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.
The class of 2016 was born the year of the professional baseball strike and the last year for NFL football in Los Angeles. They have spent much of their lives helping their parents understand that you do not take pictures on “film” and that CDs and DVDs are not “tapes.”
Members of this year’s freshman class, most born in 1994, are probably the most tribal generation in history—they despise being out of contact with friends. They prefer watching television everywhere except on a television, have seen a woman lead the U.S. State Department for most of their lives, and can carry schoolbooks–those not on their e-Readers–in backpacks that roll.
For this generation of students entering college, Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Richard Nixon have always been dead. Also on the list:
1. They should keep their eyes open for Justin Bieber or Dakota Fanning at freshman orientation.
2. They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.”
3. Most of them are unfamiliar with the Biblical sources of phrases such as “forbidden fruit,” “the writing on the wall,” “good Samaritan” and “the promised land.”
4. Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty.”
5. If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube.
6. Their lives have been measured in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds.
7. Robert De Niro? That’s Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.
8. Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.
9. On TV and in films, the ditzy dumb blonde female generally has been replaced by a couple of Dumb and Dumber males.
10. The paradox “too big to fail” has been, for their generation, what “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” was for their grandparents’.
11. For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.
12. They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it.
13. Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all.
14. Since they’ve been born, the U.S. has measured progress by a 2% jump in unemployment and a 16-cent rise in the price of a first-class postage stamp.
15. Benjamin Braddock, from the movie, “The Graduate,” having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.
16. Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.
17. The Green Bay Packers have always celebrated with the Lambeau Leap.
18. Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe fail.
19. The Real World has always stopped being polite and started getting real on MTV.
20. Women have always piloted war planes and space shuttles.
21. They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous.
22. Having made the acquaintance of Furby at an early age, they have expected their toy friends to do ever more unpredictable things.
23. Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail-mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smartphone screens.
25. They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as “tapes.”
26. There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.