The freshmen are all right

If you guys text during a lecture, we’re taking back all the nice things we just said.

It’s likely that 2011’s batch of freshmen will be greeted by some professors who have a pretty low opinion of today’s students.

The common view is that students are much less prepared for college today, that standards are far lower and that freshmen have a shorter attention span each year.

Sound familiar?

But, according to Brent Bell, a researcher at the University of New Hampshire, students shouldn’t take their professor’s condemnations too seriously, because: Professors have almost always felt this way, and it simply isn’t true.

Bell recently authored “What Do You Expect From Millennials?” in the Journal of College Orientation and Transition, in which he takes this prevailing view head-on.

“My first year of teaching, I was shocked at how poorly my students were writing; but then I had the experience of finding my old papers from undergrad. I realized that I had improved dramatically over a period of time, but had remembered myself as a much better writer,” he explains. “For teachers, it truly feels like the students are much less prepared. But I found that this sentiment was pretty consistent right back to the early 1900s.”

Ultimately, after the initial typically rough first semester, Bell found that today’s college students are doing about the same quality of work — and maybe even better — than their predecessors.

“The best criticism of that is grade inflation — students aren’t held to the same standards,” he says. “But if you look at the SAT over the years, the scores have stayed pretty much the same — and that’s with far more students taking the test.”


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