Marilee Jones, MIT’s dean of admissions, says she noticed about four years ago that students applying to MIT seemed more interested in volunteerism and public service than ever before.

These students, she says, wanted to save the world. They were identifying humanity’s big problems and also wanted to solve them. Students years ago seemed more interested in themselves –– landing big jobs and making big money. The new generation, Jones says, are the children of Baby Boomers, perhaps the most idealistic generation of us all, who taught their children to care not just about themselves but about the common good. Like their parents, who were attracted to big social movements like feminism and civil rights, today’s students are also attracted to social causes and look for ways to give through local communities.

Also, she adds, because Boomer parents often both work, this generation is the first to have been raised with day care. They grew up in groups and spent more time in adult supervised group activities than any generation before. “Community is really important to these kids,” Jones says. “They have been raised to be involved with others and to want to change and fix the world. And, as a generation, they are willing to subjugate independent ambition for the good of the whole.”

Students still have big dreams and want good jobs and lives, but they also want to serve. And some will tell you that the September 11 attacks strengthened their commitment to serve even more.

You might think that the more you give, the less you would have, but the students on these pages say the more you give away, the more that flows right back.