How College Freshmen Think

It’s that time of year again. Fall marks the release of the Beloit College mindset list. It’s an annual list of things about today’s college freshman, who are really technologically and culturally different from the rest of us. Because we are super old.

These kids were born in 1997, in the second half of the Clinton administration. Among the big revelations from this year:

Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa were never alive in their lifetimes.

They have never licked a postage stamp.

Email has become the new “formal” communication, while texts and tweets remain enclaves for the casual.

The Airport in Washington, D.C., has always been Reagan National Airport.

Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate change.

Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online.


In addition, the authors point out, for this years class medical marijuana has always been something developing policy wise in this country, rather than a strangely prohibited substance that many people regularly used.

This serves as an annual reminder of how society is aging. I know all of these things, of course, but it’s surprising to realize just how long ago all of this all happened. We have actual adults alive now who grew up in a world in which the Houston Oilers were never a thing.

Someone I know recently wrote something about dinner she had with a 20-year-old. She was surprised to realize, when talking about Nirvana, that the reaction of the young person was that the name of the lead singer sounded familiar: “wasn’t he married to Courtney Love?”

Yeah, he sure was. Love has now been a widow for 21 years. That’s almost as long as Kurt Cobain was actually alive.

The first Mindset List came out in 1998, for the college class of 2002, my class. That year readers were informed that for incoming freshmen “Bottle caps have not always been screw off, but have always been plastic.” and “They do not care who shot J.R. and have no idea who J.R. is.” Furthermore, “they can’t imagine what hard contact lenses are.”

But then, we did grow up listening to Nirvana. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer