Meet your new freshmen: They have never lived without smartphones

Kristin Tyndall, editorKristin Tyndall, editor

As students return, so does the Beloit College Mindset List.

The list includes a variety of cultural, historical, and political facts from the past 18 years—the traditional age of a college freshman. The goal is to help faculty and administrators bridge generational gaps and communicate better with incoming students.

The authors of the lists say they serve as a reminder that your historical references won't always make sense to students. They add that the lists can also be useful as icebreakers, class discussions, and reflection essays. This could easily be adapted for the office as a teambuilding activity—look up the Mindset lists for each of the years your team members went to college, or let each person write a short list of their own, or ask everyone to discuss this year's list and how it might influence your interactions with this year's students.

From last year's list: They'll always disagree with their parents about which was the "first" Star Wars episode

This year's list is likely to make you feel old from the very first item: "Their classmates could include Eddie Murphy’s Zola and Mel Gibson's Tommy, or Jackie Evancho singing down the hall." I had to look up Zola, Tommy, and Jackie, which just goes to show you how lucky we are to have Wikipedia for interpreting the inscrutable references of "kids these days."

A few other list items that struck me this year:

  • "They are the first generation for whom a 'phone' has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, and research library;"
  • "It is doubtful that they have ever used or heard the high-pitched whine of a dial-up modem;"
  • "By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops;"
  • "Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it;"
  • "Justin Timberlake has always been a solo act;"
  • "Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton’s aging husband."

See the full list of 60 items here.

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Vanderbilt University Professor Robert Scherrer wrote his own entertaining list to help incoming students understand the perspective of a "typical 50-something professor," including:

  • "There was only one computer on campus. It was called 'the computer;'"
  • "There was only one phone company. It was called 'the phone company;'"
  • "A student who was not in their room was impossible to reach on the phone;"
  • "Students wrote papers on a mechanical word processor called a typewriter. At the end of every line, a bell would ring, signaling the student to slap the carriage holding the paper until it returned to the beginning of the line;"
  • "High-tech students owned electric typewriters. They could perform a carriage return with the press of a key."

We'd love to hear from readers about items that you would write on your own Mindset List! Tweet us @EAB_Daily or email us at If we get enough responses, we'll publish a few of them soon.

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