College "Education"

August 22, 2008 ( - Those kids many parents are sending off to college for the first time this month - are a diverse, internet-savvy and privacy-free group of nearly two million.

Researchers say that this Class of 2012 has been assured many times that being the children of baby boomers has made this past year the most competitive for those (almost) willing to sell their souls for admission to the school of their dreams.

For the past eleven years, Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin has released an annual report , cataloguing the conditions in which their newly matriculating students were raised and humorously (if painfully) comparing them to those of previous generations. Initially meant to be a “witty way of saying, ‘watch your references,” authors Tom McBride and Ron Nief created a “globally reported and utilized guide to the intelligent but unprepared adolescent consciousness.” For some, their web site’s promise that the list was “not deliberately designed to make readers feel really old!” might feel like a warning, but for many the list will provide an excuse for nostalgia and a new way to connect with their almost-grown-up children who will soon be heading off in search of higher education.

This year’s college freshmen will overflow from their campuses, some moved to apartments and even school-rented hotel rooms, and many packed in with three people in a dorm room optimistically designed for two. They are already acquainted with their future roommates, having found each other on Facebook to discuss necessities – who should bring the fridge? – and look for clues to see how well they might get along, taking advantage of easy access to religious and political leanings, favorite books and movies, musical tastes and even personality quirks.

They have always carried bottled water – moving from cancer-scary Nalgenes to recyclable “green” bottles made of annoyingly thin plastic – and take email, cell phones and Wi-Fi for granted. Even though the so-called “Mindset List” highlights how different life is now from how it was eighteen years ago, it links the past and present and, surprisingly enough, reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

– Sara Kelly

  • Students entering college for the first time this fall were generally born in 1990.
  • For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.
  • Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
  • Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
  • They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
  • GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  • Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
  • Shampoo and conditioner have always been available in the same bottle.
  • Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
  • Their parents may have dropped them in shock when they heard George Bush announce "tax revenue increases."
  • Electronic filing of tax returns has always been an option.
  • Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.
  • All have had a relative--or known about a friend's relative--who died comfortably at home with Hospice.
  • As a precursor to "whatever," they have recognized that some people "just don't get it."
  • Universal Studios has always offered an alternative to Mickey in Orlando.
  • Grandma has always had wheels on her walker.
  • Martha Stewart Living has always been setting the style.
  • Haagen-Dazs ice cream has always come in quarts.
  • Club Med resorts have always been places to take the whole family.
  • WWW has never stood for World Wide Wrestling.
  • Films have never been X rated, only NC-17.
  • The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
  • Students have always been "Rocking the Vote."
  • Clarence Thomas has always sat on the Supreme Court.
  • Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.
  • We have always known that "All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."
  • There have always been gay rabbis.
  • Wayne Newton has never had a mustache.
  • College grads have always been able to Teach for America.
  • IBM has never made typewriters.
  • Roseanne Barr has never been invited to sing the National Anthem again.
  • McDonald's and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.
  • They have never been able to color a tree using a raw umber Crayola.
  • There has always been Pearl Jam.
  • The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.
  • Pee-Wee has never been in his playhouse during the day.
  • They never tasted Benefit Cereal with psyllium.
  • They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
  • Authorities have always been building a wall across the Mexican border.
  • Lenin's name has never been on a major city in Russia.
  • Employers have always been able to do credit checks on employees.
  • Balsamic vinegar has always been available in the U.S.
  • Macaulay Culkin has always been Home Alone.
  • Their parents may have watched The American Gladiators on TV the day they were born.
  • Personal privacy has always been threatened.
  • Caller ID has always been available on phones.
  • Living wills have always been asked for at hospital check-ins.
  • The Green Bay Packers (almost) always had the same starting quarterback.
  • They never heard an attendant ask "Want me to check under the hood?"
  • Iced tea has always come in cans and bottles.
  • Soft drink refills have always been free.
  • They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about "nothing."
  • Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
  • Muscovites have always been able to buy Big Macs.
  • The Royal New Zealand Navy has never been permitted a daily ration of rum.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope has always been eavesdropping on the heavens.
  • 98.6 F or otherwise has always been confirmed in the ear.
  • Michael Millken has always been a philanthropist promoting prostate cancer research.
  • Off-shore oil drilling in the United States has always been prohibited.
  • Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.
  • There have always been charter schools.
  • Students always had Goosebumps.