Cross-posted at PolicyMic, Huffington Post, BlogHer, and Pacific Standard.
Writer Peg Streep is writing a book about the Millennial generation and she routinely sprinkles great data into her posts at Psychology Today.
Recently she linked to at study by Net Impact that surveyed currently-enrolled college students and college-graduates across three generations Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers. The questions focused on life goals and work priorities. They found significant differences between students and college grads, as well as interesting generational differences.
First, students have generally higher demands on the world; they are as likely or more likely than workers to say that a wide range of accomplishments are “important or essential to [their] happiness”:
In particular, students are more likely than workers to say it is important or essential to have a prestigious career with which they can make an impact. More than a third think that this will happen within the next five years:
Wealth is less important to students than prestige and impact. Over a third say they would take a significant pay cut to work for a company committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR), almost half for a company that makes a positive social or environmental impact, and over half to align their values with their job:
Students stand out, then, in both the desire to be personally successful and to make a positive contribution to society.
At the same time, they’re cynical about other people’s priorities. Students and Millennials are far more likely than Gen Xers or Boomers to think that “people are just looking out for themselves.”
This data rings true to this college professor. Despite the recession, the students at my (rather elite, private, liberal arts) school surprise me with their high professional expectations (thinking that they should be wildly successful, even if they’re worried they won’t be) and their desire to change the world (many strongly identify as progressives who are concerned with social inequalities and political corruption).
Some call this entitlement, but I think it’s at least as true to say that today’s college youth (the self-esteem generation) have been promised these things. They’ve always been told to dream big, and so they do. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that we’ve sold our young people a bill of goods. Their high expectations sound like a recipe for disappointment, even for my privileged population, especially if they expect it to happen before they exit their twenties!
Alternatively, what we’re seeing is the idealism of youth. It will be interesting to see if they downshift their expectations once they get into the workforce. Net Impact doesn’t address whether these are largely generational or age differences. It’s probably a combination of both.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
John Everyman — May 20, 2013
This tears my fucking heart. Figure 2 made me giggle though.
mograph — May 20, 2013
"Unfortunately, I’m afraid that we’ve sold our young people a bill of goods. "
Hold on: just who did the selling? Not me.
Maybe some critical thought should be applied here, and also taught to the youngsters. If someone is telling them that they should dream big and aim for the stars, they should know who is telling them that and for what purpose.
CarlosM — May 20, 2013
In my masters (internationmal development and humanitarian aid), i think nobody expects much wealth coming out :p
CarlosM — May 20, 2013
Oh and only 35%-45% willing a pay cut to work for a company with CSR / positive impact is depressingly low...
Students’ aspirations | Things that make me angry. And some things that don't — May 20, 2013
[...] http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2013/05/20/college-students-aspirations-and-expectations/ [...]
haeyeonJ — May 20, 2013
So the young aren't as lefty as I thought, although that high % of kids
sacrificing profit for "social" responsibility is a sign of trouble.
Interesting that the young are less trusting of others, but unfortunately I think in the West it originates from hippy-like idealism about how "bad" society is, and not actual vigilance based on pragmatic thinking.
Basiorana — May 20, 2013
I work with teenagers, because I went to college and like many college graduates I work in a dead-end job that a teenager can do. I tell every one of them to NOT go to college unless a) they know EXACTLY what they want to do with their life, have shadowed at that work, and have good marks in relevant subjects and college is an essential step to that work, AND it pays over 30K to start with room for promotions so they have a hope of repaying loans, or b) Mommy and Daddy are footing the bill 100%. Same for tech school. I was lucky and Mommy and Daddy did foot the bill, but my fiance has 30K of student loans because everyone in his life was sooooo certain that college was a ticket to a better life. College is a ticket to poverty. I know probably 100-150 college grads under 30 and exactly 3 are in their field, maybe 40 are in a field that requires any degree at all, and the rest are like me, working in food service and retail and wondering why we spent 16 years of our lives working our brains off only to do exactly the jobs we were promised we could avoid.
I'm a little bitter, sorry.
Michelle — May 20, 2013
The trust and generosity numbers may be age-related as well. As a teenager and young adult I believed that everyone was out for themselves, in fact I was told as much on countless occasions. But as I have entered the broader world, I've realized that's crap. And that people love to help other people and feel useful and do good. And most people have different ideas of what that means, but very few people are as ego-driven as I'd been taught to watch out for. I'm 30, I'm not sure which generational group that puts me in.
Tusconian — May 21, 2013
I don't think this is a bad or depressing thing. For all the media loves to freak out because this terrible generation of selfish idiots has managed to spontaneously create themselves, this pretty much says "sorry, these kids are not as self-absorbed and lazy as you think." Will many of them be disappointed? Yes. But so what? It's not like it's a tragic thing for someone to experience a delay in their dreams or a change of plans.
I should say, students, at least upperclassmen, may be this optimistic because they are seeing actual examples that prove they CAN be helpful, wealthy, and happy within five years. Many of my friends who graduated ahead of me had what I perceived to be glamorous, high paying jobs straight out of college (though everyone should keep in mind, what a 19 year old considers high paying isn't what a 45 year old considers high paying, or even a 22 year old). The issue is, we encourage these students to think that a wonderful job will fall right into their laps on graduation day, when it requires a lot more work and smarts than just getting a degree and mass applying anywhere with an online application.
Nick — May 21, 2013
Changing the world ranks high with us because the generations before have left us one hell of a mess.
mimimur — May 21, 2013
I'm surprised that SI would sink to this level. Is it two weeks ago what there was that discussion where a Times article reduced everyone under 35 to zoo animals? And as the Atlantic has established (http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/05/me-generation-time/65054/) We do this to every single generation.
Even disregarding that, why doesn't anyone ever question the atrocious methodod of constantly making sweeping assumptions based on a comparison between established middle aged workers with kids of their own to a group of people where the majority are either precariously on the job market or off it alltogether and have neither a stable home, nor a family to look out for?
And that's not even getting into the overpowering norms that comes with more or less writing young people off as naive. Looking at how past generations of human rights activists alone, one could make the opposite analysis that it has more to do with giving up, losing energy and ambition or, to match the condescending tone of these articles, getting lazy.
COLLEGE STUDENTS’ ASPIRATIONS AND EXPECTATIONS | Welcome to the Doctor's Office — May 21, 2013
[...] from SocImages [...]
Larry Charles Wilson — May 22, 2013
Every "generation" idealisticly believes that they have the unique ability to change the world.
Brutus — May 22, 2013
So, roughly two-thirds of college students are worse at making accurate estimations of their ability to cause change than workers of the same age.
That sounds like a failure of the educational system.
Lisa Wade: Advice for College Grads From Two Sociologists — May 24, 2013
[...] come true.” Two-thirds consider they’re going find a pursuit that allows them to change a world, half within 5 years. [...]
Eli Sennesh — May 26, 2013
More precisely, kids today are told that if they don't dream and accomplish Big Things, they're worthless.
M.E. — May 27, 2013
Hmm, I'm a little skeptical about the titling of this article. "Making an impact through work" and "changing the world" are VASTLY different to this recent grad. I'm now working in social work and, while I hold no illusions that my work is radically transforming our world's future, I do wholeheartedly believe in the difference my work makes to individuals.
Do Millennials have unreasonable expectations? | Some Animals — May 27, 2013
[...] I’m no longer a college student, this blog post from last week caught my attention: “Two-Thirds of College Students Think They’re Going to Change the World.” The post highlights data that Peg Streep, an author who writes about Millennials, pulled [...]
lolololololololol — June 21, 2013
lol the title alone sums up the absurdity of the millennial generation, where everyone gets a trophy for everything, and everyone wants to change the world even when they buy paper towels. look outside the middle and upper classes for a more realistic approach.
Two-Thirds of College Kids Think They’re Going to Change the World — September 9, 2013
[...] post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner [...]
Advice for college graduates from two sociologists | SmartStudent — October 4, 2013
[...] “make your dreams come true.” Two-thirds think they’re going find a job that allows them to change the world, half within five years. [...]
Mitch90 — March 28, 2019
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Grace Hudditon — January 17, 2020
To my mind, it is good. If a person plans to change the world, he'll do something good for it. It is a question how successful a student will be but at least h has positive intentions. Have a look at the article https://elitewritings.com/essays/persuasive-essay-examples/about-why-is-religious-freedom-important.html. You'll find other arguments.
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