“The class of…”

This is one of those questions the answer to which must be obvious to most people, but I’m not sure about correct usage so I’m asking anyway: In American usage, when referring to “the class of” some educational institution that someone attended, the year that follows is the year of graduation, not the year of enrollment, right? So someone who starts a four-year college degree this year would be considered to belong to “the class of 2025” rather than of 2021? And this applies even in anticipation, i.e., you’d already speak of the class of 2025 even now? Someone who enrolled at the same time for a two-year degree would be “the class of 2023”, i.e. have a different year despite being contemporary to “the class of 2025”?

Your understanding is correct. It starts in high school where freshman are identified by the projected year they will be seniors and graduate. So I am class of 79 for high school and class of 84 for college. Took a year off in college.

Yes, you are correct. If I begin high school or my undergraduate degree in Fall 2021, then I am part of the Class of 2025, because we are scheduled to complete high school, or receive our bachelor’s degrees, in Spring 2025.

And even years after that, if I meet a fellow alumnus or alumna of my school, I might introduce myself as being in the Class of 2025.

And that’s regardless of the fact that some of our fellow class members will fail to attain their diplomas or degrees in 2025. We are members of the Class of 2025 as soon s we begin the program in Fall 2025. The people who fail to complete in 2025 will not continue to identify themselves that way.

I don’t encounter people with two-year (associate’s) degrees identifying themselves by class because usually the intent with an associate’s degree is to transfer in to a bachelor’s degree program.

I have a brother who earned a 2 year degree in electronics from a community college and he never intended to go on to a 4 year school. That qualified him for a job and that was all he wanted. I suppose he could refer to it that way if he wanted but community colleges don’t inspire tremendous respect anyway. We referred to it as “Harvard on the Hill,” “Stanford in the Sticks,” “Cardboard Minnesota,” etc.

My university sends a news magazine and everything (new job, promotion, human interest story, obits) lists alums by year of graduation, sometimes multiples (BA '90, MA '92) if they continued and got more than one degree there.

In contrast, sports that straddle a new year like American football are named for the year the bulk of their play occurred. The 1985 NFL Champions were the Chicago Bears who won the Super Bowl in January 1986.

Untypically, my undergraduate school (New College of Florida in Sarasota) doesn’t describe its alumni by the year that the students graduated. They list them by the year they entered New College. Furthermore, they describe them by the year they entered regardless of whether they graduated (although other colleges wouldn’t even call them alumni). So a student named John Doe who entered in 1980 and dropped out after a year is called “John Doe '80” and said to be in the class of 1980. Furthermore, a student named Richard Roe who entered New College in 1980 after spending time at some other college is called “Richard Roe '80” and said to be in the class of 1980. I don’t know if any other college does this.

That’s got to cause a lot of confusion.

– some chunk of my head is now trying to work up a mystery story solution that relies on this bit of information; something about ‘no, x wasn’t a legal adult in year y, they were only 17, even though they were accurately Class of Z from that particular college!’

One related issue which non-Americans may not be familiar with also uses the same terminology:
“The Class Reunion”.
It’s common for the graduates of each year to arrange reunion parties after 10, 20, and 30 years.
Invitations to the reunion are sent exclusively to the people who graduated together in a specific year.*
(The logic, I suppose, is that the people with whom who you spent all 4 years of high school or 4 years of university are the ones you know best,. and with whom you want to reminisce about the ‘good old days’ )

For two year associate-degree programs, such reunions are rare, and it is also a bit unusual to think of yourself as a member of the “Class of 2017”. I think the reason is that students of 2 year degrees are usually there for practical reasons, and are less involved with the lifestyle of being a student, living in shared dorms, having wild parties and hopefully making long-term friendships, etc.

(*I think that in some countries, it is more common to have periodic (annual?) reunions for the entire high school, inviting all the former students, not restricted to a specific year. Am I right?)

It doesn’t cause that much confusion because that way of dating students’ time at New College and whether they graduated isn’t used outside of alumni newsletters and such. In talking to anyone else, a former student simply says when they entered and when they graduated, with maybe a description of time they took off and other places they went. My academic career is so complicated that I have to take a minute to describe it in any case. I tell people where I grew up and graduated from high school, where I went for my freshman year, where I went for my sophomore through senior year, where I took some courses during the summer between my junior and senior year, where I went to graduate school the first time, where I went to graduate school the second time, what degrees I got from all that, and what I studied at each place. Oh, and if I’m going to mention every place I spent time at, I mention the college where I went to a National Science Foundation program for high school students in the summer between my senior year in high school and my freshman year in college, although that didn’t offer college credit for the courses during that program.

To whom? Not to us.

I don’t think this would be a puzzle at all, except maybe to Encyclopedia Brown.

Everybody knows that your class membership is determined on the year you finished, not your age. There are “non-traditional” students who are significantly younger or older, or students who take longer than four years to complete a four-year program.

I have encountered people who say “I would have been Class of 19XX, but I transferred (or didn’t finish).”

Oh, d’oh! Never mind. I just realized you were responding to Wendell’s comment.

Ignorance fought, thank you (and references to “the class of …” in American films now make sense to me). FWIW, the usage in the UK seems to differ; I went to England for graduate studies, and there the usage was to refer to the year of enrollment (which was called matriculation, but that’s another matter).

Which also explains the oft-seen graffiti:

“Jeff - Class of 2022”

“Bill - Class of whenever I get enough credits”

That would have described me. I was already employed in my field before I ever stepped inside a college classroom. I got all three of my degrees piecemeal. While I got to know many people along the way I never was able to “gel” with a graduating class because I never knew when I would receive my degree.

To build on this, for the OP:

American high schools are usually either a three-year program, or a four-year program, depending on how local school districts organize their primary schools. When I was younger, it was common for primary schools in my area to run from 1st grade to 8th grade (which one would finish when one was about 13 or 14 years old), and then the local high schools were four-year schools (effectively being 9th to 12th grade). However, many U.S. school districts are structured with a “middle school” or “junior high” that runs to 9th grade, meaning that their high schools are only three-year programs.

Either way, as @Acsenray notes, the “Class of” nomenclature for high school students presumes that the student will finish in the usual time, be it three years or four years.

For colleges which offer bachelor’s degrees (and for students enrolled in those programs), the presumption upon matriculation is that you’ll finish in four years, and your “Class of” nomenclature, at least when you start college, is based on that. However, for a bunch of reasons (many of which have already been touched on here), a lot of college students take longer than four years to get their degree.

My impression (though I don’t have data to back it up) is that it’s far more common for middle school to be either 7th-8th or 6th-7th-8th, leaving the traditional four years (freshman-sophomore-junior-senior) for high school.

I’m reminded of a Superman story where our hero talks stuff over with someone (a) he’s just saved, and who (b) mentioned one or two things that most folks these days wouldn’t know; he asks her who she is, and she replies that she’s Kristin Wells: Brandeis, Class of ‘53…

“Care to fill in a century?”

That’s how it was where I grew up (Chicagoland). Middle school/junior high (they were used interchangeably) was 6-8. Where I live now though (Cincinnati) the elementary schools in the city district are K-6 and high schools are 7-12. The 7th and 8th graders are considered junior high or middle school and are in some cases are kept in a particular section of the high school building for most of their classes. I’ve never heard of high schools that are only 10-12, but there’s so many ways it can be done I’m sure there’s plenty of districts that do it that way.

Every school district is different in the fine details, and there are exceptions to everything, but the closest thing to a constant is that high school is grades 9 through 12. Even in the uncommon cases where one building contains 10-12 or 8-12, a student usually starts being referred to as a “high schooler” at 9th grade.

Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 are also referred to as “freshman”, “sophomore”, “junior”, and “senior”, terms which are also used for the (usually) four years of college. Which can occasionally cause some confusion, but usually it’s clear from context whether one means a high school sophomore or a college sophomore, or whatever.

And my daughter was in her high school class of 2000, and got a T-shirt saying that when she was in elementary school.