It seems that ever since Neil Howe and William Strauss coined the term “Millennials” to describe those born between 1981 and 2000, we’ve been coming up with ways to stereotype this generational cohort. Every day on social media you can find some story that’s been shared about how to treat millennials or how millennials supposedly act and react. At an average age of 28, community college students fall right into the age range of what a Millennial is supposed to be. However, that’s where the categorization of community college students ends as it relates to the Millennial Generation. In fact, I like to refer to community college students as the “Un-Millennials” because so few fit into the generalizations we like to apply to those in this age grouping.
Millennials are sheltered: Many community college students are anything but sheltered. During my time at a community college, I worked with students who had seen arrests, burglaries, drug abuse and countless other hardships that could have served as barriers to these students and their success. I worked with student leaders who had been involved with gangs, who were heads of their households at 18, and who had spent time incarcerated. None of these students could be construed as having been “sheltered”. In fact, for some, school was the only shelter from the storms of their lives that they could find.
Millennials have helicopter parents: Countless numbers of students I worked with had single parents who worked multiple jobs to provide for their families. The parents of these students neither had the time, nor the energy to hover over every moment of their sons or daughters lives like a true “helicopter” parent would. I also worked with students who moved in and out of foster care, traversing a system in which they were never with a parent long enough to have him or her fly overhead. For the students with the so-called helicopter parents, in many instances the over-involvement of these parents had more to do with them having to advocate for their children to receive benefits and services they were entitled to. Speaking of entitlement…
Millennials feel entitled: The majority of the students I worked closely with during my time at the community college were paying for some, if not all of their higher education expenses themselves. They did feel a sense of entitlement – entitled to receiving the services they were paying a lot of money to receive. If they got the run-around, being sent from department to department for an answer, they rightfully got frustrated. These students did not feel entitled to grades they didn’t deserve or special attention. They felt, and I would argue were, entitled to getting the quality education they were working many hours outside of the classroom to pay for.
Millennials are technologically savvy: Most of the students I worked with owned a cellphone and even some form of computer. But just because they owned technology didn’t mean they knew how to use it as a means to supplement the educational experience. Often in my freshman seminar, I had to review basics like formatting a paper in Microsoft Word. Navigating our Learning Management System (LMS) was like traversing a foreign land for many students. The assumptions that these students knew how to use technology was dangerous as it left them vulnerable and created a gap for student success.