Millennials Go To College:
Strategies for A New Generation on Campus (2nd Edition)

Lifecourse Associates
Release Date:
Jun. 2007
Page Count:

A new wave of students is filling America's colleges.
Say hello to the “Millennial Generation.”

In Millennials Go To College, generational experts Neil Howe and William Strauss present the latest data on Millennials and how they are changing—and will continue to change—college life, including the results of original surveys of students and parents.

Howe and Strauss explain everything from the decline in substance abuse to the rise of  "helicopter parents", from shifting perceptions of race and gender to new problems over debt, cheating, and peer pressure. They also reveal the next big transition on the doorstep of higher education—the transition to Gen-X "stealth fighter" parents. For each issue, the authors offer a hands-on list of "what to dos" for anyone involved in college life.

Neil Howe & 
William Strauss…

  • Coined the term “Millennial Generation”
  • Were featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes and PBS’s Generation Next 2.0 by Judy Woodruff for their advice on Millennials
  • Are best-selling authors of eight books about American generations

Ever wonder why these students are so different?

They are nothing like the Boomer or Gen-X youth who preceded them.

They are pressured and programmed. They are special and sheltered. They are bonded to their parents and networked to their friends. They want structure and instant feedback. They expect to be doted on and served. They work well in teams and have complete confidence in their future. They fear risk and dread failure. They have conventional life goals. They want the system to work.

Would you like to know how colleges can attract these students--and keep them engaged, energized, and on track?

Millennials Go To College offers cutting-edge strategies for recruitment, campus life, and the classroom that can give your institution the extra edge.

“The arrival of this new generation on campus presents great risks and opportunities,” says Howe. “Colleges who get this generation right and market intelligently to today's students and their parents will be the major success stories of the next decade.”

Learn from America’s leading generational experts.

National speakers and best-selling authors of such books as Generations (1991), 13th Gen (1993), The Fourth Turning (1997), and Millennials Rising (2000), Neil Howe and William Strauss are America’s foremost experts on generations.

Their how-to books on Millennials have been sought after by every institution that handles youth. Their Recruiting Millennials (2000) was put into the hands of every U.S. Army recruiting sergeant and has served as a guidebook for every branch of the U.S. military. Their Millennials Go To College (2003, 2007) was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education as “favorite reading” among university executives, and has earned them speaking invitations to dozens of campuses and to every major national collegiate association. Their Millennials and the Pop Culture (2006) is helping the entertainment industry navigate the shoals of its fast-changing market. The recently released Millennials & K-12 Schools is helping to guide school administrators deal with the new waves of Millennial students and their increasingly Gen-X parents. Later this year, they will release Millennials in the Workplace.

Articles by Howe and Strauss, and reviews of their books, have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Atlantic, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, American Demographics, and other national publications.

Howe and Strauss originally coined the term “Millennial Generation” and have redefined how America thinks about its post-Gen-X youth. Their work on Millennials has been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Their insights into Millennials in the workplace have already been tapped by some of the top HR outfits in the nation, including global consulting firms like Mercer and Accenture, public sector clients like the United Nations, U.S. Army, and Marine Corps, professional groups like the American Staffing Association, investment firms like Goldman Sachs, and large hi-tech manufacturers like Raytheon, ITT, and Northrop Grumman.

How well do you know the Millennials?

Did you know that…

  • The percentage of freshmen who say they drank beer frequently or occasionally during their senior year of high school has fallen to its lowest level since this question was first asked in 1966.
  • Nine in ten youth now describe themselves as “happy,” “confident,” and “positive."
  • The majority of today's high school students say they have detailed five- and ten-year plans for their future.
  • The share of youth reporting “very different” values from their parents has fallen by roughly half since the 1970s, and the share who say their values are “very or mostly similar” has hit an all-time high of 76 percent.
  • An unprecedented and still rising share of high school students are aspiring to go to four-year colleges (7 in 10), and the number of high school students who take and pass Advanced Placement exams has more than doubled in the past ten years.

How well do you know the Millennials' new attitudes about college?

Do you know that...

  • Fifty-seven percent of college students consider the amount of time they spend with full-time faculty to be "very" or "extremely" important, according to the 2006 LifeCourse-Chartwells 2006 College Student Survey.
  • The proportion of freshmen who enter colleges within 50 miles of their parents home is considerably higher than it was 10 years ago.
  • The proportion of incoming college freshman who say it is "very likely" they will volunteer in college is at an all-time high.
  • A record share of new students report feeling so "overwhelmed" that they have sought counseling, according to UCLA's American Freshman survey.
  • Today's undergraduates agree by a six-to-one margin that they spend more time planning for the future than their parents did at the same age.

How well is your college serving this generation?

In Millennials Go To College, find out why we recommend that colleges…

  • Target parents as well as students in recruitment efforts, marketing the institution as precisely fitted to protect and educate a parent's "special" son or daughter
  • Offer tight cycles of feedback and redirection in the classroom, including continuous monitoring of every student's progress.
  • Make campus security measures conspicuously present on campus (uniformed security guards, signs announcing emergency situation precedures, etc.)
  • Encourage professors to spell out clear academic goals, define an objective measure of success, and offer frequent feedback on students' progress.
  • Help students assess and enter internships, which are used by a rising share of college graduates as a stepping stone to start their careers.

Millennials Go to College includes a summary of original survey results on student and parent attitudes by generation.

The complete survey results are available in Millennials Go to College: Surveys and Analysis.  For more information about this publication, click here.

Highlights from the Chartwells 2006 College Student Survey

Millennials at College

Millennials agree that they face greater pressures than prior generations of collegians. 

  • Eighty-five percent say that having a college degree is more important today than it was for their parents’ generation.
  • They agree (69 to 6 percent) that the college application process is more stressful today than it was for their parents’ generation, and they agree (58 to 8) percent that college is more academically challenging today.
  • They agree (64 to 11 percent) that today’s young people spend more time planning for the future than their parents’ generation did at the same age.

Today’s students are thinking financially during the college application process. When evaluating colleges.  Their top three criteria in choosing a college are the final cost of attendance (82 percent) probable levels of student debt (70 percent) and the earnings capabilities of graduates (62 percent).  These financial priorities reflect Millennials’ overall concern about the rising cost of college. Forty percent say that paying for college will be a very or extremely difficult financial burden for them, and over half say that their debt burden will affect their career choices. On average, students expect to acquire debts of nearly $20,000.

Nonetheless, this generation of students remains career-oriented and confident about their futures. Nearly nine out of ten feel at least somewhat confident that their future earnings will be enough to justify the cost of college. Nearly five out of six say they are attending college to prepare for a specific career and to earn a higher salary, and they overwhelmingly agree (97 percent) that colleges should play a significant role in helping students find jobs.

The Generation X factor

To the extent that students are aware of a long-term trend, an overwhelming majority believe that today’s parents are more involved in helping their children succeed than the parents of their parents’ generation.

Children of Gen-X parents (that is, parents born after 1960) expressed an even stronger sense than children of Boomers that their parents were highly involved in their lives and likely to intervene frequently. These students were more likely to say that their parents helped them choose their academic majors and individual courses. They also had higher expectations that parents would intervene when they encounter problems at school, from unfair grades to class attendance issues, and (especially) with housing problems.

Millennials with Gen-X parents feel a greater desire to achieve, and more intense pressure in the college application process. They were nearly twice as likely as students with Boomer parents to apply to five or more colleges. They were also much more likely to go to school less than one hour drive away from home, implying greater family closeness.

The Gender Divide

The priorities of male collegians were more social than those of their female counterparts. More males said they attended college to meet new people, have fun socially, and become well-rounded people. Nearly three times as many males rated finding a potential spouse or life-partner as a very important reason for attending college. Considerably more males than females considered the alumni network as an important inducement for enrolling—something colleges can consider as they develop strategies to attract and retain more male students.

Highlights from the Datatel 2006 College Parent Survey

The Hands-on Parent

 Parents are continuing to stay protectively involved in the lives of their Millennial offspring even after they leave home. They report talking on the phone with their collegiate children an average of three to four times a week, and welcoming them home for visits seven or eight times each school year. Three quarters of the parents surveyed said that they were involved in their children’s choice of academic major, and nearly 70 percent said they had some involvement in their children’s specific course choices.

 This has not always been the case with college students and their parents. Parents agree by four to one that they are more involved in helping their children succeed at college than their own parents’ generation was, and, by two to one, they agree that they spend more time with their collegiate children then their parents spent with them at that age.

 The particularly close Millennial-parent bond is fueling high expectations from parents for an active—even invasive—relationship with the colleges and universities their children attend. Parents said they would be extremely likely to intervene on behalf of their children when facing a variety of problems, from poor quality housing and food to unfair pay at a campus job to problems with class attendance and substance abuse. They overwhelmingly agree that colleges should allow them direct access to their children’s grades, attendance records, health records, disciplinary records, and class schedules.

The Generation X Factor

Even more than Boomer parents, Gen-X parents expressed an intense involvement in their children’s lives and decisions. Half (49 percent) of all Gen Xers said that they began planning for their children’s college education when the kids were in elementary school or younger, while only 38 percent of Boomer parents said the same. Gen-X parents played more active roles in developing the list of colleges from which their children would choose.

Gen-X parents communicate with their college-age children far more often than Boomer parents do. Boomers report that they communicate with their sons and daughters in college an average of 8.2 times per week—for Gen-X parents, the average number of weekly contacts jumps to 11.8.  

Gen-X parents are also likely to insist on greater transparency from their children’s colleges. Both generations of parents agreed that colleges should allow them to see their children’s grades, attendance records, health records, and other information. Two-thirds (67 percent) of Gen Xers said this was important, versus 48 percent of Boomers. 

Gen-X parents have a greater focus on practical employment issues for their collegiate kids. More of them considered the earning capabilities of graduates when evaluating a college, and more cited “preparing for a specific career” and “earning a higher salary” as important reasons for their children to attend college. Virtually all (98 percent) of Gen Xers with children currently in college think schools should help students find jobs that relate to their major or their field, compared to only 79 percent of Boomers.  

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