When Penn State student Madison Hungerford turns 21, she is planning on celebrating her birthday with a pregame and customary champagne pop at midnight, then a trip to The Phyrst for a traditional “blowjob shot.” Turning 21 years old is one of the most anticipated milestones in a young adult’s life, especially here at Penn State.
For Penn State juniors, this year will always be known as the awkward in-between time when friends are turning 21 and enjoying all the benefits that come with it, while those with later birthdays await the day they can do the same.
***Disclaimer: VALLEY does not encourage or condone underage drinking.
How Did We End Up Here?
What is meant to be an exciting moment becomes extremely prolonged. School districts around the U.S. have long enforced age cutoffs for entrance into kindergarten, which ensures students in that grade are all around the same age.
If you think back to high school, not many people had birthdays that made them over a year older or younger than their friends in the same grade.
This problem later arises in college where people are coming from all around the county and even around the world. Each state has different birthday cutoffs for kindergarten entry, and when students from all around matriculate and make friends, they may find themselves being disproportionately older or younger than their closest ones.
VALLEY surveyed a handful of Penn State juniors from Pennsylvania and surrounding states who mostly said the cutoff for their grade was at the end of August.
It’s no surprise that so many Penn State juniors have birthdays well into the fall and winter of 2000, some even as early as the summer.
This 2021-2022 school year, several people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey celebrated 21st birthdays throughout the Fall 2021 semester, with the latest possible birthday being celebrated in August 2022.
A large amount of Penn State students are from New York, where the kindergarten cutoff isn’t until the end of the year, December 2001. This means that the unfortunate few born in the fall and winter of 2001 won’t get the chance to celebrate their birthday until they are weeks into their senior year here.
Waiting Sucks. The FOMO Is Real.
The general consensus was that the worst part about not yet being 21 was the fear of missing out, better known as FOMO.
Unlike other college towns where college bars reign supreme to frat parties, State College is adamant on cracking down on fake IDs, making it extremely difficult for even the most spot-on fakes to be accepted into State College bars (though you might’ve been able to get by elsewhere).
The late birthday struggles aren’t solely about legal drinking in bars and clubs. These venues have always been restricted to people 21 and over. So for those who just don’t wish to drink and just want to dance and have fun with their friends, they have no other choice but to wait and hear their friends make plans without them.
When it comes to going out with even your closest of friends, it’s a matter of compromise, or just sheer patience. Of the students VALLEY surveyed, a handful said they would rather stay in and wait until their 21st birthday than go to frat parties. This makes it difficult to go out with their friends at all, when the only compromise is frats.
Junior, Ana Bergstedt’s, weekend plans are made simpler and stress-free because she’s in a group chat with her under 21 friends. That way, she doesn’t have any FOMO when her older, legal friends discuss weekend plans.
The Silver Lining
Jocelyn Nieves is seeing the positive in what feels like a never-ending wait. “A silver lining to being younger than a majority of my friends is I feel like it’s forced me to calm down and almost be more mature. I don’t go out as much as I used to, and in a way it’s kind of refreshing,” Nieves says.
Being almost forced to go out less has made Nieves feel more productive. She’s been able cherish the times she does go out more than if she were to go out all the time.
Madison Hungerford tells VALLEY that there may be something good that comes with turning 21 late. Unlike those who turned 21 long before their best friends, Hungerford will be able to celebrate with all of her friends who have been 21 for what feels like centuries.
Let the countdown to your 21st birthday begin! Though it seems lifetimes away, your day is coming!
How are you planning on celebrating your 21st birthday? Tweet us, @VALLEYmag, and let us know!