Many students view their 18th and 21st birthdays as milestones, but some students see turning 21 as just another birthday because there’s only one major difference between the two ages.
One of the few differences between people younger than 21 and people older is the ability to drink alcohol legally.
But because many students have consumed alcohol prior to turning 21, they are not excited about reaching the age of legality.
Alonzo Joseph, a 22-year-old business education student from Miami, said turning 18 was far more special than turning 21.
Joseph said he thinks all students enjoy turning 18 because it’s “symbolic to freedom and individuals have the ability to make decisions on their own.”
In 45 of the 50 states, 18 is the age of majority, which is considered adulthood under law.
In the United States, the age of majority allows individuals the opportunity to exercise rights and acts without restrictions. This may include marrying, going under binding contracts, attending specific venues, filing for independence and purchasing tobacco products.
Dana Borden, a 19-year-old pharmacy student from Miami, said turning “the big 18” is unique. “You can get into clubs, and it’s a move over to adulthood,” she said.
With so many options available for people younger than 21 to obtain liquor without the consent of guardians or authorities, turning 21 is no longer anticipated.
But this is not just an issue of this generation. Gwen Jackson, housing and life employee for Truth Hall, remembers drinking before she turned 21 as well. “I was already doing everything that you do at 21, only not legally,” Jackson said.
According to a survey of Florida high school students given by the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center, 71 percent of the students had at least one drink during their lifetime.
The UDETC reported that an estimated 647,000 underage students in Florida drink each year.
More than 50 percent of the survey’s participants included students at Florida colleges and universities.
In a sign of the times, a new opportunity exists for people not of legal age to purchase liquor. They can go to the Internet and find online liquor stores.
As reported by MSNBC in August 2006, online liquor stores do not require identification checks like a regular liquor store, and underage youth may order these items without adult consent by using Visa gift cards.
Underage drinkers also find other means to consume alcohol.
In recent research, The Century Council found that 65 percent of young individuals get alcohol from friends and family.
Jackson said even though back then younger students drank before 21, there is a difference between now and then.
“You could have a good time without being sloppy drunk or showing off all of what you have.”
At colleges and universities, it is not uncommon for students to ask their colleagues who are 21 or older to buy them liquor. In some cases, even parents and guardians offer alcohol to their underage children.
Joseph said his parents used to allow him to drink when they had social events. But Joseph said he did not start drinking in large amounts until his freshman year of college.
For Borden, who said she does not drink, her 21st birthday will not signify a major shift in her lifestyle.
But Joseph is another story.
He said before turning 21, he drank with his friends before going out.
Joseph said the advantage of turning 21 was, “I can buy my drinks myself.”