To the legions of students who have been tutored and molded and prodded toward a top college most of their young lives, it would be an absurd question: How many of you had to explain to your parents what MIT is?
When a dean asked a Massachusetts Institute of Technology classroom full of 20-odd freshmen recently in their first few days away from home — at one of the most famous colleges in the world — almost every hand went up. Then, they laughed. And someone cracked a math joke.
These students are “first generation,” the first in their families to go to college. And they are the third class to whom MIT has reached out during orientation, not only to offer support but to instill pride in young people who have shown extraordinary drive yet often feel alone and inadequate amid affluent classmates who have already published papers or traveled the world.