With commencement exercises taking place across the country, The Harris Poll is providing a sweeping snapshot of what to expect from a group that is among the front line of the nation's newest generation -- Generation 2001, which comprises those born between 1979 and 2001.

"In a nutshell, these students are way connected, way career-minded and way confident," said Deanna L. Tillisch, director of the Generation 2001 study for Northwestern Mutual, which commissioned The Harris Poll by Harris Interactive.

"This is the first generation that can stake a full claim to the Internet -- they're virtually 100 percent connected. Gen2001 students are ready to work -- with resumes in-hand -- and have significant entrepreneurial drive. They already have 'to-do' lists and are confident they will achieve their goals," added Tillisch.

The study is the second of its kind to survey a nationally representative cross section of 2,001 college students from this generation. Where this new study looks at college seniors today, the first survey, conducted in 1997, looked at members of this same group when they were freshmen.

This newest Northwestern Mutual report, called "Generation 2001: The Second Study," looks at various issues of concern to these students -- from their Internet usage to their favorite sources for news; from their goals for job and career to their income expectations; from the things in life about which they're most confident to the things that keep them awake at night.

  Here are some top line results:

  This is as virtual as it gets

Generation 2001 students use the Internet, with almost 100 percent of them online. No other generation can make this claim, with only two-thirds of the general population accessing the Internet. Furthermore, the Internet usage of Generation 2001 students has nearly doubled since they were freshmen, from an average of 6 to 11 hours a week.

"Where others have tagged them Generation Y, Generation Next and even Generation 2001, this group is telling us it prefers to be called 'The Cyber Generation," Tillisch said. "It's not surprising given their dependence on the Internet."

  For example:
  -- It's their primary news source -- Four out of five Gen2001 students
     turn on their computers instead of the radio (57 percent) or TV
     (55 percent) to get their news and information.  Print media such as
     newspapers and magazines are the least favored (37 percent and
     39 percent, respectively) sources of news and information.
  -- It's how they correspond with the world -- Nine out of 10 Gen2001
     students send and receive e-mails on a daily or frequent basis,
     compared with only 13 percent who write letters by hand.
  -- It's how they look for jobs -- More than half (54 percent) of the
     Gen2001 students have visited the career-planning Web site monster.com,
     and significant numbers have frequented other such sites like
     myjobs.com, jobdirect.com and headhunter.com to help launch their
     careers.
  -- It's a good mixer -- While there have been numerous things said about
     the feelings of isolation created by the Internet, Gen2001 students say
     overwhelmingly (78 percent) that it has brought them closer to the
     world.
  -- They trust it -- Where nearly half (46 percent) of those Americans who
     access the Internet are very concerned about the privacy and security
     of their online activities, only half as many (23 percent) Gen2001
     students share this concern.

  Picture a world of entrepreneurs

More than half (56 percent) of the Generation 2001 students say it is likely that they will someday work for themselves or start their own business. Furthermore, when considering their "dream job," nearly twice as many want to be a founder of a start-up company as want to be CEO of a Fortune 1000 company.

"Clearly, there's an entrepreneurial spirit found in this group," Tillisch said. "Look at the different career components that are important to Gen2001 students, and you'll find high on their list that they want lots of responsibility, lots of independence, lots of room for creativity and flexible working hours. All this, over job prestige and earning a high salary, which clearly aren't as important."

  Other career-related findings:
  -- They're ready to begin work -- Six out of 10 plan to immediately enter
     the workforce upon graduation.
  -- They've got paper in hand -- Almost 80 percent have prepared a resume,
     begun their job search or both.
  -- They'll sacrifice family time to advance career -- A strong majority
     (64 percent) expect that, in the future, they will have to sacrifice
     time with their family to advance their career.
  -- They're in touch with how much people earn -- Income expectations of
     Gen2001 students appear modest, as most (68 percent) anticipate their
     starting salary will be $40,000 or under, with a third of them
     expecting in the $20,001-$30,000 range.

  A well-balanced mixture of mind and heart

When they were freshmen in college, students responded to Northwestern Mutual's first Generation 2001 survey with a certain "sense and sensibility," according to Tillisch.

"On the one hand, their sensibilities then were alive with idealism, optimism and a vision of a better world," she said. "On the other hand, they weren't so blindly idealistic or optimistic as to deny the realities of life, or that there are challenges to face.

"Fortunately, this well-balanced mixture of mind and heart hasn't diminished much over the course of college," Tillisch said.

  For example:
  -- They have a "to do" list -- As college seniors, Gen2001 students have
     established specific goals for themselves for the next five years
     (88 percent agree).
  -- There's already a light at the end of their tunnel -- They're sure that
     someday they'll get to where they want to be in life (98 percent).
  -- There are few 'temps' in the group -- They think it's very likely that
     their first job out of college will be in their career field
     (63 percent).
  -- They're settling for only the best or better -- They believe that it is
     very likely they will eventually be able to afford the kind of
     lifestyle in which they were raised (73 percent).

Along with this confidence, though, are some things that keep Generation 2001 students awake at night.

  For example:
  -- They're concerned about the direction of the country -- They're split
     as to whether we're on the right track (53 percent say the country is
     generally headed in the right direction vs. 42 percent who say it's
     not).  Interestingly, this view held by college seniors is less
     optimistic than that held by the general population, 65 percent of
     which believe things are going the right way.
  -- They're concerned about the state of race relations -- Roughly half
     (48 percent) of college seniors rate current race relations in the
     United States as only fair, with an additional 12 percent feeling
     matters in this regard are poor.
  -- They're aware of the burning issues -- College seniors see our
     education system, the environment, crime and violence, health care and
     the political leadership as those issues requiring the most attention
     in our country.
  -- They don't like owing money -- They worry about how they're going to
     reduce financial loans and debt (44 percent worry about this a lot).

"We view this mixture of confidence and concern as encouraging news for the rest of us, considering these students are tomorrow's shapers of society," Tillisch said. "Gen2001 students are clearly in touch with themselves and with what's going on in the nation and around the globe."

  Survey background
  "Generation 2001: The Second Study" was conducted by Harris Interactive .

"The new century and the new millennium provide an ideal occasion to study an age group that for years has had a tremendous business significance for our company," Tillisch said. For more than 30 years, Northwestern Mutual has sponsored one of America's best college internship programs, as ranked by The Princeton Review.

"Two thirds of our top 100 Financial Representatives started with the company at age 25 or younger," she said. "Clearly, college students are important to us. We want to know what they're all about."

Northwestern Mutual is the nation's leading provider of individual life insurance. The Company distributes its products and services through the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network and its 7,500 Financial Representatives. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company is based in Milwaukee, Wis.

Harris Interactive (NASDAQ: HPOL) is one of the world's leading public opinion and market research firms, using Internet-based and traditional methodologies. Known for The Harris Poll, Harris Interactive has 45 years of experience in providing its clients with a full range of market research products and services.

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SOURCE: Northwestern Mutual

Contact: Deanna Tillisch, Director of Generation 2001 Study,
414-665-2705, deannatillisch@northwesternmutual.com , or Nancy Wong, Public
Relations of Harris Interactive, 716-214-7316, nwong@harrisinteractive.com

Website: http://www.northwesternmutual.com/about/newskit