As a college professor, what is the major difference between 1997, 2007, and 2017 college freshmen?

I started teaching 100-level courses as an adjunct in 1997 at a four-year college — so, yes, freshmen, per your question. By 2007, I was in a community college — so freshmen and sophomores. Now I’m in a four-year college but only had one 100-level class in the past year. I’ve also advised lots of students, from freshmen to seniors.

Twenty and 10 years ago, the students were about the same but social media, helicopter parenting and PC culture really has done a number on new freshman, in comparison.

They are no less smart or diligent than previous generations. They are as flexible and their etiquette is fine.

But holy cow — put the phone down! They are under the false impression that the smartphone and their personal lives being continually broadcast are important. Enough. Hunker down with some books and newspapers. Breathe. Leave your past life in the past. Enjoy now.

I’m worried about the damage these devices are causing; not to seem like a fuddy duddy. I’m on a device now.

My thought is, though, going to college should be a new start — but the phone carries all their hometown baggage, with past friends and family constantly in their heads. It’s harder to make NEW friends with the past always present.


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