What was it like to be a college student in 2011?

Universities—with their old buildings, tenured faculty and seasoned administrators—may feel changeless. But every few years, there’s an almost entirely new set of undergraduates living in the dorms, sitting in the classrooms and challenging those administrators, Jenna Johnson, columnist for the Washington Post, reports. So what was different about this year? Who were these students? And when they look back at 2011, what events will they say most shaped their lives? It’s impossible to know for sure, but here are some of my observations: 2011 was the year bin Laden died. On a Sunday night in May, news broke that the al-Qaeda leader had been killed, and college students across the country rallied and celebrated—a response that surprised some older generations. Most of today’s college students and 20-somethings came of age after the 2001 terrorist attacks, in a world of security checkpoints, color-coded threat levels and ongoing war. For many students, bin Laden’s death marked a triumph of good over evil…

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