If everyone adhered perfectly to the law, the age at which every person would have their first drink of alcohol — in the United States, at least — would be 21. As a college student, though, you know very well that doesn’t happen. The college drinking culture is real, and many students engage in it far before they turn 21. In fact, many of them partake while still in high school and see college as a chance to simply do it more often now that they don’t live with their parents.

While every study may give you slightly different results simply based on those surveyed, some have claimed that boys typically have their first drink by age 11, on average. That study said that the age was a bit higher for girls, but not much: just 13.

In this light, waiting even until college is surprising. At 11 and 13, most children are still in middle school.

Of course, not all young people who simply try alcohol get arrested or even get caught. It makes it a bit hard to calculate without official records. Someone who has a sip of their father’s beer at age 12 would count that as the first time they tried alcohol, though they hardly drank anything on their own.

What this really shows you, though, is why college has such a dominant drinking culture. It ramps up over time. By the time they turn 21, the average young man has been drinking, to one degree or another, for a decade. It feels natural and normal — until they get arrested.

If you do face some serious legal charges that could impact your education and your future, make sure you know what legal defense options you have.

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