How to earn direct experience in politics while in college
Political awareness is great for anyone, but these 5 ways to get politically involved in college are vital for anyone interested in politics and pursuing higher education. For social science majors, getting involved in the political process is not only great, but an asset. As it is said, ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ Networking and building your resume early on will benefit your job searching in the future.
Register to Vote
This should be a no-brainer! It is imperative to vote to keep your elected officials accountable to the public. Your vote is even more vital if you live in a swing state during the general election. It is also vital for the primaries if you live in states that count primary votes early on like Iowa or New Hampshire. Midterm elections tend to have a miserable turnout but this can reversed by actually turning up to vote. You should be able to register vote online or via mail. Forms can be obtained in your local DMV office. You may also be able to find volunteers helping people register to vote on college campuses. Bear in mind the process could be complicated a bit more if you live in a state with required voter ID laws.
Also read: Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders
Get Involved with Your Local Political Party Branch
This year is an election year, which attracts the attention of many students not normally politically involved. A great way to gain knowledge about issues and help your political party of choice is to become a member of your local party branch on campus. These organizations are often tied to the local party chapter outside your campus, which exposes you to city/provincial level politics and is great for anyone trying to get politically involved as a college student. It should not be too hard to find the Democratic Party and the Republican Party tabling or setting up events to attract students. Aside from attending events, you will have the chance to meet politicians ranging from the city to national level. This also presents opportunities for internships for campaigns. Often helping a party as an individual is in the form of making campaign calls, attending summits and maintaining social media.
Single Issue Organizations
There should be on-campus groups that are focused on issues such as women’s rights, LGBT community, minimum wage, human rights, among others. In response to human rights abuses against Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank, a proposal within the University of California system to divest from Israel passed in each UC campus separately then in the UC Board of Regents in 2015. Both sides of the issue campaigned vigorously to sway people to their side. Single issue organizations are tailored to advance the cause of a particular subject which is good if you decide you want to focus your time on particular topics and not on everything. These are perfect opportunities for political development as you will be able to help groups you are personally invested in. If not, these are still opportunities to learn about various issues in our society.
Work as a Poll Worker
On Election Day, teams of poll workers manage numerous polling centers. Long voting lines are a result of too few poll workers. Becoming a poll worker is a great opportunity to fulfill your duty as a citizen. (Aside from jury duty of course!) Poll workers positions are typically paid, potentially with paid training as well. Training time varies by state but it is usually around two hours. It is also beneficial to know another language since bilingual workers can be paid more. You may sign up online or mail in an application to become a poll worker for your state. Be mindful that requirements to be a poll worker may vary from state to state.
Internships are great for padding your resume with hands on experience. Typically less demanding than a full time paid position, internships are perfect for college students seeking an edge over their peers. Unpaid internships may even lead to paid positions. A great asset in finding internships would be your local party branch since they typically have connections to local bureaucrats and politicians. Starting small is not a problem at all, even interning for a city council race will give you experience that you otherwise would not have.