5 Ways You Can Be an Activist in College

With the current political climate dividing our nation, activism is on the rise. The Women’s March in D.C. had a record-breaking half-million attendees, and supporters banded together in solidarity in cities across the world. However, for many college women, finding your voice can be challenging. And knowing where to start in order to evoke change can prove to be even harder. That is why we pulled together five ways to help you become an activist on your college campus.

1. Educate yourself

Education is vital. You’re in college to learn and prepare yourself for the future. So, educate yourself on the issues that you are passionate about. Once you’ve landed on one that sparks your interest, master it. Study the historical context, the important leaders within that movement and know what you are talking about. Once you’ve become an expert on the issue, then you can tackle it from a new and broader perspective. 

2. Get involved on a local or national level

If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to local branches of an organization you’re passionate about. Once you’ve connected with them, they can let you know how to give back and join their fight.

Rachel Petty, a senior at James Madison University, says, “Attending rallies is a great way to be politically active in college! I recently went to my first one, the Women’s March on Washington, and felt so inspired. Local rallies are also a good way to stay involved.” By attending rallies and meeting new people, you are creating your own community. You may think working alone is best, but when we band together, we become stronger.

3. Utilize your campus resources

Many colleges have organizations that you may not even know about. Scour bulletin boards and your school’s websites to learn more about organizations you can get involved with. Or if you see that your school is lacking an organization you’re passionate about, reach out to your student activities office or an advisor to learn more about how you can bring it to fruition. 

Hillary Li, a third-year student at UNC School of Law started a photojournalism project, Now We Speak, which featured stories of discrimination, mostly from students at UNC School of Law. “It got a ton of attention from students, staff and administration at the school, and led to a lot of great community conversations at the school about diversity and inclusion,” says Hillary. She is still actively working on diversity initiatives at the school, and thinks that one way for women to be active on campus is to look for ways that their institution is lacking in support for women, particularly women of color and women who identify as LGBTQ. She recommends that students think and learn about how their institution recruits diverse students as well as addresses the needs of diverse students on campus.

"For example, does your institution provide gender neutral bathrooms? Do dress codes or guidelines address those who wear hijabs or other religious wear? Are there scholarships and opportunities specifically for minorities?" She asks. Additionally, Hillary recently started a chapter of Our Revolution in the North Carolina Triangle area, which aims to support and educate the community about progressive political candidates on the local and state level. "I am trying to address issues in North Carolina from a policy level,” she says. “Our chapter is looking to collaborate soon with other organizations that do similar activism.” Once you’ve established a cause you’re passionate about, the sky is the limit on what you can do with it.

4. Find like-minded people

Tackling an important issue and cause can be overwhelming, therefore, finding people who are equally as passionate as you are will only foster that growth and support. Kristin Walter, co-founder and development officer of Feel Good—whose mission is to end extreme poverty by 2030 through mobilizing the rising generation as global citizens and strategic changemakers—​says, “Ask yourself, ‘What is the more beautiful world my heart knows is possible? Answering the question: 'What is needed?' requires researching what is being done on the issues you care about. Read books, read articles (long ones), contact people at the organizations working on these issues. Learn, with passion, about the issue you care about and have fun doing it!” 

5. Create longevity

Your activism work shouldn’t end the second you graduate. Craft your work in a way that gives other college students the opportunities you had. Organize an annual march or fundraiser that can ensure your issue is relevant long after you’re gone. There’s always room for growth, so keep that in mind. 

You don’t need a college degree to change the world, but utilizing your education, your community and your campus can certainly help. Now get out there, and do work, collegiettes!