Schools With Politically Active Students

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Nowadays, student activism is on the upswing. From the 2016 elections to Black Lives Matter to gun control debates, young people are increasingly using their political voices. When students from almost 400 colleges nationwide were asked how politically aware they were, it turns out that more students from schools in New York thought they had high levels of political awareness than everywhere else. But, the school with the most politically aware students falls in an appropriate location.

The Princeton Review found that students at Washington D.C.-based American University were more likely than students anywhere else to say that they were highly aware of what was going on in politics. But from the state of New York, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Syracuse University, and The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, were all among the top 20.

In 2017, Columbia University had the top spot on the list, but fell to 6th place this year, while American University rose to the top from being in 4th place last year. Also notable is how George Washington University was named the most politically active campus by The Princeton Review for four years in a row, from 2012 to 2016, but after falling to 10th on the list in 2017, it has disappeared from the top 20 list this year. 


The last time American University was ranked as the most politically active campus was in 2010 when the D.C. institute collected the title for the third time in five years. It’s location right where the political action happens surrounds the students and they told The Princeton Review that the crowd at their school “tends to be very ideologically driven,” where “liberals run the show.” One students said: “The greatest strength of AU is the activity level both politically and in the community.” In fact, students say that when it came to the 2014 midterm election, there were signs in the windows, talk in the class an in hallways, t-shirts, and canvassing in Metro-accessible Virginia by students on both sides.

One American University student explained, “Let’s put it this way: A politician who comes to campus is likely to draw about 90 percent of the student population [and] an AU basketball game, about 9 [percent].”

Over on the other side of the country, students of Southern California-based Pitzer College describe their school as a “socially responsible and progressive” liberal arts and sciences college with “great academics” and “active students” and that “feels like a second home.” Students are quick to highlight Pitzer’s “flexible graduation requirements,” especially the permission to create their own majors, and take classes at any of the other five Claremont Colleges.

Pitzer students say most of them “tend to lean far left in ideology” and are generally “outspoken about their views… but open-minded students of any political ideology should not fear the liberal environment.” They talk about staying up late together to discuss international politics and other cultural and social justice issues, and collectively, the student body seem to “love that Pitzer provides a super progressive environment.”

Whether you’re excited about creating political change by being a stone’s throw from the White House and surrounding yourself with future movers and shakers, or if you just want to join a community of peers who care about what’s happening in the Middle East, check out the list below to see which schools have made it to the top 20 list for politically active campuses this year.

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