Earlier this summer I had the chance to sit with Dr. Tim Clydesdale, author of The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens After High School.
His current project (which I think will be released sometime this summer or fall) is on college students collectively.
The research he conducted with high school grads (many of whom went off to college), that was presented in his first book, was carried on and was the focus of our conversation.
With all of his time spent with college student, he identified 7 common themes that were prevalent throughout all of his conversations. In fact, these are the things that students wish WE all knew — and took into consideration — as the people who walk with them:
1. They’re really busy. Doing what? Well, lots of stuff. But the two primary things boiled down to navigating relationships and managing gratifications.
2. Money makes their world go round — though they barely realize it. That’s why they’re attending college — and why they’re expecting it to “pay off” once they graduate.
3. College is making them smarter — even though they don’t remember much. Research supports that learning is indeed taking place, but it also shows that 80% of what is “learned” is forgotten after 30 days.
4. Deep thinking (about themselves and the world) is a lot like eating broccoli… They know it’s good for them, but they’re just not that into it right now. They fear that if they mess with too much of that stuff right now it could destroy their future.
5. “Do you dare to reach me?” If so, you need to be prepared to answer “so what?” and “who cares?” to just about anything you’ll have to say. Authority must be earned (and just about anyone has the chance to earn it).
6. Some of them are different. So don’t pigeonhole them — because they’ll not take kindly to that. While many of them will fit the “stereotypes” that describe their generation, it by no means defines them all. Some will have very strong cares, concerns, beliefs, practices, hopes, and dreams that will shape their time on campus.
7. The current they’re in is strong. The current of the American culture is swift and powerful. It twists and turns based on global economies and political forces. It prioritizes interpersonal relationships and material consumption. And we ought not be surprised when they float merrily along in it.
So, as we begin to prepare for the inevitable return of students — and a new season of ministry with them — how do we take these things into consideration?
I’ve got more to share from my time with Tim, but this seems like more than enough to chew on for now.