Who are the Millennials?
Millenials are all around you. In fact, they are the focal point of your lives. But who are they?
They are your children. They are members of the generation that began to enter college at the Millenium (2000) and they will be entering college in record numbers in coming years, since the high-school graduation class of 2010 will be the largest in U.S. history.
Their name has been coined by two remarkable historians, Neil Howe and William Strauss, whose fascinating book, Generations of American History, set the stage for several books to follow, including their most recent, Millenials Go to College.
In their seminal book, Howe and Strauss posit that, since the American Revolution, each generation of Americans has possessed certain characteristics which have not only been shaped by, but which have also served to greatly influence, the time in which they have lived.
Much, of course, has been written by Tom Brokaw and others about the "greatest generation," the group of people born after the turn of this century through the mid-1920s, who won freedom's greatest victory in WWII, and laid the foundation for the prosperity of the baby-boom generation which most of us are a part of today.
Howe and Strauss have a different name for the "greatest generation." They call it the "silent generation." And while I won't go into all the reasons for this nomenclature, one certainly worth mentioning is how "silent" most members of this generation were about the college preparation, application and financing choices of their children.
My, how times have changed. Or, as Howe and Strauss might put it, my how the generations have changed.
We baby-boomers are "making up" for this silence of our parents' generation by becoming much more involved in the lives of our children, not just at the K-12 level, but even earlier in our shared style of infant and toddler parenting and even later in our fervent desire to have our children attend the institution of higher education that is best for them, and to stay more connected ourselves to our children's college experience.
And our "millennial" children seem to like the attention they are receiving from us, as long as we don't overdo it.
According to Howe and Strauss, millenials as a group are:
- optimistic about the future;
- realistic about the present;
- resilient and hard-working;
- and very much into setting goals and meeting those goals.
Probably rings familiar, doesn't it? There are exceptions, of course, but these are indeed the general characteristics of our children and we, at College Parents of America, are dedicated to helping you to support, in productive and appropriate ways, these millenials in our midst.
Fortunately, according to Howe and Strauss, the millenials' core values of civic duty, confidence, achievement and street smarts, all in the context of being cooperative team players who are accepting of authority, make them a pleasure to know and to serve. As a recent editorial in The New York Times put it, "In some ways, they are as wholesome and as devoid of cynicism as the generation that wore saddle shoes. They trust their government, admire their parents and believe it is possible to start out poor and become rich."
The millenials learning style is, to say the least, very different from the saddle-shoers or the tie-dyed shirt-wearers. They like things fast, and they have to multi-task, IMing, watching TV and talking with their friends on the phone, or with you down the hall, all at the same time.
Yet despite their individualism, millenials want to be part of a team, to work with creative people, to be taught by passionate educators and to be loved by supportive parents. What more could we want and how lucky can we be that the kids we are scrambling to rear through our busy lives are, at the end of the day, welcoming of and thankful for whatever we can do to make their road to college a little bit smoother, their application process for college a little less scary and their transition to college a step they can make with confidence?