; get started with our guide to political awareness, just for college students.
Determine what you stand for
Arguably the most important step of gaining political awareness is to form your own opinion. You are old enough to explore politics beyond the ideologies practiced by your parents and the people you grew up with. This step can be intimidating if it is your first time delving into the political world, so start small and be patient with yourself. When it comes to politics, there is a lot to learn, so start by evaluating your individual morals and beliefs. Deciding what platforms you will support boils down to what is important to you and how political issues may affect the world around you.
Another tactic is thinking about the decisions America’s political leaders are making in today’s political climate and how they will affect the most vulnerable groups of people in America. Political awareness is garnered when you take time to decide what is worth standing up for and what is worth using your voice to support.
Educate yourself on hot-button issues
Political awareness goes beyond liking anger infused tweets about social injustices. In order to form an educated, thoughtful opinion on topics trending in today’s political climate, you have to do some research. Go beyond the information that is handed to you on your Facebook feed by your baby boomer aunts and uncles. Take initiative and get your information from reliable, credible sources.
Start with a simple Google search or make use of your college’s online databases. Make sure any article, tweet, or statement you read regarding a topic is coming from a credible outlet. Take into account what their political affiliation is and what their biases or motives may be. Always ask yourself who is telling me this information, where did the information from (in other words, did they cite their sources?), and what do they gain by telling me this? Keep in mind every organization, author, or website has its own political affiliation and that is going to influence the content they publish.
Expand your knowledge on the issues you don’t support
Once you have educated yourself and determined what issues you support, build on your political awareness by taking the time to understand people on the other side of the issues you support. True political awareness is gained when you realize that there is no 100% correct solution to political issues. With any decision made, a group of people will suffer or have to deal with negative side effects.
That is why the key to political awareness is realizing that no political affiliation has all the right answers. Don’t view the people on the other side as the “enemy.” Similarly to when you are building an argument in support of an issue, you must be able to see both sides of a situation in order to form an intelligent argument against something.
Find a way to get involved
Voting is a great, imperative aspect of political awareness and it’s a right you should definitely exercise; but it’s only the beginning of a long list of ways you can get involved in your political community. When it comes to getting involved and increasing your political awareness, there are a plethora of options available.
You can attend town hall and city council meetings, join a voting league or political organization where you can connect with like-minded people while expanding your political knowledge, volunteer at a political headquarters, volunteer to work at a polling location, volunteer to register voters, or even lead a protest. You can even donate money or supplies to a political organization but be sure to do extensive research before offering your time and money. Make sure the cause you are helping out is legitimate.
Go to your local government’s website and find ways to get involved because the opportunities are nearly endless and there’s no reason not to lend a hand. Political organizations could always use extra help; getting involved beyond voting will allow you to see how things work behind the scenes, therefore increasing your political awareness.
Be open-minded and respectful
Perhaps one of the most underrated ways to enhance your political awareness is having the willingness to listen to the opposing side’s opinion. It shows maturity and boasts an importance that you should not underestimate. Freedom of expression is one of the principles America was built on and prides itself on. While Gen Z’s cancel culture does not always have the best track record of upholding this principle when it comes to politics, the only way to improve and build upon your political awareness is with the willingness to listen, learn and have empathy.
Practicing sensitivity and kindness takes precedence over proving your point or being right in a political debate. True political awareness consists of possessing well-rounded awareness of a variety of political issues. You cannot gain that knowledge if you are not willing to take another party’s opinion into mind and analyze it.
Politics can be a messy subject because people tend to get emotionally invested in topics that are bound to affect their finances, future, and the everyday lives of the people they care about most. Empathy and open-mindedness will take you far in your journey to understand politics, the world around you, and life in general.
As this election year unfolds, keep in mind the various ways you can increase your political awareness and go beyond figuring out what you stand for by educating yourself on those topics, expanding your knowledge on issues you don’t support, getting involved, and being open-minded. Comment and let us know how you are going to get involved this election year.
I'M CURRENTLY A COLLEGE FRESHMAN STUDYING JOURNALISM AND FIGURING OUT LIFE ONE DAY AT A TIME.