Supporting minors in an adult world

London Lack, Columnist

For most people, entering college coincides with officially entering the adult world. While most students are 18 when they enter college — meaning they acquire both the responsibilities and privileges of a legal adult — this process differs significantly for students who enter college early. These individuals must navigate the adult world while still considered minors.

Despite constituting a niche demographic, there are a substantial number of students who enter college at 17. UT should create a first-year interest group for these younger students to better facilitate their college transition and help them navigate their unique circumstances.  

As someone who graduated high school a year early, I experienced these difficulties firsthand. Because I only turned 18 last Thanksgiving, there were extra medical documents my parents had to sign and social events I had to forgo. 

According to The National Center for Education Statistics, most students traditionally enroll in college between ages 18 and 24. The experiences of a “traditional” college freshman are thus very different from one who starts at 17.

Plan II and neuroscience freshman Athvait Manikantan started at UT a year younger than his peers. He too was 17 for his entire first semester. 

“It creates more of a hassle in terms of … entering college as a minor, because you’re having to deal with all these loopholes that are unnecessary for a good like 90-95% of students that you encounter in college,” Manikantan said.

Manikantan also mentioned documentation problems he encountered as a younger student. He explained the difficulties of coordinating a visit to DPS with his parents to obtain a driver’s license. 

While there isn’t usually a major age gap between younger students and the rest of the student body, there can be a slight difference in maturity. 

“I have seen some kids that have graduated a year or two years early (who) have some maturity gaps,” Manikantan said. 

By creating a FIG with younger students in mind, UT can also address these underlying maturity gaps through assistance and guidance that other students may not need. 

Nick Chan, a former FIG mentor and senior electrical and computer engineering major, detailed how FIG groups are paired with an academic advisor. 

“If there is an academic advisor who specializes in (helping underage students), that (is) super useful,” Chan said. “Being part of a FIG, you’re with other students that are in the same position as you so everyone’s kind of in the same boat.” 

Chan also explained that depending on the FIG, there are various social activities aimed at bringing the group together. These activities provide an alternative opportunity to socialize for those unable to attend events exclusive to young adults.

Psychology and Plan II freshman Maheshwari Rajesh was also 17 during her first semester. She was lucky enough to connect with other students who were also navigating college as minors.

“I met some other people who weren’t 18 going into college, and so finding that community was for sure nice,” Rajesh said. “It’s good to have someone who shares experiences with you…and also be like ‘oh you can’t go (to some social events) together, but that’s ok.’”

While FIGs are traditionally aimed at students who have similar classes, they are also intended to foster a sense of community amongst freshmen. Young students in FIGs may not necessarily share the same classes, but they should have access to a similar sense of community. 


Lack is a dance and Plan II freshman from San Angelo, Texas.