Can I Talk About Politics on My College Applications?
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Some high school students do not feel compelled to participate in politics until their senior year of high school. After all, most high school students do not become eligible to vote until the end of 11th grade or while they’re in 12th grade. Furthermore, some high schools do not require their students to take a government or politics class until their last few semesters in high school. Simply put, there is little foundation for political involvement as a high school student.
Nevertheless, the benefits of political involvement as a high school student should not be ignored. Especially if you intend on majoring in Political Science, Public Policy, or any government-related field, getting involved in politics as a high school student could help you stand out on your college applications by demonstrating your passion, awareness of political and social issues, and focus on your prospective career path.
Furthermore, you may find that political involvement as a high school student can act as a stepping stone for further political involvement in college and as a career. This can take the form of getting involved with a political group on campus, joining political campaigns as a volunteer, or even working as a politician in the future.
To learn how to get politically involved as a high school student, see our post A Guide to Being Politically Engaged in High School.
Despite the myriad benefits of getting involved in politics as a high schooler, it is important to be cautious when mentioning politics on your college applications, especially given modern America’s heightened political polarization. It is all too easy to offend someone or give a biased impression of yourself to an admissions committee just by expressing a political opinion.
To help you discuss your passion for politics without making any application missteps, we at CV have compiled a brief guide that will show you how to navigate the issue of talking about politics on your college application. While it can be beneficial and set you apart from your fellow classmates, talking about politics on your college application needs to be handled with extreme care.
Why might talking about politics on a college application be an issue?
Obviously, not all members of an admissions committee are going to have the same political views as you. If you happen to make even a small remark that disputes the beliefs of someone who is reading your application, you may hurt your chances of being accepted to that college or university. Most admissions committees try to be as unbiased as possible when looking at your application, but the risk still remains.
You may also hurt your chances of being accepted to a college or university by expressing political opinions if the university in question is slated one way politically. For example, UC Berkeley has a long-standing tradition of being a liberal school. On the other hand, many religiously affiliated universities may be more conservative.
If you mention a certain political affiliation or belief in your application that is contrary to the political leaning of the university, the admissions committee may have reason to question how well you would fit into the campus community. While colleges like to have diversity of thought, they still like to make sure that their students will feel comfortable on campus.
Thus, while the college admissions process does not necessarily steer you away from talking about politics on your college application, you should be careful about how you talk about it and the phrasing you use so as to not give the admissions committees the wrong impression.
How to Talk about Politics on Your College Application
Firstly, if you’ve participated in any political internships, worked with any activist groups, or canvassed for any political candidates, you can rest assured that these are definitely worth mentioning on your application. These can help you stand out in the college admissions process, and no reasonable admissions committee will penalize you for them.
A good rule of thumb is that if you have done something political that you would consider putting on a work or college resume, it’s okay to mention on your college applications.
Unsure of how to put together a strong resume? See our 5 Steps to a Rad Resume.
When you talk about your political involvement, you don’t need to go into the details of the candidate’s political beliefs or your opinion on the issues. You can mention these, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, focus on what you learned from working for these candidates, groups, and issues.
Most importantly, when bringing up politics on your college application, make sure to remain open-minded about differing political beliefs. By all means, stand by your own beliefs and values. However, don’t be closed-off from the beliefs of those who don’t agree with you.
There is a fine line between standing by your political beliefs and sounding too controversial.
Here’s an example of how you could phrase a political internship on your college application:
I worked as intern on the Senate Campaign for current Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. I chose to get involved in this campaign because, as a high school student about to attend university and the daughter of a factory employee, I believed strongly in her efforts to improve public universities and fight for workers’ rights. While on the campaign, I was able to garner support for the campaign by cold calling and organizing large campaign rallies and events. I was able to speak to many political officials who shared the same political views as the campaign as well as many people whose views did not coincide. Both were eye-opening experiences.
If you need more help with describing your accomplishments on college applications, check out our College Applications Guidance Program. We’ll pair you with an Admissions Consultant from a top university who will work with you to craft an application that best showcases your achievements.
How NOT to talk about politics on your college applications
Make sure not to offend anyone whose political views differ from your own when talking about your political involvement. Avoid trashing other groups or political parties or attacking their platforms or views. Make sure to phrase your words in a way that demonstrates openness towards others’ ideas and beliefs.
However, you don’t want to sound wishy-washy when talking about your political involvement. When you talk about why you support the political issues that you do, be clear and state your opinion. Don’t take the moral high ground. As long as your personal reasons for supporting a political group or issue do not offend someone else, you can mention it.
Here’s an example of how NOT to phrase your political involvement on your college application:
I worked as an intern on the campaign of current Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. It’s not that I’m a Democrat. I just relate strongly to a lot of her platforms, like improving public universities and worker’s rights. I was able to organize large campaign rallies and events during my time there, which let me speak to many political officials who shared the political views of the campaign. However, I also met with those who did not agree with the views of the campaign. I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even the sexist and racist ones.
Talking about politics on your college applications is a tricky business. While it is not discouraged, you should approach politics as a controversial topic. You must choose your words carefully, or else you may hurt your chances of acceptance to a college or university.
At the end of the day, admissions committees will listen to and accept students from all political spectrums, even if their current students tend to lean one way or another. They want their students to come from all different political views but be able to engage in productive, respectful discussion.
Here’s one last piece of advice about talking about politics on your college application. Racism, sexism, homophobia, or bigotry of any kind is not okay to include on your college application under any circumstances. Regardless of your personal views or the views of the political group/candidate you worked with, bigotry is the easiest way to offend someone on your college application, and is not acceptable in today’s world.
For more information about getting politically involved in high school, see the following blog posts:
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