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Not for sissies…

The first year I actually remember starting to feel old was 1998.

Not because that was the year I started to realize that I was going to have to learn to write “20–” on checks and documents instead of “19–”.

Not even because that was the year, as I began to contemplate my own milestone birthdays, that I started to understand that I was already older than my parents, aunts and uncles had been when I started thinking of them as quite elderly.

But because of a small private liberal arts college in the midwest that is small in size and might in reputation.

Because it was in 1998 that Beloit College, in Beloit, Wisconsin, first put out the Mindset List.

It was, and is today, intended to guide the faculty and staff at Beloit in understanding the entering class — then the Class of 2002 — by setting out some of the things that were true for those then-roughly-18-year-old freshmen that probably weren’t true for the old farts like me.

Things like the fact that “the people starting college (that) fall across the nation were born in 1980.”1 When that was when I’d been looking forward, as an adult student, to getting out of law school.

Or: “The Vietnam War is as ancient history to them as WWI and WWII or even the Civil War.”2 When I had watched that war on television… while I was in college.

Or: Roller-skating has always meant in-line for them.3 When I never set out without my skate key… something else they’ve never seen.

Or: “They have always had an answering machine.”4 When I knew the “answering machine” in my house when I was growing up was called “Mom.”


Fast forward now to the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2021, just released this past week.5

And man… do I feel old

First off, it says, the kids the list is telling us about this year weren’t even born when the first Mindset list came out. These kids, for the most part, were born in 1999… or even later.6

And there are things they never knew that are so much a part of my life history.

For them, “Peanuts comic strips have always been repeats.”7 When it was a current feature in the comic pages of every newspaper I read.

Or: “Jet Blue has always been a favorite travel option but the Concorde has been permanently grounded.” When I actually flew the Concorde, once, in 1981.8 Yes, it was super fast and super cool.

Or: “Bill Clinton has always been Hillary Clinton’s aging husband.”9 When I voted for the man. Twice.

That’s bad enough.

But at some point in the now 19 years the list has been produced, it started including things the entering class was too young to have experienced that had completely passed me by — things that, apparently, came (and sometimes came and went) without my ever noticing. Proving that I am uncultured in the cultural references of the kids even in my own family.

I had to look up what the list writers meant when they note that the Class of 2021 is “the first generation to grow up with Watson outperforming Sherlock.”10 (It’s a reference to “the triumph of Watson, the IBM’s fabulous bot, which outperformed a human competitor on the quiz show Jeopardy.”11)

And I have absolutely no idea what they mean by: “They may choose to submit a listicle in lieu of an admissions essay.”12 (Listicle? What the —- is a listicle?13

And I’m still stumped by: “Ketchup has always come in green.”14 (Green? Really? Missed that one completely.15


Getting older definitely isn’t for sissies…


  1. Class of 2002 List,” The Mindset List, Beloit College ( : accessed 25 Aug 2017).
  2. Ibid., ¶ 33.
  3. Ibid., ¶ 27.
  4. Ibid., ¶ 21.
  5. Ibid., “The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2021”.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid., ¶ 7.
  8. Ibid., ¶ 24.
  9. Ibid., ¶ 24.
  10. Ibid., ¶ 16.
  11. See ibid., “A Guide for the Class of 2021 Mindset List,” ¶ 10.
  12. Ibid., ¶ 16.
  13. Merriam-Webster defines it as an article consisting of a series of items presented as a list. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( : accessed 25 Aug 2017), “listicle.”
  14. Class of 2002 List,” The Mindset List, ¶ 37.
  15. See Mark Mancini, “The Rise and Fall of Heinz’s Green Ketchup,” MentalFloss, posted 4 Mar 2014 ( : accessed 25 Aug 2017).
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