WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

  • Turning 21 is a milestone that most young people look forward to – it is the transition from a young adult to a full adult.
  • However, as the saying goes ‘with great power, comes great responsibility’ turning 21 comes with some obligations and duties that must be fulfilled.
  • This article will guide you on what to expect, legally, when you turn 21.

Turning 21 is a milestone that most young people look forward to, mostly because at 21 you become legally able to buy and consume alcohol in pubs and go out to nightclubs. A study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2010 showed that there was an increase in alcohol consumption within the month of a person turning 21 years old with the consumption peaking on the day of the birthday.

Prevalence rates of monitored daily drinking. Source: www.ncbi.gov

Prevalence rates of monitored daily drinking. Source www.ncbi.gov

When people look forward to their 21st birthday and they think of all the things they are going to do when they turn 21, they rarely think of what legally happens when they turn 21, and what their rights at age 21 are. This article will look at what people can do when they turn 21 in ways that are both fun and also give you information on what to expect after becoming a legal adult.


So you are probably wondering “what can 21-year-olds do?” well, the real question should be what can’t they do? Because technically a 21-year-old is an adult and they can do almost all things that other adults can do, with a few minor exceptions. Below are some of the things you can do when you turn 21.

Go to a Bar/Night Club

This is perhaps the most romanticized aspect of turning 21. You see it in series on television all the time. Celebrating the 21st birthday by going out to a bar or nightclub is a rite of passage, almost.

Drink Alcohol

And of course what is a good night out without your first legal alcoholic beverage? Sure, most people will have tasted their first beer or alcoholic spirits a long time before their 21st birthday. However, the difference here is that you don’t have to do so in hiding – you are now free to consume your alcohol in the comfort of your home or in a place designated for drinking – otherwise, you can (and will) be arrested for public intoxication.

Have a Cigarette/Weed in Legal States

As with alcohol, many people have their first cigarette way before their 21st birthday. The only difference is that as a 21-year-old, you are going to legally buy your cigarettes and weed in some states where recreational marijuana is legal.

Gamble at Casinos

You can gamble at any casino in Vegas at the ripe age of 21!

Become an Uber Driver

If you are looking to make extra money as a 21-year-old you can work for companies such as Uber and Lyft where their age requirement for drivers is 21.


What Can You Do When

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Now that you know some things that you can do when you turn 21, you are probably wondering what you can legally do at 21. When you turn 21, you legally become an adult which means you get the same legal rights as other adults. So if you are wondering “what can I legally do at 21?” here are some answers for you:

Register to Vote

You are legally allowed to register to vote in all States in the United States of America when you turn 21. At 21 years of age, you are considered an adult and therefore can make valid and informed decisions on the politics of your state, town, and country.

Enter Legal Contracts

As a 21-year-old, you can enter into contracts and be bound by them. Be careful what you put your signature on.

Join the Military

When you turn 21, you can join the military without needing parents to sign off on it because it is believed you are now an adult who can make their own decisions. Unless there are other factors hindering you, you are free to join the army after you turn 21.

Use the Court System

This means that as a 21-year-old, you can sue or get sued. You can be taken to court and you can be charged based on the evidence provided against you by the judge – and in some cases, by a jury of your peers.

Serve On a Jury

When you register to vote, your name is taken into the system and this means that you are eligible for jury duty and you can be summoned at any time to serve on one. It is your civic duty as an American to serve on a jury.


There are many other things you can do at 21 aside from the fun and legal rights and responsibilities that come your way once you turn 21, here are a few other things you can do when you’re 21: Also check out our article on things to do for 21st birthday without alcohol.

Rent an Apartment

Because you can legally enter into a contract, you can be able to rent an apartment at 21 as long as you can afford to pay for it and maintain it.

Rent a Car

Another perk of turning 21 is that you get to rent a car whenever you want to – in all States.

Body Autonomy

When you turn 21, you have the right to decide what you want to do with your body medically without having to consult your parents. You can decide on whether or not you want to donate blood, receive blood, have surgery, become an organ donor, or take hormone-altering medications (in the case of trans people).


You are legally allowed to marry whoever you want who is above the legal age – and has agreed to marry you – without having your parents or legal guardians to sign off on it.

Adopt a Child

When you turn 21, you can legally adopt a child in the United States. Of course, you will have to meet other requirements to be suitable for the adoption process but legally if you wanted to you could adopt a child at the age of 21.

Get a Credit Card

You can also easily get a credit card on your own once you turn 21 without having to get someone to cosign on it. This means that you can start building your (good) credit as well once you turn 21.


What happens when you turn 21 in the United States of America? Well, depending on what state you are in you can:

Prosecuted as an Adult

When you turn 21 years old in the United States of America, and you commit a crime – you will be charged and prosecuted as an adult. Which means if found guilty, you will go to jail.

Obtain a Concealed Weapons Permit

Once you turn 21, you can obtain a weapons permit and have a license to carry a firearm legally.

Run for Public Office

Although this differs in some states – the age of holding a public office being 25, instead of 21 – there are some states, such as Minnesota, where a 21-year-old can technically be elected to public office.

Related article: What to do on 21st birthday without friends


  • What should a 21-year-old be doing with their life?

There really isn’t one answer to this question. Everyone’s journey is different and unique to them. At 21, you should be following your passions. What do you want to do with your life? Who do you want to be? And what are you doing to become that person? The right time to figure things out is when you are 21 because you are technically an adult, but you do not have too many responsibilities just yet. Find what makes you happy, what gives you purpose, and what drives you – whatever that thing is. So what can you do when you are 21? You can make mistakes, travel, start up a company, go for your dream job, start your business, pursue your love for the Arts – you can do all these things at 21. There is no formula for “doing it right” – anything that you are doing at 21, you are supposed to be doing. As long as you are building yourself up, you will turn out just fine.

  • What are some things you can buy when you turn 21?

Because you are now an adult, you can pretty much buy anything that you want – a house, a pet, a car, insurance, alcohol… The list is endless. As long as you have the means to pay for it, and it is legal – you can purchase it!


In conclusion, turning 21 years old can be fun and exciting! You finally get to do all the things you have always wanted to do but you weren’t legally ‘allowed’ to do. However, turning 21 also means that you have become a legal adult and as such there are some duties, obligations, and responsibilities that you must fulfill to your City, State, and Country. We hope this article has prepared you on what to expect once you turn 21.





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