Today’s college freshmen have never lived without Smartphones, emojis

College of the Canyons freshmen Mame Kusi and Kim Mekono, right, read over the Mindset List while sitting in the Honor Grove at COC on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Students entering college this year have grown up in a world where a phone is used for anything except voice communication.  Instead, it is a video game, a direction finder, an electronic telegraph and a research library.

For these students, conversations can be had through emotions, relationships can be found on eHarmony and jobs can be discovered on

These are just some of the facts catalogued on Beloit College’s annual Mindset List for the Class of 2021 that was released Tuesday.

Currently in its 20th year, the Mindset List aims to bridge the gap between generations and acts as a touchstone for teachers to have one-on-one chats and class discussions with students.

“At the most basic level it’s an annual list of what has always or never been true during the 18-year lifetime of entering college students,” said Tom McBride, professor emeritus of English and co-creator of the list.  “It’s a terrific way, a conversational starting way to track change over the past 18 years.”

The 60-item list gives a glimpse into the world view of the incoming freshman class and the pop culture that shaped their lives.

This year’s list is the last for the Millennial Generation, a majority of which were born in 1999 and are currently 18 years old.

It details significant events and elements surrounding technology, the economy, politics and culture like the use of legally-binding electronic signatures and the nostalgia for shows like “Dora the Explorer.”

College of the Canyons freshman Mame Kusi and Kim Mekono, right, read over the Mindset List while sitting in the Honor Grove at COC on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

For College of the Canyons (COC) freshmen Mame Kusi and Kim Mekono, the most shocking list item was that, for them, Donald Trump has always been a political figure as a Democrat, an Independent and a Republican.

“The Donald Trump one was surprising,” Kusi said.  “If he can be president, we can too.”

Freshman Rebba Valle said the list had a lot of unexpected items on it, some of which she didn’t know beforehand.

“There’s always been emojis for us?” Valle said.  “I didn’t know that.  A lot of it was surprising.”

Some students did not take an interest to the items on the list and thought it had no influence on them.

“It seems very silly and dumb,” COC student Ryan Nelson said.

But for others, the list brought back memories of things they cherished as children.

For example, this group of students knows Justin Timberlake as a solo act, has spent a lot of their time searching for Pokémon, saw a Blackberry go from a fruit to a phone and back to a fruit, and taught their grandparents how to use programs like Skype.

“My friends definitely taught their grandparents how to use Skype,” COC freshman Kathlynn Allen said.  “I watched them do that.”

Co-creator of the list Charles Westerberg, a Brannon-Ballard professor of sociology, noted that this group of students sees themselves as consumers in college because they borrowed money from parents or the government to be there.

“Members of this class have generally borrowed a lot of money to go to college, so expect them to think of themselves as consumers and not just as students,” Westerberg said in a statement.  “And they will also be concerned not just with what they need to learn but also who they are and to what group they genuinely belong.”

According to the Mindset List creators, the list is meant to act as a starting point for conversations between generations and between students and teachers, not a complete reflection or a statement of judgment of the class as a whole.

“In truth, the list is not really about 18-year-olds nor is it really about old [people] like us; it’s about how we can come together to talk about interesting cultural phenomena and share our experiences and perspectives,” Westerberg said.  “It’s the conversation started by the Mindset List that is the true purpose of doing it every year.”

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2021

  1. Their classmates could include Eddie Murphy’s Zola and Mel Gibson’s Tommy, or Jackie Evancho singing down the hall!
  2. They are the last class to be born in the 1900s, the last of the Millennials — enter next year, on cue, Generation Z!
  3. They are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, and research library.
  4. Electronic signatures have always been as legally binding as the pen-on-paper kind.
  5. In college, they will often think of themselves as consumers, who’ve borrowed a lot of money to be there.
  6. eHarmonyhas always offered an algorithm for happiness.
  7. Peanutscomic strips have always been repeats.
  8. They have largely grown up in a floppy-less world.
  9. They have never found Mutual Broadcasting or Westinghouse Group W on the radio dial, but XM has always offered radio programming for a fee.
  10. There have always been emojis to cheer us up.
  11. The Panama Canal has always belonged to Panama and Macau has been part of China.
  12. It is doubtful that they have ever used or heard the high-pitched whine of a dial-up modem.
  13. They were never able to use a Montgomery Ward catalogue as a booster seat.
  14. Donald Trump has always been a political figure, as a Democrat, an Independent, and a Republican.
  15. Zappos has always meant shoes on the Internet.
  16. They are the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.
  17. Amazon has always invited consumers to follow the arrow from A to Z.
  18. Their folks have always been able to get reward points by paying their taxes to the IRS on plastic.
  19. In their lifetimes, Blackberryhas gone from being a wild fruit to being a communications device to becoming a wild fruit again.
  20. They have always been searching for Pokemon.
  21. They may choose to submit a listiclein lieu of an admissions essay.
  22. Dora the Explorerand her pet monkey Boots helped to set them on the course of discovery.
  23. The seat of Germany’s government has always been back in Berlin.
  24. Jet Blue has always been a favorite travel option but the Concorde has been permanently grounded.
  25. By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.
  26. There has never been a Coliseum in New York, but there has always been a London Eye on the Thames.
  27. Once on campus, they will find that college syllabi, replete with policies about disability, non-discrimination, and learning goals, might be longer than some of their reading assignments.
  28. As toddlers they may have dined on some of that canned food hoarded in case of Y2K.
  29. An ophthalmologist named Bashar al-Assad has always provided vision for the Syrian military.
  30. Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it.
  31. S. Supreme Court decisions have always been available at its website.
  32. Globalization has always been both a powerful fact of life and a source of incessant protest.
  33. One out of four major league baseball players has always been born outside the United States.
  34. Carl Sagan has always had his own crater on Mars.
  35. A movie scene longer than two minutes has always seemed like an eternity.
  36. The Latin music industry has always had its own Grammy Awards.
  37. Ketchup has always come in green.
  38. They have only seen a Checker Cab in a museum.
  39. Men have always shared a romantic smooch on television.
  40. They never got to see Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Stein co-host a quiz show or Dennis Miller provide commentary for the NFL.
  41. As toddlers, they may have taught their grandparents how to Skype.
  42. The image of Sacagawea has always adorned the dollar coin, if you can find one.
  43. Having another child has always been a way to secure matching tissue to heal an older sibling.
  44. There have always been Latino players on the ice in the NHL.
  45. Napster has always been evolving.
  46. Nolan Ryan has always worn his Texas Rangers cap in Cooperstown, while Steve Young and Dan Marino have always been watching football from the sidelines.
  47. The BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American.
  48. There has never been a sanctioned Texas A&M bonfire.
  49. There has always been a Monster in their corner when looking for a job.
  50. Wikipedia has steadily gained acceptance by their teachers.
  51. Justin Timberlake has always been a solo act.
  52. S. professional baseball teams have always played in Cuba.
  53. Barbie and American Girl have always been sisters at Mattel.
  54. Family Guyis the successor to the Father Knows Best they never knew.
  55. Motorola and Nokia have always been incredibly shrinking giants.
  56. Melissa has always been too nice a name to be attached to a computer macro virus.
  57. The Mars Polar Lander has always been lost.
  58. Women have always scaled both sides of Everest and rowed across the Atlantic.
  59. Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton’s aging husband.
  60. Paleontologists have always imagined dinosaurs with colorful plumage.

[email protected]
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS