Best Colleges for Political Activism

on May 24, 2017

Most college campuses have a large number of student organizations with political or social agendas, where members can gather to discuss current events, debate policies and lobby for change. For high school students looking for colleges with particularly political student bodies, take a look at this list of colleges that are known for their activism.


American University


Located in the heart of the country’s capital, American University is highly regarded for the political involvement of its students, often ranking first or second as the nation’s most politically active university. More than 10 percent of its student clubs are politically oriented.


Every summer, the college sends a substantial number of its current students to work in the offices of congressmen and senators on Capitol Hill. Recruiters from various offices of the U.S. government spend ample time at American University’s job and internship fairs, and they’ve had great luck discovering future politicos among the AU student body.


Columbia University


Columbia’s students, living in the heart of New York City, are known for their steadfast social and political activism. Many Columbia students have participated in rallies and protests throughout the school’s long history, advocating for everything from civil rights in the 1960s to LGBTQ equality in the last decade. Though students find many resources in the big city, Columbia also encourages students to form and join political organizations on campus, often partnering with students from nearby Barnard College.


University of Colorado, Boulder


The University of Colorado at Boulder is known for its students’ engagement with environmental activism, and many of the school’s students participated in protests against the Keystone Pipeline and the recent water crisis in Flint, Mich. The Center for Values and Social Policy at Boulder offers various lectures, classes and clubs for politically and socially active students. Many appreciate having a physical location to gather with like-minded peers and contribute to causes they’re passionate about.


Pitzer College


Pitzer College, which belongs to the Claremont consortium of universities in southern California, prides itself on its incredibly diverse student body. Students are encouraged to learn about the history of social movements and challenge their own perspectives.


Every student is required to take classes in the departments of Social Responsibility and the Ethical Implications of Knowledge and Action and Intercultural Exploration. Students also can partake in the activities and organizations at the other four schools in the Claremont consortium, which greatly increases their exposure to diverse ideas.


University of California, Berkeley


When many Americans think of politically active college students, UC Berkeley comes immediately to mind. In the 1960s and 1970s, Berkeley’s students played an active role in the Free Speech Movement, civil rights movements and Vietnam War rallies.


Today, more than 10,000 Berkeley students are involved in political or social justice organizations, including groups like Berkeley United in Literacy Development (BUILD). BUILD collaborates with the city of Berkeley to address the racial achievement gap in education.


Of course, UC Berkeley also offers students opportunities for political research and experience, including working for campaigns operated by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and the American Cultures Engaged Scholarship program.

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