Zachariah: The ‘real world’ stigma inhibits college students from reaching full potential

Tianna Zachariah

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

It is hard to get so-called ‘adults’ to treat a college student seriously. Those who are dubbed as living in the ‘real, professional world think they’ve got us figured out just because once upon a time, they were us. They are wrong. We might be young, but we are also professionals and dreamers and fellow adults.


From the age of 21-25 we are either children, students, or young adults. Never are we considered of age, but we must pass mile markers anyways. We are considered adults at age 18 because we are able to enlist in the armed forces, drive, and go to jail. Twenty-one is also a rite of passage because it’s the legal drinking age in the US. The term ‘young adult’ is used to define people until the age that we become true adults, which is around 25. According to science, this is when our prefrontal cortex becomes fully developed. This is also the age when we start putting roots down, whether in a family or a career.

The permanence and maturity that comes with adulthood is what separates us from the real world, in theory. As a CSU student, I do not appreciate being thought of as less than adult simply because I don’t have kids or a husband or a house. Some students never want these things anyways. We as a student body cannot let people walk all over us because we are young and void of certain experience. The world we live in is real and nobody should be able to make us believe otherwise.

The reason we should not be considered as less than adults is because it inhibits us from reaching our goals. Waiting for the ‘real world’ is us deciding to wait for society to tell us that we are finally allowed to unapologetically live the life we want to live. Until that day we hold back and play small and wait to share our big ideas until people will take us seriously as adults in an ‘adult’ world.

According to psychologist and professor Beatriz Luna, one cannot be considered an adult until they take on responsibilities such as a career, family, mortgages, and other environmental demands that “require you to become a responsible adult.” She goes on to say that until this happens, our brains ultimately stay in a state of adolescence, encouraging the idea that we are not true adults. I agree that environmental factors do impact maturity levels, but students take on plenty of responsibility.

According to a survey done in 2015, 43 percent of undergraduate students had full-time jobs and 78 percent had part-time jobs, while going to school full-time. Sixty percent of college students finance college by themselves. Students have real responsibilities, and those responsibilities are very much real world responsibilities.

Our rational brains as early 20 year olds aren’t fully developed, and many of us are still immature. However, I’ve also met a lot of adults who are immature, and who have no roots, no family, and no responsibilities. Maturity and responsibility are not age dependent, so that argument is moot.

It doesn’t matter how old we are, or what stage of life we are currently in, the world we live in is real. It’s not somewhere we end up by chance. It’s not a place we find ourselves one day when we wake up with a spouse, kids, and some pretty big responsibilities. It’s not a place we travel to when we’ve exhausted all other options. The real world is wherever you are right now. It’s the choices you make. It’s the world you live in.

Our life becomes real the day we are born, not the day we graduate. There is never an age where we will find ourselves in a more ‘real’ world than we were the day before. Allowing ourselves to succeed without the restraints of age or time is important to getting to where we want to go as individuals.

Tianna Zachariah can be reached at or online at @TZachariah20