College is about figuring out who we are, both as individuals and as part of society at large. Many of us enter college largely unsure of who we are, and even those among us who are initially confident in their identities undergo massive change.
Since 1966, the University of California at Los Angeles has surveyed the nation’s college freshmen to gain information about who they are and where they come from. Many of the questions have to do with demographics, but a subset deals with how the students rate themselves on various dimensions compared with others their own age.
85.5 percent of the college freshmen polled in 2014 rated themselves above average in terms of their ability to work cooperatively with diverse people. 80.7 percent believed they have an above-average tolerance of people with different beliefs. 76.1 percent rated themselves above average in terms of their ability to see the world from someone else’s perspective (UCLA). And the trend continues in this fashion.
However, on any issue relating to tolerance and open-mindedness, almost everyone rated themselves above average. Why is this?
In other categories such as physical health, emotional health and spirituality, the students’ tendency to believe they were above average dropped dramatically. However, on any issue relating to tolerance and open-mindedness, almost everyone rated themselves above average. Why is this?
Our culture places high value on open-mindedness, diversity and freedom of thought. Especially in college, we strive to expand our horizons by being exposed to viewpoints other than our own. By doing so, we come to know ourselves better by solidifying our personal beliefs while simultaneously learning to love and accept those with whom we disagree.
Most importantly, we are the people who have decided to accept and learn from people of different religions, cultures, sexual orientations, political viewpoints and paradigms.
Aside from simply bettering our career prospects, we hope to exit college as educated, open-minded individuals who can think for ourselves. We want to be able to work cooperatively with people different from ourselves, tolerate people with different beliefs and see the world from the perspective of others. As reflected by the survey results, we both revere and strive for those qualities. They represent a type of intelligence more valuable than simply being able to memorize and reproduce information.
Who are the college freshmen across the United States? We make up the 65 percent of high school graduates who have decided to further our education in a way that goes beyond just academics. We have embraced our culture’s value of open mindedness as we are exposed to an array of subjects and types of people. Most importantly, we are the people who have decided to accept and learn from people of different religions, cultures, sexual orientations, political viewpoints and paradigms.
We are diverse. We are accepting. We are free thinking. We are beautiful.
Email Carley Schanck at [email protected]