Rachel Paige
August 19, 2015 6:52 am

Over the next couple of weeks, brand new freshmen are going to flood onto college campuses. They’re the class of 2019, and most of them are between the ages of 17-18. This means they were born between the years of 1997, maaaybe 1998. In other words, this group of incoming freshmen live in a world where the movie Titanic has always been an iconic best picture winner—and not just the upcoming Leo DiCaprio vehicle, or the film from the guy who made The Terminator.

Let that sink in for a second (no pun intended). Every year since 1998, Beloit College has released a “Mindset List” which “[provides] a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall” and highlights things that the incoming class has always known. For starters, this brand new class has always lived in a world where Beloit College’s “Mindset List” has been around.

That’s not all. According to the list — and this is all true — this incoming freshmen class has never heard a brand new song from Notorious B.I.G. on the radio, or seen Princess Diana live on TV, since both of them passed away in 1997. On the other hand, this new class has never known a world without Harry Potter, South Park, or The Lion King on Broadway. All of these things have been around since 1997.

That’s not all. Brand new college students have never licked a postage stamp. Their search engine has always been Google, and maybe they’ve never known the horror of trying to get online via a phone line. And speaking of phones, car phones have always been a thing (even though, back in 1997, they looked like Cher’s phone in Clueless. Also, no one calls them “car phones” anymore. They’re smartphones).

And speaking of even more phones, new freshmen see Wi-Fi as an “entitlement,” meaning that they assume it’s always going to exist wherever they are. BACK IN MY DAY, on my first day of college, I plugged one end of my Ethernet cord into my computer, and the other end into the wall. Freshmen Me hadn’t even even heard of Wi-Fi.

The purpose of this list is to provide a “snapshot” of the incoming class, and assist professors in relating to their brand new students — and clearly it helps. “The message for faculty is: Don’t assume that your old references will always continue to make sense,” Tom McBride, one of the Mindset List’s creators, explained in an email to NBC News.

Don’t let this list make you feel old. That’s not the purpose of it. It’s simply to highlight differences as time goes by. Besides, in 17 years, when newborn babies are enrolling in college as the class of 2037, the list will have already changed 17 more times.

(Image via Warner Bros)

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