A Personal Petition From a 17-Year-Old College Student

Picture this: You’re in the middle of a pandemic, going off to college for the first time, finally gaining some of the independence you’ve been wanting your whole life. Yay! Since it’s nearing the fall and winter months, and COVID-19 is still present sans vaccine, you decide you want to go be responsible and get your flu shot this year. Good for you!

Except you can’t go get your flu shot. Or at least, not without your parents’ permission. But what’s there to do when your parents live 5 hours away, and there is no online permission form? 

Hate to break it to you kid, but you’re going to have to go somewhere else. 

Here’s my personal petition to allow 16 and 17-year-olds some more freedoms when they’re so close to legal adulthood. 

By the grace of the series of events that is my life, I am a 17-year-old in college. It’s not too extreme. It’s not like I’m a 13-year-old child genius that's getting their bachelor's degree. But it definitely puts some question marks above a lot of people’s heads whenever I mention it. How are you 17 and in college? Even if your birthday is late, shouldn’t it have passed by now?

To put a long story short, and to save you from reading my sad attempt at being the main character, I am a year ahead in school. No, I am not Einstein. It happened due to some personal circumstances. So, voila, here I am, still having to get permission slips signed during my undergraduate degree. 

I cannot wait for my 18th birthday. 

Now, I know that to everyone above the age of 18, I sound like a classic case of teenage angst who wants independence and freedom and simply can’t wait as everyone else does. To everyone who knows me personally, I sound like a broken record. Every old person is laughing and is about to start their montage of, “Well, you won’t be saying that when you’re older!”  

In any other circumstance, yes, you’d be right! But hear me out:

The incident previously mentioned happened to me back in September, when I wanted to go to Target to get my flu shot (and the $5 coupon that came with it.) I, like both of my parents, have some extent of preexisting conditions that would make COVID severity much worse for any of us. Even though I’m now on my own most of the time, I didn’t want to take any chances. 

I had my insurance card and the money to cover the shot. What I didn’t have was my parents’ permission, and that was enough to turn me away. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the law. Thankfully, I was able to get my flu shot on campus after having my parents sign a minor consent form. But what irks me is that I am a 17-year-old, away from home, being responsible for myself, yet I have extra loopholes to go through even though I know what I’m signing up for. It is beyond frustrating.

I understand that most 17-year-olds aren’t in college full time, let alone taking care of themselves and living on their own during a pandemic. But that’s been my current predicament since August. I’m out here starting to make my own decisions in regards to my degree and future career, yet everything I do still comes with an extra inconvenience just because I’m not an adult. I am T-1 from being legally responsible for myself. Why do I still have to get the all-clear from mom and dad when I am the one running the show? 

Maybe I still sound like a whiny, immature adolescent to you, but the transition to adulthood, however you define it, isn’t easy for anyone. Regardless of my own situation, giving 17-year-olds some more freedoms or societal participation could be beneficial to them now and later on. Of course, as long as you give them the right ones. 

Let me pose something else I have been robbed of: I missed voting this year by about a month. Take it from someone with a concentration in politics and diplomacy, this is extra frustrating for me. I think the voting age should be lowered to 16. 

It’s a high school graduation requirement in the state of Texas to take a U.S. history course and a government course of some sort. And considering the country’s tendency to focus solely on U.S. history, I can’t imagine that it’s much different in other states. In theory, by the time you’re a junior in high school, you should have somewhat of an understanding of how the government and voting works. And if you don’t or you’re not interested in it, you don’t have to vote (although I definitely think you should.) 

If you’re opposed to this argument because you think 16-year-olds won't vote, I rebuttal with the 46.9% of eligible voters (that’s an 18+ population) who did not vote in 2016. There's a lot of factors that might go into why someone chooses not to vote, but “I’m too young” is a rare one, if it even is one. Also, the current generation of 16 and 17-year-olds (that’s Generation Z) are expected to be the best-educated generation so far. And typically speaking, more educated people are more likely to vote. 

There are also plenty of 16 and 17-year-olds that work. Granted, these people aren’t making six-figure salaries, but if you get paid, you also have to pay up to Uncle Sam. How come those that are working don’t get their fair share of representation for their taxation? 

I’m sure there are a plethora of other things that older teenagers could be allowed to do that would be beneficial to them, but these are the things that currently affect me the most. I did not push for anything like complete medical autonomy at 16 or 17 because it’s one thing to permit myself to get the flu shot (of which I know the process and my own allergies), and it’s another thing to get myself a full-on surgery. The whole point of me siding with allowing some freedoms right before you turn 18 is for transitional purposes, and that you get some freedoms, not all of them. But I digress. 

Forget being able to get tattoos. I'm looking forward to truly making my own decisions when I turn 18.

(Although, I’m definitely looking forward to tattoos also!)