What’s Shaped the Mindset of Today’s College Freshmen?

It’s August, and school is back in session for most students.

That means it’s time for my annual encouragement for leaders to take a look at the mindset of this year’s entering college freshmen, the class of 2017 – courtesy of Beloit College.

courtesy of warningsignshirts.com

courtesy of warningsignshirts.com

Each August since 1998, Beloit College has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall.

Prepared by Beloit’s former Public Affairs Director Ron Nief and Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride, the list was originally created as a reminder to faculty to be aware of dated references. It quickly became an internationally monitored catalog of the changing worldview of each new college generation.

Leaders – of all ages – need to understand what has shaped the lives of today’s entering college freshman class, those 18 year olds who:

  • Use smart phones in class to indicate they are reading the assignment they should have read last night, or they may be recording every minute of their college experience…or they may be texting the person next to them.
  • Though they have never had the chicken pox, they are glad to have access to health insurance for a few more years.
  • Will search for the academic majors reported to lead to good-paying jobs, and most of them will take a few courses taught at a distant university by a professor they will never meet.

When the Class of 2017 arrives on campus this fall, these digital natives will already be well-connected to each other. They are more likely to have borrowed money for college than their Boomer parents were, and while their parents foresee four years of school, the students are pretty sure it will be longer than that.  If they are admirers of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, they may wonder whether a college degree is all it’s cracked up to be, even as their dreams are tempered by the reality that tech geniuses come along about as often as Halley’s Comet, which they will not glimpse until they reach what we currently consider “retirement age.”

They will study hard, learn a good deal more, teach their professors quite a lot, and realize eventually that they will soon be in power. After all, by the time they hit their thirties, four out of ten voters will be of their generation. Whatever their employers may think of them, politicians will be paying close attention.

You need to read the whole list here, but these are my Top Ten:

  • They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.
  • Having a chat has seldom involved talking.
  • Their TV screens keep getting smaller as their parents’ screens grow ever larger.
  • With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address.
  • Their favorite feature films have always been largely, if not totally, computer generated.
  • Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.
  • They could always get rid of their outdated toys on eBay.
  • Plasma has never been just a bodily fluid.
  • Olympic fever has always erupted every two years.
  • They have known only two presidents.

The List was compiled to identify both the common ground that teachers and students share, and the mine fields of misunderstanding that seem to grow wider with every forgotten reference to the Berlin Wall or Monica Lewinsky.

Enjoy!

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