The Class of 2016

Why “The Mindset List” Drives Me Crazy

Class of 2016 Mindset List Released (August 21, 2012)

Put Down That Phone (video)


The list below is from a mini-project I have been working on over the past few summers. I always look forward to the Beloit College Mindset List each August (the 2016 list is likely due in late-August), and then get frustrated by its content. It tends to focus on what the incoming students do not know, I wanted to focus on what they bring with them. This list is a work in progress (and in significant need of cultural content). Feel free to suggest thoughts, additions, corrections, and ideas in the comments.

Welcome to the Class of 2016

This list is designed to complement the Beloit College Mindset List. Each year the Mindset List does a great job of helping us understand how quickly certain cultural touch points become dated. In many ways, it helps us understand who the entering college class is not. My hope is to better understand the cultural references and shared experiences that these students bring with them to campus.

Celebrity Classmates

With most of today’s entering college freshmen born in the second half of 1993, or the first half of 1994, here are some well-known names who (theoretically) could be joining them.

Speaking of High School

Disney Channel’s High School Musical debuted in January of 2006, when the Class of 2016 was in the seventh grade. It was the highest rated show to ever appear on Disney Channel at the time, and widely influential with sing-a-long, dance-a-long, repeated showings, and a concert tour.

The Disney Channel

The Disney Channel played a major role in the developing years of these students. Beginning in 1997, The Disney Channel began its transition from Premium Cable to Basic Cable. This dramatically increased the availability of the channel and its programs. It also built strong personal connections between its young stars and its viewers.


It is quite possible that the first movie that the Class of 2016 saw in a theater was A Bug’s Life (1998) or Toy Story 2 (1999). Pixar Studios debuted with Toy Story in 1995, and the Class of 2016 has had a steady stream of highly acclaimed Pixar releases throughout their life.

Harry Potter

While it is unlikely that the Class of 2016 began reading the Harry Potter books when the first was released in the fall of 1998, the Harry Potter movies match up very well with their lives. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released in November 2001. The character of Harry Potter was 10, the Class of 2016 was 7 or 8. Each of the movies closely matched up with these students, and Harry concluded his time at Hogwarts in the summer of 2011, just as the Class of 2016 was starting their Senior Year. While the actors playing Harry, Ron and Hermione are a bit older, the Class of 2016 sees them as peers.

Popular Music

The definition of popular music for the Class of 2016 is heavily influenced by American Idol, and other “Disneyfied” music acts.

  • Justin Bieber – Graduated from High School this summer. Shot to fame in 2009.
  • Taylor Swift and The Jonas Brothers – The Jonas Brothers debuted in 2005, and Taylor Swift released her first album in 2006.
  • American Idol – Debuted in the Summer of 2002. Many of these students have voted regularly for Idol contestants.

Reality Television

While reality television (both competitive and voyeuristic) is commonplace these days, these students have been heavily influenced over their lifetime. While there is too much to cover everything, here are a couple of key notes:

  • 16 and Pregnant (MTV) – Debuted in the summer of 2009, as the Class of 2016 was getting ready to start their Sophomore year… and turn 16 themselves.
  • Keeping Up With the Kardashians (E!) – Debuted in the Fall of 2007.


Beginning with NickToons, several animated TV shows have influenced the sense of humor for the Class of 2016. Beginning with the subtle subversion of Rugrats, these students have been exposed to multi-layered comedy. It is perhaps best represented in South Park, which has been a part of their lives for as long as most can remember. These students know all about Tommy, Chuckie and Angelica, as well as Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman.

  • Rugrats (1991 to 2004) – From 1995 to 2000, it was the highest-rated show on Nickelodeon and the highest rated kids’ show,
  • Ren and Stimpy (1991 to 1998)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants (1999 to present)
  • Beavis and Butt-head (1993 to 1997)
  • South Park (1997 to present)

iPods and Cell Phones

The iPod was introduced by Apple in late 2001, and the iTunes on-line music store came in early 2003. For many students, their entire music collection is digital and portable. They also have carried cell phones with them for most of their lives. In many cases this is out of concern following the Columbine massacre in 1999. It is not unusual to have students carrying two (or more) portable electronic devices with them at all times. Throughout their high school years these two devices have merged into one with the release of the iPhone, iPad and Android smart phones. It is noteworthy that actually talking to people via the phone is often the fourth or fifth most important feature on these devices (texting, Facebook, Twitter, games, music, etc.)


In September of 2006, Facebook was made available to anyone over the age of 13 with a valid e-mail address. At that point, student in the Class of 2016 were reaching the point where they qualified as they started their seventh-grade year. By the end of the school year, almost all were eligible. Sharing their lives with friends on-line is very common for these students, they have also been at the forefront of dealing with the privacy issues related to social networks.

Three Presidents

The Class of 2016 was born early during Bill Clinton’s first term as President. Essentially they have only known Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama as U.S President. By the way, most of the class was four or five during the height of the Clinton/Lewinsky Scandal in 1998.

Columbine and Virginia Tech

The massacre at Columbine (CO) High School happened in April of 1999, when these students were in kindergarten, and the Virginia Tech shootings were at the end of their eighth grade year. Their summer before starting college is now noted for the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.

Hurricane Katrina

Hit the Gulf Coast and New Orleans in August of 2005. Had a significant impact on their sense of social responsibility. The Class of 2016 was starting sixth grade at the time.


It was the start of their second grade year when the 9/11 terrorist incident happened.


The Top Ten Names for U.S. born babies in 1993 & 1994: (from the Social Security Administration)

1993        Male                 Female

  1.           Michael            Jessica
  2.           Christopher      Ashley
  3.           Matthew           Sarah
  4.           Joshua              Samantha
  5.           Tyler                 Emily
  6.           Brandon           Brittany
  7.           Daniel              Taylor
  8.           Nicholas           Amanda
  9.           Jacob                Elizabeth
  10.          Andrew            Stephanie

1994        Male                 Female

  1.           Michael            Jessica
  2.           Christopher       Ashley
  3.           Matthew           Emily
  4.           Joshua              Samantha
  5.           Tyler                 Sarah
  6.           Brandon           Taylor
  7.           Jacob                Brittany
  8.           Daniel              Amanda
  9.           Nicholas           Elizabeth
  10.          Andrew            Megan

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