Happy Mindset List Day, y’all!
For the unindoctrinated, welcome. The Beloit College Mindset List is a list compiled at Beloit College of universal truths for the group that they believe to be the incoming class for that year. It includes celebrities who have always been dead, information on world leaders they may have never known of outside of a history book, and other assorted popular culture tidbits.
I used to await this day like…well, not the way some await Christmas (that’s the Oscars for me), but maybe more like some await a package in the mail. But when I really think about why I had that level of excitement, it wasn’t really for the implications I expected it to have on my practice as a student affairs staff member. It’s highly unlikely that I would use this list as a way to relate to students. So why would I get so excited? I realized it was for an altogether non-professional reason: I like trivia. And that’s what this list is.
The Beloit College Mindset List is less about the ability we could have to reach our students, and more about the ability to do math. “[Present year] – 18 = [Year of their birth]. What cool trivia could we dig up to make their advisors, mentors, and instructors feel their age a little bit?” could very well be the formula by which these lists are constructed.
But for many of us, this is not the mindset that many of our students are coming in with.
On my campus, we can literally identify the number of students outside this age range on one finger; that is not the norm on the majority of campuses I’ve been on. We aren’t the tradition anymore, we’re the exception. For those of us who ardently fight the “traditionally aged” model of college students as 18-22, this is not the mindset.
The flattening of our globe means that more and more students are coming in with international influences, either with parents who are not American (I fall into this cohort) or are not American themselves. This is not their mindset.
And the nature of our world is such that our students are coming to us less sheltered, more burdened, and with decreasing attention to these sorts of trivial tidbits in favor of bigger issues like mental health concerns, familial burdens, or even returning from war or the armed forces. This is not their mindset.
So what could we call this list, if this is not the mindset for so many?
We could call it the Subset List. Yes, this is going to be the experience that some of our students enter our gates with. But despite the strong language used in the list itself (“They have always been able to plug into USB ports”, “Gaga has never been baby talk.”), it’s not going to be the experience of all of our students, even those that fit within the age range listed.
Or maybe the Set in Their Ways List, to call to attention the old guard that such a list represents. “Those young kids, they’re all the same!”, they might say. To this group, the entirety of our incoming classes can be shoved into a tidily packed box, labeled “2017”, and shipped four years into the future where they will all climb out, ready for the world ahead in 2021 (whoa). But I think we all know that the route will not be so smooth for many. Some will have to climb out of the box early, some will be re-routed on the trip, some will stay in there for a year or two more, and still others will be returned to sender.
Or maybe we accept this lost for what it is: not representative of our campus populations, not fodder for student development, but trivia. Use it as a springboard for what could be called the Reset List. Use this list as a jumping off point to create a new list, one for your campus. What experiences, values, and traditions will be true for your class at your institution?
Enjoy the Mindset List for what it is, not what it represents or what it should be. It may not be the representative document so many have come to treat it as, but it can still have some merit. It’s all about the (wait for it) mindset with which you choose to explore it.