JFK's Unimpressive Harvard Application

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of JFK's inauguration, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library is digitizing reams of JFK artifacts. Among them: The president's application to Harvard, including mediocre test scores and a refreshingly banal personal essay.

In 1935, when JFK applied, Harvard's application was three pages long. (Somewhere, a guidance counselor just burst into a maniacal fit of laughter.) The "Why I Want to Go to Harvard" section was spacious enough for five handwritten sentences. Here are John F. Kennedy's:

JFK's Unimpressive Harvard Application

The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several. I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university. I have always wanted to go there, as I have felt that it is not just another college, but is a university with something definite to offer. Then too, I would like to go to the same college as my father. To be a "harvard man" is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain.

April 23, 1935
John F. Kennedy

Joseph P. Kennedy wrote a letter to the dean before his son enrolled in 1936, after stints at the London School of Economics and Princeton. Apparently Joe's strategy was one of brutal honesty:

Jack has a very brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested, but is careless and lacks application in those in which he is not interested. This is, of course, a bad fault.

JFK ultimately enrolled and graduated cum laude. Click below to see the whole application, or here for other Harvard-related JFK documents.

View gallery »

Armchair historians: If you find something cool in the JFK Presidential Library's increasingly thick digital archives, post it in the comments. [JFK Library, Slate, HubBub, photograph via AP]