What's the Mindset of the Class of 2016?

For this fall's entering college freshmen, digital textbooks are the norm and Robert De Niro is a Focker, not a Corleone.

How much do cultural and technological shifts affect the mindset of college students? According to the annual Beloit College Mindset List, faculty would do well to keep in mind how dated cultural references and "the changing worldview of each new college generation," impacts the learning experience. With the class of 2016 arriving on campuses over the next few weeks, faculty and administrators will soon find out what it's like to interact with a crop of freshman who've never known a world without the internet and are concerned about whether a college degree is worth the money.

Some of the list is lighthearted. Today's college freshmen, most of whom were born in 1994, see Robert De Niro "as Greg Focker's long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway." These students also have no real memories of a Clinton presidency, have always seen women pilot space shuttles, and are used to getting their news from The Daily Show.

They also expect mom and dad to peruse their selected school's online viewbook, and check campus crime stats. They've never seen their parents plunk down the cash for a hardback set of encyclopedias, and instead of merely buying a new or used copy of an assigned textbook, they're more likely to "investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book." Some of them probably know how to illegally download that digital textbook from a bit torrent site, too.

Professors who get annoyed by all the texting and Facebook updating going on during class should know that these students are "probably the most tribal generation in history and they despise being separated from contact with friends." College radio stations will also have to figure out how to attract students who prefer listening to an iPod full of downloaded music over shuffling through the radio dial. An unfortunate downside for this earbuds-always-on generation is that a fourth of entering freshman have hearing loss. If this is a trend that continues, perhaps one of the changes coming to campus will be outfitting professors with mics so that students can actually hear what they're saying.

Given the rapid pace of change in our society, it's hard to imagine what will be on the Mindset List for the class of 2026. But, if you have thoughts on the list for the class of 2016 or ideas for what trends will affect the class of 2017, Beloit wants your feedback.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Elmira College