Column: If you’re old enough to be $20,000 in debt, you’re old enough to be called an adult.

In college, it’s difficult to navigate through the complicated waters that are adulthood. Depending on maturity levels, each person’s perception of adulthood is different from the next.

Sofi Zeman is a first-year journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about interpersonal growth and interaction.

The second Pomp and Circumstance is blared over the loudspeaker of your small-town high school, and the instant you enrolled in the college of your choice, it happened to all of us. After four long years of high school, we’re finally here. We’ve grown up. At least, that’s what everyone continues to say. We’ve packed our bags and moved out of the house in pursuit of higher education. So, now is the time. We have officially entered adulthood, right?

Wrong. While this concept may have been widely viewed as the truth in past generations, it is not the case today. Yes, we have all moved on to the next phase in our lives, but many would argue that this does not necessarily define adulthood. So, what does? Does being in college make us adults, or are we something just short of that? In the eyes of the law, every person that is 18 years or older is classified as an adult. We can vote and be tried to the fullest extent of the law in a legal manner, neither of which seem to be a matter that a child would deal with. Yet there is so much that goes into adulthood that has nothing to do with age.

A primary reason that many cannot seem to identify as “grown-ups” is a lack of financial independence. As college students, some of us are primarily making our way through these next few years with some financial help. Some would argue that having this parental safety net ties 20-somethings down to stay home longer and move out of the house later in life. This state of financial comfort can lead to a young adult’s regression into the “high school living” mentality, where this financial cushion is not being used as a tool to make a career and living. Instead, it is being taken advantage of and wasted on counterproductive matters. Rather than choosing to find a stable job or save up for the future, some “adults” opt to allow their guardians to support them entirely, beyond an appropriate time frame. However, there is a major difference between using the resources you have and wasting them away. Understanding this distinction plays an important role in defining adulthood. Needing help to fund your education does not reduce you to a child. College is expensive. Believe it or not, there are very few who can pay for it all on their own. But, an important part of growing up is finding some sort of financial responsibility along the way.

The concept of being a student forms its own safety nets. It’s true, there are things that college students don’t have to worry about that people out in the real-world deal with daily. Many of us aren’t obligated to pay for our own insurance or support anyone. Getting fired from a job means a lot less to many of us than it does to people older than us. Although, we experience major stressors in our own lives. We’ve left home and we’re beginning to establish ourselves in the world. In this next part of life, students will have to begin making serious decisions by themselves, decisions that can have major impacts, which sounds like a real-world dilemma.

Others have argued that college students aren’t adults because some simply do not know what they’re doing. It’s been said before, and sure to be said again, that we are all destined to find our own path in life. Whether you agree with this mantra or not, college is commonly known as the place people go to find out who and what they want to be. Although, in many cases, it takes some time to get there. Not having our futures all figured out can make us view ourselves and our peers through an immature lens. Then again, why has having a path become a necessity in being taken seriously? There are countless people well beyond our years that don’t have the slightest clue of what they want to be. It’s entirely understandable to not have everything in life perfectly lined up because there are few adults that are allowed this luxury. Finding a purpose isn’t a matter of adulthood, it’s a matter of life.

It’s clear that most college students don’t have a perfect career lined up for them in the near future, or have exactly what they want to do figured out but this does not mean they aren’t approaching adulthood. There are countless students still trying to figure out the basic building blocks of growing up. Yet, maturity levels vary. There are people out there that have been forced to grow up a lot faster than others, which can make all the difference.

So, what exactly defines adulthood? Everyone has a different perception of this and how it applies to college students. Well, whatever phase this is, it’s definitely well past childhood.

Edited by Bryce Kolk | bkolk@themaneater.com

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