Archive for August 2012

A Meeting of the Mindsets: Real Students vs. The Beloit Mindset List

Inspired by a 2009 blog post from SUNY Oswego’s Tim Nekritz and the hilarious #fakebeloitmindlist Twitter hashtag initiated by same.

Just in time for back-to-school, the annual Beloit College Mindset List was published on Tuesday, providing quick-and-dirty insights into the minds of today’s college-bound 18-year-olds. For instance, did you know that the Class of 2016 is younger than you? Shocking, I know.

To me this list has always been a weird combination of sure-it’s-true-but-what-the-heck-does-it-have-to-do-with-anything facts (“There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.”) and whose-ass-did-they-pull-that-out-of overgeneralizations (“They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of ‘electronic narcotics.’”) As a fun, informal glimpse into the world of people born in 1994, the list is mostly harmless I suppose. However, if you do a Google News search for Beloit Mindset List, you’ll find more than 600 media references to the list as an arbiter of freshman knowledge and tastes, with everyone from the Christian Science Monitor to eCampus.com getting in on the act. (The infographic from eCampus.com is particularly … infographical. In that it contains both information and graphics.)

This year, the authors of the Mindset List even offered a webinar to help struggling old fogeys “understand the mindset of today’s modern student.” Well as luck would have it, on the same day the list was published, I had another opportunity to understand today’s students: I attended a meet-and-greet reception for our new EcoReps students at the University of Rochester. These are the incoming freshman who work with their fellow classmates on issues of environmental sustainability in the dorms. And I discovered something fascinating: these students are people. We can talk to them. And if you work on a college campus, they are everywhere. I’m telling you, this place is lousy with them.

So what did I learn from my conversation with about 10 actual students? Here are a few insights, provided in a convenient and popular list format:

  1. They all say they hate Facebook, but that they still use it. Primarily for groups. (Hey, look! Something I have in common with the youth of today!)
  2. Most of them admitted to lurking rather than actively participating in their “Class of” Facebook group because occasionally someone will ask a good question. But “it’s always the same people posting all the time,” was an agreed-upon complaint.
  3. Only one of them was on Twitter. She was also on Instagram, and said these two have basically replaced Facebook for her as the way she communicates with her social circle. The students who weren’t on Twitter seemed to agree that the reason they weren’t was because they didn’t really have any idea what they would say on Twitter.
  4. They all agreed that they wished they got more information about their fall courses online earlier. “I wish the syllabus was available already; I just want to get started!” got enthusiastic nods.
What does any of this say about the mindset of a generation? Nothing. I just love the opportunities I get to talk to our students. I have to seek those opportunities out more proactively in my job as a Web developer and editor in a central communications office, but I am always impressed and happy when I do. And you won’t get that from no list.
–lori.