10/19/2011 09:22 am ET | Updated Dec 16, 2011

The Importance of Political Beliefs in College

By Maura McNamee
Ohio University

College is the place for you to figure out yourself and your future. Keeping up on the politics of today can help you get a job, as well as make decisions that will impact your lifestyle. Although the politics of today are extremely controversial, it is important to stay updated so that when elections roll around, you will know what you are talking about.

For many freshmen in college, this is the first time they are able to vote in a big election; being knowledgeable about candidates, issues, and politics in general is key. Though you may say that "politics don't matter," in reality, they do. It is your duty to stay up-to-date on current events; you are only helping yourself.

Tips on formulating your political beliefs:

1. Watch the local news. You have to live somewhere, right? Why not know about the local issues that impact your school district, taxes, and the jobs in your area? The local news provides the best information on these topics.

2. Register to vote in your college town. For many students, living on campus takes up about 9 months out of the year. It makes sense to register to vote in the area that you are living in so that you can participate in any local election that you feel will impact you, or wait until the 2012 Presidential elections to get your voice out there.

3. Know what is happening to our nation's voting rights. The New York Times recently published an article about the possible restriction on voting laws before the 2012 election. It is important to know about the impact this may have on you as a college student, and on the registered voter population. If this issue concerns you, assert your right to question state senators and write to them about the possible negative impact this issue will have once we enter into 2012.

4. Read a national newspaper or national magazine. While a national newspaper will not focus on your city, it does focus on the overall issues the United States is facing right now. Learning about the current events of today will not only shape your opinions, but it will make you become more focused on being informed and will encourage open-mindedness. Consider The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, or Newsweek. Reading will only make you smarter!

5. Take a political science class. You probably took American government in high school; why not try to take a Politics in Religion course? Perhaps European Politics? Adding these courses to your repertoire will expand the knowledge you have about the United States' government, and will give you an edge if you are looking into domestic or international business as a job. There are things I learned in poli-sci that I don't think I ever would have learned on my own, such as American war strategies in the Middle East and the number of hate groups still in existence in the United States. Don't underestimate the power of a class with a boring title!

6. Be open-minded when it comes to others' beliefs. You have probably been told this many a time by your parents, but in college, being open-minded is almost an unspoken rule. There are thousands of people, which means there are thousands of opinions and different backgrounds. You aren't going to agree with everyone, and you aren't going to disagree with everyone. Be civil and open - perhaps you'll learn something that may make you change your own mind.