Each fall, Beloit College provides an insightful overview of the incoming class of college freshmen. As the years fly by, it is easy to forget the unique worldview and history that shapes our students. A review of this list is a helpful read for all of us who will be interacting with this class in the year ahead.
I have edited Beloit’s list to 30 items. The original list can be accessed at the link at the end of this post.
Students heading into their first year of college this year are mostly 18 and were born in 1997.
Among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.
Joining them in the world the year they were born were Dolly the sheep, The McCaughey septuplets, and Michael “Prince” Jackson Jr.
Since they have been on the planet:
- Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.
- Google has always been there, in its founding words, “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.”
- They have never licked a postage stamp.
- Email has become the new “formal” communication, while texts and tweets remain enclaves for the casual.
- Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.
- They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.
- The announcement of someone being the “first woman” to hold a position has only impressed their parents.
- Color photos have always adorned the front page of The New York Times.
- “No means no” has always been morphing, slowly, into “only yes means yes.”
- Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.
- Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off it.
- If you say “around the turn of the century,” they may well ask you, “which one?”
- They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.
- Phish Food has always been available from Ben and Jerry.
- Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate change.
- When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their large phones, usually in cars, for emergencies.
- The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.
- Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online.
- Surgeons have always used “super glue” in the operating room.
- Fifteen nations have always been constructing the International Space Station.
- The Lion King has always been on Broadway.
- CNN has always been available en Español.
- Splenda has always been a sweet option in the U.S.
- Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have always been members of NATO.
- Humans have always had implanted radio frequency ID chips—slightly larger than a grain of rice.
- TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.
- Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith have always been Men in Black, not their next-door neighbors.
- They had no idea how fortunate they were to enjoy the final four years of Federal budget surpluses.
- Vote-by-mail has always been the official way to vote in Oregon.
- The proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.
This freshman class belongs to a group called Generation Z. If you are interested in learning more about this generation you can check out this interesting infographic.
Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: email@example.com