The Class of 2019, though only a few years younger than the rest of the student body, grew up differently than many students before it. Born around 1995, the new freshman class is missing out on several of the key events that distinguish the older millennials’ childhoods, and signals the end of a generation.
Incoming freshmen can’t remember a different world than their own. The Columbine Massacre took place when they were 3 years old. They were in pre-K during the events of Sept. 11. They were fourth-graders when the housing bubble burst. While older millennials can recall the switch from optimism to stoicism, the youngest of the generation have shouldered these problems since early childhood.
In a 2012 study by J. Walter Thomas (JWT) Intelligence, 79 percent of younger millennials claimed to be worried about whether there will be decent jobs available for them after graduation. Sixty-six percent were still concerned with how their parents are functioning in the current economy, and 61 percent found themselves fretting over the state Earth will be in when they enter adulthood.
Fear and anxiety have plagued this generation their entire lives and have molded them into the career-minded, world focused individuals they are today.
At least, for a moment, older millennials lived in a carefree bubble. They faced a plethora of technological advancements in a short period of time in their formative years.
Millennials grew up in classrooms with chalkboards instead of Smart Boards. Playing outside was considered the norm, and indoor activities were saved for a rainy day. As technology advanced, so did their interests.
They embraced the creation of Game Boy and PlayStation and bore witness to the transition from VHS to DVD. For many, this brisk evolution caused childhood to seem extended. They developed in the age of transition and have become the generation of nostalgia.
However, this reminiscent lifestyle could be considered a blessing. Millennials grew up with Bill Nye and “Rugrats,” Britney Spears and Boyz II Men, Furby and Pokemon. They matured with Harry Potter, Magic Tree House, and Goosebumps. While many of those trends are staying where they belong — in the ‘90s — others have recently been making a comeback. Katy Perry rocked a duet with Missy Elliot at this year’s Super Bowl, Universal Studios just opened a new Harry Potter World expansion, and certain fashion trends like chokers and platform shoes are once again making an appearance.
While it seems that some childhood memories are here to stay, it is important to remember there is an abundance of new trends arriving. Social media is forever redefining the definition of what is current, and the nearly instant gratification provided by such services as Amazon and Spotify has made adapting quite easy.
It is time to put nostalgia on the shelf and welcome the new generation to college life. Though the age gap is small, the cultural differences are abundant. As the Class of 2019 and future freshmen continue to come to campus in future years, it is important to appreciate the cultural shift away from the ‘90s kids who grew up with cell phones as a luxury, toward the youngest millennials who have always had an iPhone and might not have had the delight of playing Snake on a flip phone.
By finding a way to blend the optimistic nostalgia of older millennials with the eagerness of the younger class, we stand a chance at creating the perfect setting for causing real world change. Class of 2019, the floor is yours.