6 concerns of college students and my response, part 1

a few weeks ago, leadership guru and all-around expert in all things Generation Y, tim elmore, wrote this great post about the 6 fears and concerns of college students today. as someone who works with college students, i thought i would take a couple of posts and share a quick response to each of these fears and concerns. today is part 1 and will address the first 3 statements.

1 // they list the need to grow up faster as among the biggest disadvantages of their generation.

there is no doubt, kids are growing up faster than they have ever had to before. and i also have no doubt that college students feel that pressure. but, i think many college students are resisting this felt need by refusing to actually grow up.

this is especially true for men. much has been written about the “boys who can shave” epidemic. the point at which a boy becomes a man gets later and later in life. first, you were a man when you quit school and worked in the family trade. then it was when you could drive. then, when you could vote and buy smokes and get a tattoo. then when you went to college. then when you could drink. then when you got a job. then when you got married. then when you had a kid.

the fact is, many college men may feel this pressure to grow up fast, but they aren’t doing it. in fact, a study in britain just revealed that the number of men between the ages of 20 and 34 who were still living at home has increased from 14% in 1997 to 33% in 2011.

failure to launch, anyone?

the bottom line is that college students are feeling this pressure to grow up fast. but they aren’t necessarily doing it. and those of us in campus ministry are left with the tension of helping to train a generation of students to actually grow up.

2 // they are not happy with the direction of the country.

elmore says that 62% of generation y believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. and, my facebook feed today (on the day the supreme court upholds obamacare) confirms this.

i’m not sure that students completely understand the potential they have within them to bring about real change. it’s so much easier to whine on facebook than it is to get our hands dirty. students don’t feel they can make a difference in a machine as big as american politics. or in the world for that matter.

can we convey to students the truth of ghandi’s statement that they must “be the change [they] want to see in the world.” we must equip them to think in terms of smaller is bigger. Jesus taught this concept. and so of course, we must center this change on the principles of the Kingdom of Christ.

3 // in some ways, they are at odds with their own beliefs and values.

this is an interesting statement. the students i work with tend to know what they believe; they just aren’t sure how to express those beliefs. they love Jesus, but they aren’t so sure about folks in the church. they struggle to find their place in the community of the saints.

the desires of college students in the faith arena are, in my estimation, shockingly simple: honesty, transparency, and authenticity. if we (the “grown ups”) could express our faith in these terms, it would go a long way in discipling our college students.

question for you: i would love to hear from my college students today: do you think elmore’s observations are right on? what about my thoughts? what would you add?


8 thoughts on “6 concerns of college students and my response, part 1

  1. 1.) I think for the most part both you and Elmore are on the right track. But when I read the bit about the “boys who shave” epidemic I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the 33% had had their parents paid for the young men’s college education so they had no financial worries. And thusly were able to party or do whatever they wanted. But then there are those like me that come from a rural lower middle family that can’t help pay for college. Making me completely responsible for every choice I make…I guess what I’m saying is that my generation is split between the people who faced little or no responsibility as kids and then ones like me who chores on the farm or around the house and if you didn’t do it there was consequences.
    2.) I agree that we feel there is little we can do right now in the American political machine…but that is because generation y is not united completely. With increasing social stratification, the divisions between us are becoming ever larger. Leaving us vulnerable to change until such a time that we are either united as a generation or in control of positions of power to influence changes ourselves.
    3.) As the the statement about being at odds with our beliefs…is it possible college age students are at odds with their parents beliefs and not their own? I know from experience of helping my peers with personal problems, that there are far more people in generation y that come to college with their parents faith that carried them all the way through elementary, junior high and high school. Only to fall face first at the first signs of trouble because they know what they want to do but thy also know its not what their parents would want them to do.
    This is just my two cents worth. Hope it helps

    • Logan…great thoughts, man. I especially like your observation about college students not struggling with their own beliefs, per se…but those of their parents.

  2. At this time I’m only going to respond to the first point, I’ve personally dealt with anxiety issues within my own life. Knowing that you are supposed to achieve something but never actually doing it can create a sense of anxiety. For example having to tell you parents that you broke the lamp will create anxiety in your life until you actually tell your parents you broke the lamp. 1) Students are told to grow up but they never actually do. Not achieving this given goal produces anxiety. 2) Students are told to grow up but they are never told how to do it. Having a goal but not being equipped to achieve that goal can easily produce anxiety. 3) Students are told to grow up but being “grown” is never defined. They are trying to hit a goal that is nebulous. They never know when being “grown” is achieved. They don’t even know how close they are to the end product. 4) Finally as others have said some of the markers of being “grown” have become harder to hit. Financial independence, careers (instead of jobs), married, independent living are all becoming harder to obtain in our economy. So the few things that may have defined being “grown” are no longer readily available. I disagree that students have to grow up faster than previous generations. Those who we would today define as young adults or who would be placed in the age category of students have done adult like things at very early ages in previous generations. (i.e. missionaries and/or soldiers) However, I would say that is an increased anxiety and pressure over growing up that makes it feel like they have to grow up faster than they are able.

    • Brian, great observations! What you’re saying, I think, is that there is nothing new under the sun and that the students have perhaps been ill-equipped to actually do the growing up. And this produces the anxiety they feel…not the actual pressure.


      • I have trouble saying this generation feels more pressure to grow up faster than the 18 year old who stormed the beaches at Normandy. Talk about growing up fast. It is the anxiety they feel about that has changed because they are ill equipped to do it, the target hasn’t been defined and keeps moving farther out of their reach.

  3. I agree with what your saying about college students being pressured to grow up and not doing it. When we leave home there is so much freedom to do what we want and unless we pay bills like rent we don’t have anything making us be responsible about it. There are no parents, no rules, no reason to be responsible if we don’t WANT to. It’s a problem but how do you MAKE someone grow up?
    On the direction of the country: I don’t know the percentages but I’ll go out on a limb and say most college students don’t care or know enough about what is going on to be concerned with it. It hasn’t quite touched our tiny circle of awareness yet. While it does affect us we aren’t noticing it and thus not realizing a need to do anything about it.

    The third issue is the one I have the most opinion on. Being so involved with a campus ministry I have seen so many students and different levels of their spiritual walk. I would say that 50% of the students know what thy believe and stick to it. 25% have a basic understanding of ” this is what my parents believed so I guess I do too” the other 25% are looking for someone to teach them. And like you said we want honesty, transparency, and authenticity. If students are looking for what thy believe, they want the truth, they want to understand it, and they want someone who cares about them to tell them about it. Nothing complex and confusing just the straight truth. And a campus ministry is where they are most likely to find that because it is true that college students struggle with finding their place in a church community they are new to.

  4. Pingback: 6 concerns of college students and my response, part 2 | brandon smith //

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