Nobody ever said a little self-confidence is a bad thing, but being overconfident to the point of feeling entitled, however, is. That is exactly what is happening with our generation, as college students feel more entitled than ever before.
The American Freshman Survey has asked more than 9 million students to rate themselves compared to their peers over the past 47 years.
According to the findings since the survey began collecting data, college students today consider themselves to have higher intellectual self-confidence, leadership abilities, social self-confidence and writing abilities. On the other hand, less individualistic traits — cooperativeness and understanding others — have remained stagnant or decreased.
It is important to keep in mind that all of this data is how the students feel about themselves. This is not, by any means, an accurate depiction of college students today.
For example, students today rate their writing skills higher than students in the 1960s. However, objective test scores show writing abilities among college students have actually declined.
College students thinking so highly of themselves is actually not a good thing.
First off, there is no evidence that shows self-esteem causes success, despite bookstore shelves being filled with self-help books. Also, increased ambitions accompany increasingly unrealistic expectations.
Data actually shows that despite our greater drive to succeed, we actually work less than our parents and grandparents did. This unrealistic drive to succeed can lead to anxiety and depression later on in adulthood.
Studies conducted by research universities have shown interventions encouraging students to feel good about themselves, regardless of work, may actually remove reason for work. This is similar to the silly and counterproductive idea that every child in the local community’s little league should get a trophy regardless of winning or losing.
We have created a society where people do not feel they have to work as hard to succeed. As a result, people are having more failed relationships at home and in the workplace as they go through life. They believe they are more successful than they actually are because everyone is giving them a pat on the back no matter what.
To put this into perspective, here at Virginia Tech, this would be similar to a student signing up for Relay for Life, not raising any money, but still believing they did something to help the cause by showing up for the free food.
So why exactly do us college students feel as if we are so much better today than previous generations? What have we done with our lives up to this point? Graduate high school and get into college, just like millions of other Americans do every single year?
Is it because we joined our favorite club on campus and automatically believed our club is better than all the others? Or is it because social media allows us to pretend our lives are much more awesome than they actually are (which we are all guilty of, whether we like to admit it or not).
Our generation turns on the news and complains about corrupt politicians, whining because they’re looking out for themselves instead of the people.
We like to complain that corporate executives make too much money, which is hypocritical at best for college students who are working toward a degree that will earn them more money one day. We don’t like it when “celebrities” are on TV making money for simply existing (see: the Kardashians and Jersey Shore).
The reality is, however, our generation is the same way. We, too, are on a path to become those corrupt politicians and replace those greedy corporate execs. Too many of us only care about ourselves now, so why would that change later on?
We are exactly like those people older than us or above us who we feel are burdening society, but that is OK because we are entitled to it. After all, we got accepted to college.
Our generation needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Otherwise, we are destined to grow old in the society we so love to complain about.