This paper offers an interpretation of the role of emotions in understanding the transitions that young people make to university. I draw on qualitative research with a group of non‐traditional students, entering elite universities, to argue that youth transitions are emotional as well instrumental affairs. I argue that choice‐making processes incorporate both trust in, and fear of, the transitions infrastructure, and that these emotions infuse more instrumental judgements about the economic benefits of higher education. I also demonstrate that emotional aspects of class – including feelings of entitlement to education and the rejection of normative student identities – constitute the experience of ‘being’ or ‘doing’ a student. A broader understanding of how young people become university students then depends not just on developing a new identity but on the complex interaction between emotion and infrastructure.
- youth transitions