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Don’t just come of age, rise to meet it’

I am, based on my age, considered an adult by the law, and with this title comes most of adulthood’s correlating rights and responsibilities. But I haven’t served in the military. Nor do I own a car or home. And, although I have held several part-time jobs, I cannot say that I am completely financially independent. In fact, since becoming a legal adult, it has become more apparent to me that the privileges and expectations granted by the law do not necessarily correlate with those held by our contemporary society. I have fulfilled all of these latter duties by graduating from high school with honors, entering college with a job and scholarship and finding a course of study that will hopefully make me marketable for employment after graduation. So far so good, right?

But as I have realized my dependency on society’s standards for my sense of adulthood and responsibility, so too have I realized our society’s deficient standards for defining adulthood for its newly-minted members. Why is it that after 13 years of schooling, it’s generally expected that we’ll enter for at least four more before being able to completely enter society as active members? Although I don’t take this time of life for granted, in its unique balance between work and play, I can’t help but be frustrated with the discrepancy between my legal status and my social one as a “college undergraduate.” The label implies my relatively deficient professional skills, financial dependency upon loans or otherwise and my obligation to excel in classes, an old and familiar dance between formulaic studying and free thought.

I asked other undergraduate adults their opinions of adulthood within the context of college. Stephanie Telek, a first-year in biomedical engineering, conceded her frustration with the implications of being a college student.

“The fact that we’re in this little dome of college suggests that I can’t handle the real world yet,” she said.

More often than not, responses admitted to the general process of becoming a full-fledged adult.

“I’m not sure I could define coming of age, but I don’t think I’m there yet. I do think I am transitioning into adulthood,” said Aubrey Rybarczyk, a first-year in speech and hearing science.

I have, as I have grown, found society’s definition of adulthood lacking, especially as I have taken into more serious consideration the implications of the law that judges me as an adult. The law indirectly challenges me to serve, grow, question, explore and learn through civil engagement and citizenship while society expects me to fulfill the status quo. Granted, I am in no rush to become mature, serious and sober (as those close to me are painfully aware), but I am impatient with society’s prerequisites required to initiate full-fledged adulthood, in its purest form. Luckily for me though, I have chosen a university that meets my own demands for growth and exploration in order to become the best my country asks me to be.

But the question I pose is, does college do this for you? I often wonder what percentage of undergraduates consciously decided between attending college and pursuing their real passion. My challenge is this: become extraordinary by seeing beyond what’s expected of you. Don’t just come of age, rise to meet it in the best way you alone are privileged to see fit.

 

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