So says the latest Beloit College Mindset List, which attempts to summarize what members of the Class of 2016 know -- and what they don't -- by referencing the cultural touchstones that have come and/or gone in their lifetime.
The list, released Tuesday, is a collection of references to pop culture (Justin Bieber and Dakota Fanning are their age), politics (a woman has run the U.S. State Department for much of their lives) and technology (their world has always existed in cyberspace).
To members of the Class of 2016, many of whom were born in 1994, "The Graduate" protagonist Benjamin Braddock could be their grandfather.
Other points on the list show not just the passage of time, but also the evolution of behavior. This year's college freshman would likely think it strange for White House security to greet a group of gay elected officials by wearing rubber gloves, as happened during President Bill Clinton's first term. (A Clinton spokesman later apologized.)
Beloit College English and humanities professor Tom McBride and former college Public Affairs Director Ron Nief have compiled the list annually since 1998. As for larger trends among this year's college freshmen, McBride said one is clear.
"They've come into their teenage years at a time when there are real doubts about America's future, about whether America will continue to be a No. 1 power, about crushing debt, about recovery from the economic recession," McBride said in an interview.
"This is a generation for whom D-E-B-T is going to be a four-letter word. They're aware it was excess debt that caused the recession. They've seen older siblings graduate college and come back home without any prospects for a job. They've heard the word 'underwater' and they know it isn't referring to a swimming pool."
In the minds of incoming college freshmen:
People don't carry luggage, they roll it.
They don't have new encyclopedias.
Kurt Cobain has always been dead.
"The Real World" has always stopped getting polite and started getting real.
Los Angeles has never had a pro football team.
Robert De Niro isn't the young Vito Corleone in "The Godfather II" or Jimmy Conway in "Goodfellas"; he's Ben Stiller's father-in-law in "Meet the Parents."
Bill Clinton is a senior statesman, not a recent former president.
They had Furbys.
"Star Wars" was always just a film, not a defense strategy.
There have always been blue M&M's, but no tan ones.
See the full list at beloit.edu/mindset.