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Looking back on my experience of starting college at a young age, and what I would go back and change.
Being 17 is an awkward age. There’s a transitional period when you’re expected to become an adult, even though you still feel like (and are) a teenager. You realise that the new found independence from your parents you’ve craved for years has its drawbacks; you can go on nights out! (If you can get in). You can do whatever you want! (If you have any money).
For a brief period, you are not quite a teenager anymore, but you’re not an adult either. Throw in the big step of starting college and it all becomes a little overwhelming.
Starting college at any age is intimidating, but especially when you’re attending lectures about democracy when you can’t even vote yet. I’m sure in bigger colleges there’d be plenty of younger people in first year, but I think I was the only one in my course anyway. It feels like coming down with a serious case of imposter syndrome; these people are eventually going to find out that I’m only a child!
The most commonly asked question you get when you tell people you’re starting college before you turn 18 is “what about the nights out!”. Perhaps it’s not the first worry that should come to mind, but it is; and for good reason too.
Of course, going on nights out and drinking all the time isn’t the sole purpose of college… But it’s not-not the purpose either. Being the arrogant 17-year-old I was, I dismissed such worries about being underage. I’d been on plenty of nights out before I turned 18 and it was rarely an issue, but it was still an added reason to be anxious when going on my first nights out with this new group of older people.
Jesus Christ could you imagine being the only person to not get in on the first night out of Freshers week? It would’ve been too much embarrassment for me to deal with at the time. So, my not-so-clever solution to this at the time was to simply not go out.
Yeah, I know, terrible idea. One that I absolutely do not recommend to anyone starting college. Not getting into a nightclub might have been a bad first impression to make, but it’s even worse to not make a first impression at all.
Ultimately, not going out on Freshers week just led to me playing catch-up with the rest. So much bonding happens on the first week of college, some people find their clique almost immediately and stick to it for the whole course.
Closing yourself off from opportunities out of fear is never the right thing to do. I started going on more nights out in second year after I turned 18, and only then did I start to form connections with people who would end up as some of my best friends from college. Had I only been more social at the beginning of college perhaps I would’ve enjoyed my first year much more.
In the end, issues such as being underage are mostly in your own head. These things will only hold you back as much as you let them.
By Peter Comiskey
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