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College Students Today: 6 Traits of Generation Y

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Studies have found—and tenured professors who have been on the job for decades will likely agree—that today’s college students are different than those from previous generations. Not only do many of them expect deluxe dorms and campus cafeterias that offer an abundance of special selections for people with food allergies or personal preferences, moving back home after graduation has become so common it’s almost expected.

Here are 6 other characteristics of today’s young adults, who have been dubbed Generation Y, the Millennial Generation, and even the Internet Generation:

1.“Digital Natives” who have come to expect instant gratification.

Today’s college students, who often take technology for granted because they grew up with it, have been called “digital natives” because they have been using computers and the Internet for most of their lives. The idea of physically going to all of their classes rather than taking half of them online may be a tough pill to swallow. In fact, the thought of actually writing and mailing someone a letter is almost insane for these tech-savvy students, and email is quickly following suit. Inside Higher Ed suggests that texts and Facebook have taken over because smart phones have made it such a quick way to get in touch with someone.

2. Every detail of their lives is documented.

The days of getting film developed and creating photo albums are just about obsolete, but the majority of Millennial college students keep track of nearly everything. They snap photos of potential outfits while shopping to get their friends’ opinions before they make a purchase. They text photos of girls or guys, to ask if their roommate thinks the person is hot or not. Vintage-looking pictures of the meals—and drinks, or course—that they consume are blasted on Facebook and Twitter thanks to Instagram. Whether it is via social media, a personal blog, or text messages, they have no shame in complaining about their professors, roommates, parents, or siblings or even that they are feeling frisky and have no one to hook up with. This over sharing can potentially come back to haunt them, though—when it’s time to work after graduation, employers often snoop on job candidates’ social media profiles to get a better idea of who they are potentially hiring.

3. Multitasking? No problem!

Considering a study conducted by CourseSmart and Wakefield Research found that 38% of the American college students surveyed could not go more than 10 minutes without checking their laptop, smartphone, tablet or eReader, it’s no surprise that today’s college students multitask constantly. It’s nothing for them to watch TV while studying or writing a paper and reply to text messages while tweeting on Twitter—all at the same time.

4. Information is easier to obtain.

Card catalogs have been retired and no one really knows what reference librarians do anymore. For many Millennials, the campus library is a place to sit in peace and quiet with your laptop, not a place to check out books. Members of Generation Y, who wonder how their ever parents survived college without Wikipedia, use the Internet for research yet often have blurry vision when it comes to plagiarizing. The New York Times suggests that many students aren’t aware that copying and pasting information from the Internet without giving credit to the original author is actually a form of cheating. In addition to using technology for research, today’s college students can look up answers to life’s random questions in an instant on their iPhones. What’s the name of that Chinese restaurant over on 5th Street? Google it or check out Yelp, because the Yellow Pages are a thing of the past.

5. Student loan debt for college is customary.

It was not unusual for former generations of college students to work and pay their own way through school without borrowing money. The cost of college has certainly risen over the years, increasing faster than incomes and inflation, but student loan debt is completely common. It’s rare to hear of someone who isn’t saddled with loans for college. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2010 owe an average of $25,520 in student loans. Many of them default on their loans within two years.

6. Growing older is mandatory; growing up is optional.

Although they are aging just as rapidly as the rest of us, some believe that Millennials have been coddled and protected by Mom and Dad for so long—hence the term helicopter parents—that they aren’t able to completely function on their own. In part due to student loan debt and the tough job market yet also because it’s easier and more comforting than struggling on their own, a survey by Twentysomething Inc. found that an astonishing 85% of college students move back home after graduation. Living in your parents’ basement or your childhood bedroom is no longer made fun of; it’s become normal. Many never learned how to drive and have limited experience dealing with their own finances.

Related Posts:

New Research Shows that Today’s College Students Are Studying Less

Generation Me Accurately Describes Some Egocentric College Students

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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