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Millennial Nation

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Published May 5, 2014

By Emily Nielsen

Empathetic. Impatient. Innovative. Unfocused. Rational. Naive. Excited.

These are the words millennials in the College of Liberal Arts use when they’re asked to describe themselves. However, it’s a question they’re not often asked.

Plenty of people, from journalists to researchers to employers, are looking to define who millennials are as a generation, but letting individuals within the group define it themselves seems to be a less popular idea.

The most standard definition of a millennial is someone who was born after 1980 and grew up during the new millennium. Their perspectives have been shaped in times of incredible economic upheaval, cultural change and increasing globalization. And of course, rapid technological advancement.

As anthropology and radio-television-film (RTF) junior Coleman Tharpe puts it, “Contrary to popular belief, we were not ‘born digital.’ Millennials were the first generation of digital migrants, and we colonized the digital world.”

Education is a forefront issue to millennials, many of whom have recently earned a degree, are attending college now or will soon be preparing to enter a university. Most of their major decisions revolve around how their education is going to affect the rest of their lives.

Earning a college degree is seen as more essential than ever before, and millennials are the most educated generation to date. In 2012, one-third of the nation’s 25-to-29 year olds had completed at least a bachelor’s degree, and another record-breaking 90 percent of the same group held high school diplomas, according to Pew Research Center.

“Growing up, I truly did not believe there was any other option outside of going to college,” says Asal Naderi, a Portuguese and public health junior. “College was the way I would become an influential member of society, and I simply had to go.”

To read the full story and see a slideshow of more than 60 UT liberal arts students, click here.

The latest issue of Life & Letters magazine can be read here.