We have a little over a year until the next election -- but it's not too early to start planning. For the first time in most college students' lives, we will get to vote in a presidential election. And it is time to get excited.
For first time voters, it's a little overwhelming. Here are five easy steps you can take today to prepare you for next November:
1. Register to vote.
Usually, you can do this online -- it's super easy. Twenty-three states currently allow voters to register online. If you can't register online in your state, many college campuses have voter registration throughout the year, primarily close to election seasons. You can also register to vote next time you update your license. If you're out-of-state, plan ahead! Contact your state election office to get an absentee ballot mailed to you.
2. Stay informed.
Staying informed in college is not a small feat. Luckily, there are many great, fast ways to stay informed. You don't have to actually sit down and read the New York Times to know what is going on in the world. I recommend listening to NPR while you're working out/walking to class/showering or watching a bit of CNN (or whatever channel you prefer) over breakfast or dinner. Consider subscribing to the "Skimm." All you have to do is provide your email -- and they do the rest. The "Skimm" covers all the news stories and summarizes them into a short, snappy newsletter that you can read during your 8 a.m.
3. Fact check.
Question everything. Use FactCheck.org. Use Google. Do not let candidates spoon-feed you facts and figures. When Carly Fiorina claims she viewed an undercover Planned Parenthood video of doctors harvesting a brain for a live fetus, make sure that video exists. When Bernie Sanders says making public colleges free will fix America, look into the implications of such a change. Also, beware of numbers. Sure, a candidate's numbers may technically be accurate -- but they may only represent one part of the story. Consider what a percentage actually represents.
4. Keep an open (and simultaneously critical) mind.
Thanks to bipartisan politics, we feel like we need to pick a side. We need to be on the left or the right and stay there. It's okay to agree with both sides on different issues. Remember: you're choosing a president. You want the best person for the job, not a person who is a member of a certain party. Take a political quiz to get an idea of the candidate you actually want. And remember: we have over a year until we have to vote, so your mind can change.
5. GET EXCITED.
You get to participate in democracy! Even if your candidate doesn't win, your vote is your right to complain. You can spend the next four-eight years ranting to your friends about the president. Awesome! After you vote, screech like a bald eagle and cut a slice of apple pie -- you should feel very American and very proud.