The first year of college for Gen Z
What are some of the shared experiences of the class of 2022?
First-year students entering college this fall are the first class from Generation Z and the first class born in the 2000s. Members of the class of 2022 do remember the world before the Great Recession but Barack Obama is likely the first president they’ve had an opinion on. “The experiences that the class of 2022 have had greatly impact them as college students,” said Tom McBride, author of the Mindset List, a list of experiences that reflect the worldview of entering first-year students. “Millennials have dominated the narrative around college students — this is now the beginning of Gen Z.”
What are the demographics of the class of 2022?
We won’t know the exact demographics until they show up on campus but we do know some trends. The percent of students of color at our 17 member colleges has gone up over 80 percent in 10 years — going from below the percentage of Minnesota high school graduates of color to above that level. Undergraduate enrollment tends to be around 60 percent female and 40 percent male and our colleges enroll nearly 20 percent of the college students in the state — similar in size to Minnesota State universities and the University of Minnesota.
How are first-year orientations changing?
The initial experience the class of 2022 will be having on campus will be at first-year orientation. And these days orientations aren’t just a one-time event; they are part of a curriculum supporting students, one that will be sustained throughout the year. “A good comprehensive orientation in the first year makes a huge difference not only in academics but in living with other people, being independent and thinking of themselves as an adult,” said Megan Perry-Spears, dean of students at The College of St. Scholastica. “Ultimately it’s about helping them form their identity.”
What are first-year seminars and how are they evolving?
First-year seminars focus on facilitating connections between professor and students. “At St. Scholastica, these courses are longer and worth more credits than the average course, generally consisting of about 20 students, a professor and an upper-class teaching assistant,” Perry-Spears said. “The professor becomes the academic advisor for students in the class and helps guide them into the right coursework going into sophomore year.”
These seminars aren’t just designed to connect students with an advisor and their classmates; they also cover essential academic themes. The first-year seminar at St. Scholastica has five common themes — dignity, diversity, Benedictine tradition and values, catholic social teaching (social justice) and Catholic intellectual tradition — and each course has its own lens through which students learn these themes, said Perry-Spears. Although each student isn’t getting the same experience, the curriculum is designed so that all students have a deep understanding of the five themes.
How are the expectations of first-year students changing?
“The class of 2022 will tend to be more critical of professors, more focused on economic payout and tend to see themselves more as consumers than previous generations,” McBride said. “They also understand the need for an undergraduate degree and have been repeatedly told the importance of graduating from college.”
The enrollment of first-generation students, students for whom neither parent holds a four-year degree, has been over 40 percent of St. Scholastica students for a number of years. “This presents a wonderful opportunity for students and their families,” Perry-Spears said. “Often students come to college with limited knowledge of how higher education systems work. They might not have yet developed all the skills that help build a successful education. It is important that we provide access and guidance in the navigation of college all the way to graduation. I believe there is moral obligation to serve these students well.”