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TCU Magazine

The Class of 2006: Who are the new Freshmen?

Each generation is shaped by the events and society they emerge from. We examine the incoming class to get a peek into our own future.

By Rick Waters '95

It's 1984. Apple Computer unveils the Macintosh, the Soviets boycott the Summer Games and Ronald Reagan is on his way to a landslide re-election. First-class stamps are 20 cents. Michael Jordan is a rookie in the NBA. Michael Jackson is debuting the moonwalk at the Grammys.

"Jump" and "Footloose" rock the radio air waves, while movie blockbusters introduce us to Gremlins and Ghostbusters. On the tube, we stay up at night watching Family Ties and Dynasty, but when we can't, we use a new gadget called a VCR to tape them, which is not a violation of copyright law, the Supreme Court just ruled.

That's the world in which the Class of 2006 -- this fall's entering freshmen -- arrived. For them, there has always been MTV, women have always traveled in space, and the Vietnam War seems as ancient history as the Civil War.

They are the Millennial Generation: the "Baby on Board" toddlers, the "Have you hugged your child today?" pre-teens and the high schoolers of the Columbine massacre and 9-11 attacks. This year, they come to college.

While most have already sampled alcohol and some have tried sex, they are, as a group, unlike any generation in recent memory. They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated and more ethnically diverse. And there is growing optimism that this group will display more positive social habits than older Americans typically associate with youth, including a new focus on teamwork, achievement, responsible behavior and social awareness. Still, some find them sheltered, spoiled, reckless and self-absorbed.

Who are they, really? Read on and learn about them through excerpts from their application essays and creative pages, and the observations of those who have already met them.

The Class of 2006 is connected.

"I have grown up with my hero and inspiration by my side for 17 years. ... My dad has special qualities that I looked up to forever and admire with all my heart. ... I cannot remember one tryout, recital, competition, camp, important practice, game or uniform fitting that my dad has not attended. ... My dad helps my girlfriends with their boy problems or homework and also enjoys discussing sports and school with my boy friends. He is able to help with my problems, and 99 percent of the time he is right, unfortunately! ... I do not know what I would do without my dad, coach, teacher, listener, talker, comedian and, most of all, best friend."

Shannon Peterson,
Bedford

Connected by cell phones, pagers and walkie-talkies, the Class of 2006 constantly stays in touch with family and friends. In many cases, parents are their friends.

Josh Myers of Wichita Falls sees good grades as the key to being successful and happy, but more importantly he wants to make his father proud. Chrissy Addy of Fort Worth says her mom, who took night classes to get a better job to move them to a nicer house, is her best friend and the person she talks to about money, society and the world.

Emotion and experience are how the '06ers define their universe. They want good relationships, a meaningful career and clear assurance they're doing the right thing. Advice is as valuable as their allowance, and often they like to initiate the exchange.

This group has unprecedented access to technology and knows how to use it. Some were creating PowerPoint presentations in the sixth grade. They've started Internet home pages and sent more e-mail than Mom and Dad combined. Some even applied to TCU electronically.

"They have their cell phones and use Instant Messages to type their conversations, but this group also wants interaction," said Carrie Zimmerman, coordinator of TCU's Frog Camp, a 3- to 5-day optional program paired with orientation where freshmen learn the ropes of college life before moving into the residence halls. "They want a connectedness, a togetherness, some personal attention."

Hence, about 65 percent of the class -- the highest percentage of any voluntary non-campus camp in the nation -- attended one of nine Frog Camp sessions. Each camp has a unique setting and purpose, from a Colorado adventure to a get-to-know-Fort Worth excursion to a New Mexico service project retreat. But every session has the same goal: Bring together about 50 to 200 students, divide them into groups of 12 and talk about college life at TCU with two upperclass student facilitators and one faculty or staff member.

Conversations run the gamut: Ethical decision-making. Living with a roommate. Plagiarism. Fitting in.

In past years, it was clear that students yearned to get out on their own. This year, though, few seem in a big rush to leave home.

"Maybe it's part of their generation or maybe because of Sept. 11, but for the first time we're having students saying they're not ready to leave family, not ready to leave friends," Zimmerman said. "We're seeing a need for cocooning. Every student needs help with the transition from high school to college, but I am seeing a stronger need in this class."

As a result, students are spending more time alone processing the transition ahead, setting goals and thinking about what they need. Frog Camp staffers are spending more one-on-one time proffering personal advice.

While some find their tenderness refreshing, others worry that the '06ers have been sheltered and are unequipped to handle the vastly different world of college. Zimmerman predicts more homesickness, more requests of faculty for guidance and more hall directors with their hands full. "It's going to take this group longer to feel like this is their home," she said.

Parents' strong influence can be seen years before students enroll, says Ray Brown, TCU's dean of admissions. While high school juniors and seniors used to give more candid answers in solo interviews than they would in front of their parents, Brown has noticed that students now say the same things their moms and dads say, whether they're present or not.

At past orientations, it was rare to have a student leave campus during the two-day event. This summer, several families have insisted their student stay at a hotel with them. It is that kind of coddling, says Kay Higgins, director of New Student Programs, that leaves some students struggling.

"If they come up against a potential worry or uncertainty, the parents swoop in, sometimes continually, to save and rescue," she said. "Parents are saying their student is stressed because there is so much going on. I'm thinking, 'If this is stress now, what are they going to do when they're off by themselves?' "

The Class of 2006 are achievers.

"Disappointment flooded from the envelope as I read the dreaded message: 'I am sorry, but you have not been chosen to be a part of the drill team. Try again next year.' Just as I began to hear the cheerful screams of the girls who had made the team, a feeling of defeat swept over me. I was overwhelmed with jealousy, embarrassment and confusion. I had failed. ╔ After much soul searching, I committed myself to becoming a Highland Belle. ╔ I turned my disappointment into determination, and for the next 11 months, the dance studio became my second home. ╔ After months of preparation I tried out again. The week of tryouts was full of tears, worrying and frustration, but most of all, determination. ╔ When I opened my envelope, my eyes filled with tears and I saw through a blur the tiny yellow bell that I had earned with my hard work and perseverance. I have never been so proud of myself or more excited."

MacKenzie Adams,
Dallas

From soccer tournaments to school uniforms to group learning, the Class of 2006 has developed strong team instincts and tight peer bonds. TCU's newest Frogs also are accustomed to academic accountability since they have taken competitive standardized tests at nearly every grade level since primary school. Their expectations are high -- of themselves and others.

Across the board, more are taking advanced placement courses and seeking dual high school/college credit. One applicant had earned 42 credit hours when he graduated from high school, which would technically make him a sophomore. More are avoiding a cushy senior year by loading up on tough courses and taking leadership roles in extracurricular activities.

Their resumes reflect it. Emily Roberts of Fort Worth is an officer in student government, a member of a school and church choir that's toured Europe and a volunteer teacher at an area kindergarten class. Joseph Naranjo of Monahans shed his public speaking fears by joining his school's drama team and playing a major role in two plays. Kelli Kosmicki of Grand Island, Neb., admits she isn't the most athletic player on her school's basketball team, but as the team's only senior, she showed her teammates how to be a leader.

"This is a generation of students that is much different than we've seen on a college campus -- different in a very positive way," Don Mills, vice chancellor for student affairs, told parents at orientation. "We have students who are more interested in accomplishing things and getting things done. When there is a problem, they're saying, 'How can it be fixed? What can be done?' They want to be part of the solution."

Even at Frog Camp many of their questions hinge on academic life. Will they know how to study? Are faculty approachable? What do they do with all this free time?

Many of them are startlingly strong rule-followers. In the first camp, which usually attracts the most eager go-getters, nearly everyone brought their class schedules for the fall and turned in their health forms on time -- a Frog Camp first.

At one late-night ice cream social, rather than wandering off on their own, as is the norm, the group shocked their counselors by showing up early, sitting in orderly rows and eating their treats at tables. "We've never seen that," Zimmerman said.

They wait their turn to talk, they pick up after themselves and they help one another with luggage. They are comfortable about being vulnerable and exceedingly honest about their feelings, not afraid to say what they need or to ask for help.

While the openness and achievement is refreshing to some, others have noticed a growing sense of entitlement -- and not just among the students.

The prevailing attitude is that the university is not a place to earn an education; it's a service, and parents are eager to get their money's worth. Classes should be geared for the bottom line, teaching only what is essential for the workplace. "Students have said to professors, 'I paid $10,000 for this semester; I want an A,' " Higgins said. "They don't see the point. You pay for an education, not a grade."

Same story in the residence halls. If there is a roommate conflict, many believe the university -- not the students -- is responsible to fix it. That makes for a difficult position for the university. Meeting the needs of the customer sometimes does not help students grow as adults.

"We try to provide a climate where there is a balance of challenge and support for the best learning opportunities," Higgins said. "If there is too much challenge, frustrations become too high and there is no learning. If there is too much support, students become too comfortable and don't grow."

That's why TCU was among the first in the nation to invite parents to orientation decades ago, reasoning that they would leave knowing that the university wants students to learn and develop but it expects them to act as adults.

Even the financial aid and scholarships office has felt the brunt of parents' and students' expectations. Both groups come armed with more questions than in past years, mostly about differing monetary offers. In some cases, parents are not shy about asking upfront, "How much will my daughter get?"

These parents shop around and play one scholarship offer against another. The university's response: Getting college money is not like haggling for a car. Grants and aid depend on financial need and academic scholarships hinge on a student's position in a school's application pool.

Johnny may get $5,000 from SMU, but he is ranked higher in its pool. At TCU, his transcript may only get $2,500 because he is up against stiffer competition.

The Class of 2006 is confident.

"Two weeks before the end of my freshman year in high school in Edgewater, Md., my father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, suddenly took a turn for the worse. My family decided to move from our lifelong home with virtually no planning whatsoever, so that my father could spend his last few months near his family in Utah. I had successfully established myself at South River High School and was sure I would continue my success there in academics, leadership and athletics and graduate in June 2002. ... The move to Utah represented a total change and a major transition in my life, but I knew in my heart that this move was the right thing for my father. I have always been a positive, happy person and accepted this change as a challenge. ... I was elected junior class president only eight months after moving to Utah. I think this transition in my life proved to me that leadership is not necessarily dependent upon your location, and success is a personal achievement."

Shelden Pearson,
Pleasant View, Utah

With plenty of confidence and optimism, the members of the Class of 2006 equate good news about themselves with good news for their world.

Jeanette Ely of Fort Worth began working at a junior girls fashion retailer two-and-a-half years ago for minimum wage. Now she's assistant manager and says she will be a successful businesswoman after she graduates. Patrick Redmond of Alexandria, La., as a teen-ager performed CPR on his father and saved his life. His goal entering college is to become the best physician in his field.

The '06ers come to TCU -- for most, their first choice among colleges -- anticipating good things. In a survey given to all incoming freshmen, 98 percent indicated that they expect to be satisfied with their choice of college. Five years ago, the same survey yielded only 70 percent. Why the difference?

"They seem to be saying, 'I picked TCU and I intend to graduate from TCU,' " Mills said. "A few years ago, students basically were saying, 'I picked TCU and I will see how it goes. If it doesn't work, I'll just transfer.' With the new group, the assumption is that TCU is the right place for them and the keys to succeed are here."

A TCU survey of '06ers showed that their top indicator of success is having a satisfying career. Ten years ago, the top answer was making a lot of money.

Make no mistake, they still want the big bucks, but they see older workers toiling 50-60 hours a week and say that is not for them. They want balance. Money, fun and freedom. They want happy marriages, good friends, interesting work. But it should allow them to have leisure time and remain in control of their lives.

They believe they can get there. Eighty percent of TCU's newest freshmen say their academic ability is in the top 10 percent of people their age. Almost 73 percent say their leadership skills are better than most of their peers.

Seventy percent intend to get a master's degree or better. Good thing -- because the bachelor's degree is the approximate equivalent of the high school diploma now, some educators believe. Thus, re-education at the college level or on the job will be central in making job changes for this group.

And change they will. Most will switch careers -- not jobs -- four to seven times. They will face a job market hinged on contract or project employment. They may even move around so much they will have to manage their own benefits and retirement plans. Nearly 65 percent will head into their golden years from jobs that are not even invented yet.

That makes a broad-based education important, says Carolyn Ulrickson, director of TCU Career Services. What employers want now are communication and teaming skills. A prominent bank recently approached Ulrickson about hiring some liberal arts graduates because it found that it is more efficient to teach banking to good communicators than communication to finance majors.

Whatever job-attaining skills they learn will be as important as their undergraduate coursework. "We want them, by the time they graduate, to be able to write a resume, have good interviewing skills and exchange proper job correspondence," Ulrickson said. "It's going to be important to this group to know how to find a job."

The Class of 2006 is socially aware.

"My parents decided that they were going to take my brother and me downtown to the Salvation Army family shelter. I will never forget the smell and the dingy look of the place as we climbed the stairs to the living room. In the corner was a Christmas tree with lights, tinsel, a star and a few decorations. There were no presents under the tree. ... I was horrified! How could this be Christmas? ╔ When I got home, I ran down to the playroom and found my two favorite Barbies. ╔ I washed and ironed their clothes, combed their hair and put on their shoes. When I was finished, I brought the dolls to my mom and she wrapped them, and I was able to bring them to school. Words can't explain how wonderful it felt to share toys I valued with others. I will never forget that place, and not a holiday goes by when I don't remember those kids. My experience has made me aware of what I have been blessed with and thankful for all that my parents have provided to me."

Nicole Beserra,
Englewood, Colo.

More than 80 percent of TCU's Class of 2006 participated in community service in high school. Why? Because they think they can make a difference -- not just build a resume.

While the popular trend is for high schools to require community service to graduate, almost 77 percent of TCU freshmen did not have to volunteer to get a diploma.

Jarod Daily of Keller used his Eagle Scout Leadership Project to organize a group to paint a giant map of the United States on the playground of a local elementary school. Clement Ogujiofor of Fort Worth tutored "problem" children in a junior high after-school program. Jacqi Powell of Houston helped build houses in an inner city ghetto in Cancun, Mexico, with her church group.

More than 25 percent are doing community service more than five hours a week and 40 percent expect to volunteer at TCU. One of the biggest opportunities will come in the fall during TCU LEAPS, a campus day of volunteering. For many, this launches them into a lifetime of service; for others, it is good exposure.

Some choose to make it a part of their week, said Penny Woodcock, director of the TCU Leadership Center. "Last year, students performed 60,000 hours of community service total, but it could be double that depending on what hours they're not reporting," she said.

Early indications from Frog Camp are that the Class of 2006 will do as much or more. "They're empathetic, sensitive, not cynical at all. Basically, they want to change the world," said Zimmerman. "We're amazed at how much they care for each other."

The Class of 2006 has a world view.

"Having spent the first half on my life in Bogota, Colombia, I now know that I was given an opportunity that some people never realize. To actually live in a different geography, communicate in a foreign language and experience the conflicts of a struggling democracy taught me more than I could learn from any textbook and became a vital part of who I am. I met people from all over the world and learned to accept their differences just as they accepted mine. ... I experienced first hand what it was like to be part of a 'minority' whose ideas were not always accepted. It was difficult at times but ultimately helped me develop a more 'global' viewpoint as I learned to tolerate and understand others."

Mark Olivier,
The Woodlands

France, England, Australia, Panama, Japan.

Today's freshmen are world travelers. Joseph Bommarito of St. Louis hosted a boy from Spain for two years, then traveled there to meet his family. Grant Sawyer of Austin studied ants in Costa Rica. Brooke Bagby of Houston worked at an orphanage in Honduras.

TCU ranks second in the nation in students with international experience, Mills said. (That doesn't count TCU's international students, which come from 76 countries.) Having seen how the world works in different cultures, this class thinks diversity is best. More than 75 percent believe racial discrimination is still a problem in America.

A common complaint among TCU students is that the university needs more diversity. "They're not just saying that for PC reasons, either. They like diversity," Mills said. "They see the value of learning from people not like them." Even at Frog Camp, the '06ers are less inclined to divide into cliques, Zimmerman said. They tend to be more welcoming of each other. The more diversity, the more experiences to draw from.

TCU is steadily improving its diversity ratios. A student population of 6 to 7 percent non-Anglos in the early 1990s has doubled to between 12 and 15 percent. TCU saw a mammoth 20 percent increase in minority applications this spring and about the same number of applications from international students, which is a coup considering the apprehension surrounding Sept. 11.

Admissions Dean Brown said there's a need for improvement but that diversity is increasing, especially when considering factors beyond race. "Diversity is not just a function of geography or skin color," he said. "It's different faiths, different life experiences."

The Class of 2006's world view also includes the worldlier side of life. Its members have seen and experienced much of what is traditionally thought to be reserved for adults -- especially alcohol and sex.

Nationally, teens drink 25 percent of all the alcohol that is consumed. TCU students contribute to that, and research shows that the vast majority of the university's 400 alcohol violations were committed by freshmen in past years.

But in its latest survey, the TCU Alcohol and Drug Education Office reported that binge drinking at TCU went down from the national average of 44 percent to 37 percent.

"When they choose to drink, they are starting to be more careful," said Angie Taylor, director of the Alcohol and Drug Education program. "I would like to say it's our efforts, but I think part of it is this new group of students. They're more responsible as a whole, though they do like to pick their moments to go wild."

Taylor's office works to change some misconceptions about drinking and college life. Many students come to college expecting Animal House, so Taylor and her staff communicate what the social norms are, that not everyone parties all the time.

"Why not tell them the truth? The truth here is good news," she said. About 75 percent of TCU women and 51 percent of men average three or fewer drinks in a week. About a quarter of the student body doesn't drink at all. "We tie drinking responsibly into the university's mission of developing ethical and responsible global leaders because responsible leaders are also responsible in their alcohol consumption. That's worked wonderfully."

When it comes to sex, nearly 30 percent of TCU '06ers say it's okay if two people like each other. But while 44 percent say they had sex in the last year, that is well below the national average of 68 percent of high school seniors.

"I'm not saying they're all virgins," Taylor said, "but what that tells me is that they did it, it freaked them out, and now they're saying wait a minute. They're starting the behavior, but they're not continuing it. Same thing with drinking -- most have had a drink or even been drunk in high school. That is different from before, when students didn't want to disappoint Mom and Dad so they waited until they went to college to drink. A lot of them have already seen the negatives, so that may be why our numbers are lower."

The Class of 2006 is pressured.

"I remember sharing the excitement of entering high school with my mother. She told me of her high school days and I felt so grown up because we were beginning to talk as friends. ╔ Suddenly, my whole world fell apart, the night my mother fell into a coma. Every day was spent at the hospital, while many sleepless nights I spent praying to know that my mother would soon awake. ... [My father] had lost all hope, while my little brother and I tried to cling to whatever hope was left. Some mornings I didn't know how to go on, but somehow the answer always came. Then one bitterly cold morning in early February, my mother quietly slipped through our hands. I suppose she could hold on no longer. What we had feared most had happened. My brother remained quiet; my father tried to appear strong, but the pain I saw inside of him was unbearable to watch. I felt my only choice was to be strong; I had to pull it together for the rest of my family. I picked out the songs for mom's funeral and flowers for the casket spread. Looking back on that time, I'm not sure how I made it."

Kara Scarbrough,
Tulsa, Okla.

From scattered families to learning disabilities to eating disorders to lost loved ones, the Class of 2006 has endured its share of life's tough times. As a result, its members are more willing to seek help, but some still haven't matured enough to know how to cope.

Edward Badouh III of San Antonio wrote about learning everything he ever wanted to know about drugs and alcohol when he was in kindergarten when his family visited an older brother in a treatment center. Andrew Price of San Antonio saw the grandfather who bought him his first tennis racquet and encouraged him to become a state champion die after numerous strokes.

"What we see is that students have experienced a lot of things, but they haven't all developed tools to deal with it," Higgins said. "That's one of the down sides to parenting today. We haven't wanted to let them fail."

At TCU and nationally, serious mental illness, eating disorders and therapy are on the rise. In the past, those with mental illnesses never used to make it to college, but with better medicines and treatment, now they do.

That's good, Mills said, but it puts more strain on campus medical staff, currently three full-time physicians, a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner. In the last few years TCU has increased the size of the counseling staff, hired a specialist in eating disorders and added a full-time psychiatrist to oversee Mental Health Services, including monitoring and prescribing meds. The university also has started a program for rape and suicide counseling.

Overall, the university is more attuned to symptoms, but anorexia, bulimia and antidepressant drug use -- essentially image problems -- are epidemic, says Dr. John Terrell, who's spent 25 years as the TCU Health Center director.

With the stigma of going to counseling not what it once was, many of them have been to therapy or are on medicines to deal with the stress. "The No. 1 goal of freshmen is to fit in, so if they have some baggage in their background, they're going to do what they can -- even therapy -- to take care of it," said Taylor of the Alcohol and Drug Education office.

Their pressures extend to time constraints as well, with almost 40 percent of the class working part- or full-time jobs while balancing a full courseload. A few years ago TCU scaled back its orientation sessions by a half-day because students -- not parents -- were too busy to fit it into their schedules.

This class is not coming to college to be adults; they're like adults when they arrive. They listen to adult music. They go to movies with adult content. They dress in a more adult fashion. They epitomize pop singer Britney Spears' song "Not a girl, not yet a woman." Says Woodcock, of the leadership center: "Society provides them a lot of adult influences, and at 17, they're sometimes not able to process that developmentally."

To cope, many are exploring different faiths and asking how to put religion into their lives. '06ers ranked "finding meaning" the fourth most important aspect of life. Ten years ago, that never hit the radar. "The big issues are who am I and what am I going to do?" says university minister John Butler.

But after all, they are only freshmen. In May, they had to ask for a pass to go down the hall to the bathroom. In August, it's hello freedom!

That's why for the next four years TCU is a good fit for the '06ers because more than anything, they're looking for an extension of their family to help them along. That's what Horned Frogs do best, Mills said.

"TCU, because of our size and our culture, puts an emphasis on the individual," he said. "It is almost impossible to get lost at TCU. We want to provide the right amount of challenge. We want them to grow emotionally, grow spiritually, grow intellectually, grow socially, but we're there to support them when that challenge becomes too great."

***

So who are these new faces? You've seen them -- at school musicals, science fairs, student government meetings and soccer games. There aren't enough adjectives to describe them, and not all of them fit nicely into broad categories.

They can seem contradictory -- connected to their families but wanting to experience life their own way, even dangerously. They want to make their world a better place and volunteer in their communities, but they litter and would rather drive than walk to class. They're focused on achievement, but occasionally, they'll oversleep or forget an assignment.

They are a unique group, special in their own way, but not any more so than the 133 classes that precede them.

They are, quite simply, the Horned Frog Class of 2006.

Statistics on the TCU Class of 2006

Entering freshmen.......1,451
Male......................... 548 (38%)
Female..................... 903 (62%)
Minority......................207 (14%)
Top 20% of HS class....599 (54%
)

Geographic origin of freshmen
Texas......................1,059 (73%)
Out of state.................334 (23%)
International.................58 (4%
)

Test score ranges
SAT Composite
25th Percentile.............1050
75th Percentile.............1240

ACT Composite
25th Percentile.............21
75th Percentile.............27

Distribution by college or school
Humanities & Social Sciences.....472 (33%)
Males.....................................172
Females.................................300

Business................................264 (18%)
Males.....................................164
Females.................................100

Communication.......................151 (10%)
Males.....................................53
Females.................................98

Fine Arts.................................112 (8%)
Males.....................................23
Females.................................89

Health & Human Services..........89 (6%)
Males.....................................11
Females.................................78

Science & Engineering...............278 (19%)
Males.....................................117
Females.................................161

Learning more

For information about the class of 2006 and the Millennial Generation, check out these sources:

Millennials Rising
By Neil Howe and William Strauss
Vintage Books, 2000

www.millennialsrising.com
Web site for the book Millennials Rising by Neil Howe and William Strauss

www.millennials.com
Teen-written articles and commentary on the Millennial Generation

www.monitoringthefuture.org
Studies of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults

For comments or questions about this story write to: tcumagazine@tcu.edu

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