The Mindset List

Marist College releases annual list of what freshmen know (and what they don’t know).

September 8, 2022
A collage of headshots of students of various genders and races.
(Marist College)

LeBron James and Hillary Clinton are important figures to incoming first-year college students, according to the latest mindset list released by Marist College.

The list is designed to help those in academe adjust their perspective to that of the new freshmen. Marist took over the annual project from Beloit College in 2019. The Marist list is prepared by Tommy Zurhellen, associate professor of English; Vanessa Lynn, assistant professor of criminal justice; and Joyce Yu-Jean Lee, assistant professor of art and digital media.

Their list said the Class of 2026 “is exploring” a range of disciplines. They follow, verbatim.

Sports communication: The Class of 2026 has always known LeBron James as the most recognizable sports icon on the planet. LeBron James entered the NBA in 2003, and in 2004, the year many of the Class of 2026 were born, his jersey topped the best-seller list for the first time; in 2022, James’s jersey still tops the list.

Political science: For incoming students, Hillary Clinton has always had a more significant role in American politics than Bill Clinton. Although older Americans may think of Hillary Clinton as primarily first lady from the 1990s, incoming students born in 2004 only know her as a United States senator, secretary of state and contemporary presidential candidate.

Computer science: Created in 2004, Facebook has been active for the entire lives of the Class of 2026. Although Facebook is only 18 years old, many incoming students already see the social media platform as outdated, preferring newer platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

Ethics: Incoming students are the first generation in 50 years who must include their own reproductive rights as part of their overall college decision. The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will affect so many decisions for young women, who currently make up 59 percent of college students in America.

Global studies: The Class of 2026 will be the first since the “duck and cover” generation of the Cold War to live with the real possibility of world war and global conflict. The Russian invasion of Ukraine echoes the experiences of growing up during the Cold War, but today’s digital technology makes the images of war much more visceral.

Environmental science: The debate on climate change is over. Incoming students are now the first generation faced with the omnipresent reality to actually effect change to combat global warming. Greta Thunberg has set the stage for youth activism; now, incoming students are part of a new generation increasingly demanding legal reforms to improve future generations’ lives.

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Diversity, equity and inclusion: The Class of 2026 is the first cohort in recent memory for whom knowledge about a diverse country and world is actually regressing. Thirty-five states have recently introduced and/or passed legislation to either ban or censor teaching about race, sexual orientation, gender identity and American history in schools.

Public health: Incoming students are still recovering from the mental health impact of COVID and COVID fatigue. Mental health has been an issue for some time, but the Class of 2026 is still recovering from the effects of the pandemic on their mental health.

Education: The Class of 2026 is the first to realistically see the possibility of canceling or reducing student debt. The Biden administration has publicly announced its determination to tackle the rise of crippling student debt. Will they get results?

Fashion: Incoming students are aware of fashion sustainability, but nevertheless social media and influencer culture draw them to cheaper and faster options from online retailers. Students have a better understanding of sustainability than previous generations, but their consumer choices do not reflect a strong commitment to protecting the environment.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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