Swanson: ‘Adulting’ as a Millennial Phenomenon


By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

Ever since I was in middle school I knew I wanted to go to college. I wanted to grow up, leave my small town and choose what classes I took at some good school in some big city. Now that the goal has assuredly been met, what with upgrading from my small town of 7,000 residents to Salt Lake City’s 1.1 million and attending a Pac-12 school, is adulthood as cut out and awesome as I anticipated as a kid?

I think it’s safe to say most of us, discovered things aren’t as easy as they seemed when we were young and naive. Many of us have had to make attempts to act and be responsible like an adult because it didn’t come instinctively. It’s a process that we affectionately call ‘adulting’. The question raised then is, are we the only generation that has had to learn how to adult? How did the transition treat the Gen-Xers and the baby boomers? What can we learn from what they went through?

To start, there are more of us actually attending and finishing college than our parents and grandparents. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many as the push for more children to go to college has increased since World War II. Now, nearly 30 percent of all millennial men at least have their bachelor’s degree, double the amount of bachelor’s degree holders from the silent generation, born between 1928–1945, according to research from Pew. The increase has been even greater for women, with 36 percent of millennial women having their bachelor’s in comparison to the greatest generation’s 9 percent.

As a result, the transition from high school teenager to fully integrated member of society involves higher education a lot more than it used to. Between us millennials and our gen-x parents, there’s a 5 percent increase between men and 8 percent increase among women. So, how does this change the way we perceive the transition between adolescence and adulthood? For starters, there’s more for us to handle. As fellow college students, we all understand the shared struggle of what that entails. I’m sure many of us also have to add work and rent on top of that. It’s a reality with a whole slew of new experiences that are thrown on top of us after we get our high school diploma.

We’re now responsible for working our 20 to 40 hours-a-week job to pay for an apartment and food to eat. To those who didn’t attend college after high school, that’s pretty much the extent of their daily struggle. I don’t mean to underestimate the amount of work that goes into going to work for 40 hours a week, but their lives are simpler than the complex animal that ours has become. The transition goes from going to school, going home, going to work, then coming home. Once you clock out, you’re done worrying. All you have to do is make sure you clock in again the following morning, and getting a full night’s sleep is optional.

However, as I’m sure we’re well aware, our lifestyles are never quite that simple. There’s an added pressure of having to worry about assignments, exams, projects and deadlines that we are kept to when getting our degree. The life of an adult can start to seem like a lot when you’re balancing covering somebody else’s shift to get some extra money for bills on top of your thesis that’s due in a couple of weeks.

Financial independence, as a result, has become less of an initial goal for millennial adults. After witnessing the result of what happened with gen-x’s irresponsible spending and accumulation of debt, millennial adults have refrained from setting out and going off to begin a new life without parental support. Anecdotes of millennial adults continuing to live with their parents in their 20s are said as if it’s a sign of millennials being lazy and being coddled while, in reality, it’s a result of not being able to survive in a world where the economy and human drive will allow for a college student to juggle a full-time job, rent and their studies all at once.