Big news on Slashdot today:

theodp writes Confirming paranoid high-schoolers’ fears, a new Kaplan survey reveals that 10% of admissions officers from prestigious schools said they had peeked at sites like Facebook and MySpace to evaluate college-bound seniors. Of those using the profiles, 38% said it had a ‘negative impact’ on the applicant. ‘Today’s application is not just what you send … but whatever they can Google about you,’ said Kaplan’s Jeff Olson. At Notre Dame, assistant provost for enrollment Dan Saracino said he and his staff sometimes come across candidates portraying themselves in a less-than-flattering light. ‘It’s typically inappropriate photos — like holding up a can of beer at a party,’ Saracino said. On the other hand, using the Internet to vet someone’s character seems overly intrusive to Northwestern’s Christopher Watson. ‘We consider Facebook and MySpace their personal space,’ the dean of undergraduate admissions said. ‘It would feel somewhat like an invasion of privacy.'”

There is some confusion here I think.

Each generation is motivated by a hope and a fear. The hope is that we ‘leave the world a better place than when we entered it’ or ‘want a better life for my children’. Fears tend to change with each generation . From where I sit,

  • Boomers feared lack of security – keep your job, don’t move house, look after the family. A few wars and the threat of nuclear destruction will do that to even die-hard risk takers. Stick at the same job/company so that your children have a better start in life.
  • Gen X fear lack of success. Not quite as adamant about ‘job for life’ or ‘same house that I was born in’, Gen X nevertheless are fearful of looking silly. Try something, fail, give up and get a real job. Work hard, moving up the ladder in different companies, don’t fail, so that your children can have more opportunities.
  • Gen Y fear not finding their passion. By not connecting to their passion and with others that share similar passions, Gen Y fear they will not have a voice and will end up being ignored. In a world where fame can be had for the price of a YouTube video, being ignored means you don’t exist. Take risks, fail, but whatever you do, don’t be boring. Fail Forward into Fame and Fortune. Oh and there’s no point standing still and trying to figure out something in depth because the world is in state of continual flux, and so you had better keep skating ahead of the changes. Keep changing jobs, careers, stay flexible, until you find what you love, so that your children will learn to be their own person.

I really doubt that Gen Y will take to college education in the same way and for the same reasons as Boomers and X’ers. They marry younger, have children younger, start their own business younger. Gen Y see the world as information, it’s swimming around them. Want the same information as an MBA has? Go online. Ditto those generations following Y. Noughties? Gen Z? These generations don’t have to be taught to do research, right? Google’s been around ten years – half their life?

So what does an Ivy League ‘prestigious school’ of the future look like? Cos the problem is: prestigious schools sometimes aim to keep the status quo, and this is not a status quo generation. While all social networks have hierarchies and clearly badged ‘leaders’, they have to remain culturally relevant. If all education is decentralized and online? Collaborative research, online group projects and wikis are a given. So, how about lectures that are ‘events’? Bring in the biggest and brightest, not as as indentured err tenured professors but as guest speakers. This is not an addon – Bill Gates, Al Gore do guest speaking at Unis – but as social networking events for students who are integrating education into their real life. After all, that is what college/uni is about now – not information (we have that in spades), not tools training (online help anyone?) not rigorous research (trial and error generation) but business connections and social value amongst peers in an Ivy League world.

Oh and focus the curriculum on real world practical applications. Not to get a job, no sirree, but how to run a business. A medical degree that shows how to become the top surgeon and run a consulting business. A Law degree that includes subjects on how to become a partner or play golf. Heh.

The video game generation are used to failing forward (try and kill the monster, fail, try another way), so don’t need a security blanket of the ‘right way’. Indeed, schools no longer serve up ‘information’ to assist students in ‘getting a job’ in a cube farm, but provide social networking, and structures for them to create wider possibilities in life.

Leadership, self-employment and self promotion. With this generation, Leadership comes from their environment, not from being skilled up, or any intrinsic personality trait, by the way. They know that if they can just tap into their passion, their ‘thing’ – well, they will become their own kind of leader, in their own community.

A few underage drinking photos is not going to keep Gen Y away from a medium that supersizes their social networking, their unique voice, their creativity and their self-empowerment. Schools that seek to limit or ridicule or judge (instead of guide) their online behaviour, are culturally irrelevant and risk losing their status.

Because greater than their fear of lack of stability and greater than their fear of failure is this fear: what if they don’t find out what they are meant to do and who they truly are?