BELOIT, Wis. — 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. Members of this year’s first-year class, most of them born in 1995, 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.
The use of smart phones in class may 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. 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.”
Though they have never had the chicken pox, they are glad to have access to health insurance for a few more years. 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 30s, four out of ten voters will be of their generation. Whatever their employers may think of them, politicians will be paying close attention.
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. Mindset List websites at themindsetlist.com and beloit.edu, as well as the Mediasite webcast and their Facebook page receive more than a million visits annually.
The Mindset List for the Class of 2017
For this generation of entering college students, born in 1995, Dean Martin, Mickey Mantle and Jerry Garcia have always been dead.
1. Eminem and LL Cool J could show up at parents’ weekend.
2. They are the sharing generation, having shown tendencies to share everything, including possessions, no matter how personal.
3. GM means food that is Genetically Modified.
4. As they started to crawl, so did the news across the bottom of the television screen.
5. “Dude” has never had a negative tone.
6. As their parents held them as infants, they may have wondered whether it was the baby or Windows 95 that had them more excited.
7. As kids, they may well have seen Chicken Run, but probably never got chicken pox.
8. Having a chat has seldom involved talking.
9. Gaga has never been baby talk.
10. They could always get rid of their outdated toys on eBay.
11. They have known only two presidents.
12. Their TV screens keep getting smaller as their parents’ screens grow ever larger.
13. PayPal has replaced a pen pal as a best friend online.
14. Rites of passage have more to do with having their own cell phone and Skype accounts than with getting a driver’s license and car.
15. The U.S. has always been trying to figure out which side to back in Middle East conflicts.
16. A tablet is no longer something you take in the morning.
17. Threatening to shut down the government during federal budget negotiations has always been an anticipated tactic.
18. Growing up with the family dog, one of them has worn an electronic collar, while the other has toted an electronic lifeline.
19. Plasma has never been just a bodily fluid.
20. The Pentagon and Congress have always been shocked, absolutely shocked, by reports of sexual harassment and assault in the military.
21. Spray paint has never been legally sold in Chicago.
22. Captain Janeway has always taken the USS Voyager where no woman or man has ever gone before.
23. While they’ve grown up with a World Trade Organization, they have never known an Interstate Commerce Commission.
24. Courts have always been ordering computer network wiretaps.
25. Planes have never landed at Stapleton Airport in Denver.
26. Jurassic Park has always had rides and snack bars, not free-range triceratops and velociraptors.
27. Thanks to Megan’s Law and Amber Alerts, parents have always had community support in keeping children safe.
28. With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address.
29. Java has never been just a cup of coffee.
30. Americans and Russians have always cooperated better in orbit than on Earth.
From the Aug. 21-27, 2013, issue