a collage witch pictures of four women with birthday candles in the shape of 2024

Special Perspective: When You Only Get 1 Birthday in College 

As a leap year, 2024 adds an extra day to February. But while most people will brush it off as just another day, it’s extra special for a little more than a dozen UA students.

“This year for my 5th birthday I am planning to have one of the biggest birthday celebrations I have ever had!” said sophomore Grace Williams from Austin, Texas. “Not only am I entering my 20s this year, but I am also turning 5 years old. Both of these things feel like such huge milestones for me.” 

Williams is one of 14 currently enrolled University of Alabama students born on Feb. 29. Leaplings, as folks born on this day are sometimes called, make up less than .1% of the global population. Here at UA, they’re even rarer. 

“I have not met anyone in person with my birthday but have seen tons online,” said Gabrielle Chukwu, a news media major from Dothan. 

Most of the leapling students said having this unique birthday is fun. 

“Yes, it is unfortunate when you have to have a fake birthday most years, but I wouldn’t trade my birthday for anything,” said Savanna Gillespie, a sophomore criminal justice major from San Diego.  

Gabrielle Chukwu
Gabrielle Chukwu
Kimberly Hoyle
Kimberly Hoyle
Ke'Asia Dowdell
Ke’Asia Dowdell
Grace Williams
Grace Williams

“It’s never a dull moment being born on leap day,” said Ke’Asia Dowdell, a graduate student from Montgomery pursuing a Master of Public Health. “You are always explaining your birthday to others, hearing the constant jokes about not being your actual age, but you always have a fun fact when asked in class.” 

“Having a leap year birthday is so cool in my opinion,” said Chukwu. “Of course, it’s a little weird not having an actual birthday every year, but when Feb. 29 does finally come around, it makes it feel all the more special.” 

“I think as leaplings we get a special perspective to how fast life events go by,” said Kimberly Hoyle, a Tuscaloosa native and UA Online student studying nursing. 

“Birthdays don’t feel as special or ‘real’ during off years, so when leap day comes there is a want to make it extra special,” she said. “As I get older, it has become a moment to reflect over the last four years.” 

The students also note the drawbacks or annoyances others may not have to worry about. 

“I remember in elementary school on the announcements every kid would get a birthday shoutout when it was their birthday, along with a birthday treat,” said Williams. “So, every time something like this occurred, my mom had to call the school in advance to make sure my birthday didn’t go unnoticed or missed even though it technically didn’t happen that year.” 

“Even now, not all social media sites or websites will recognize my birthday as a real day,” she added. “I can’t even tell you the number of times I have had to enter Feb. 28 as my birthday when signing up for things on a wide variety of different websites.” 

Being at the Capstone for their birthdays adds even more significance to the occasion as it will be the only opportunity for them to experience their real birthday while in college.  
“I will be going all out this year seeing as this one will be my 20th,” said Chukwu. “I plan to have a big party with friends and some family. I never thought of the fact that I would only have one real birthday while in college, but I wouldn’t have it any other way honestly.” 

“It feels odd knowing that I will only get to spend one ‘real’ birthday during my time as a student at Alabama,” said Williams. “I love it here and wish I could have more ‘real’ birthdays in college. But that’s why this year I am making the most of my birthday surrounded by all the people I love here.”