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Posted at 8:23 AM ET, 01/24/2011

JFK's Harvard application: 'Lackluster' applicant

By Valerie Strauss

John F. Kennedy's complete 1935 application to Harvard College is now online, and you can see it here, thanks to the release by the JFK Presidential Library and Museum of a mountain of digitized documents about the personal and professional life of the 35th president in honor of the 50th anniversary of his presidential inauguration.

Kennedy's application includes his College Board Entrance Examination results, transcript from the Choate School, various recommendations and "Parentage Card." The Harvard Crimson, the university's student newspaper, says the application "presents the former president as a rather lackluster undergraduate applicant."

More from the Crimson: The transcript says that Kennedy graduated in the third quarter of his high school class with a cumulative grade average of 68 percent, though Choate's headmaster at the time noted that "he can be relied upon to do enough to pass."

Kennedy's father, Joseph, described his son in a letter as having "a very brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested," but noted that he "is careless and lacks application in those [subjects] in which he is not interested. This is, of course, a bad fault."

And here is JFK's response to a question asking why he wanted to attend Harvard:

"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."

That response, judged the Crimson, "does not quite reach the soaring rhetorical heights expected of today’s application essays."

Nevertheless, Kennedy managed to graduate (cum laude with a degree in government) and do quite well for himself. Again, you can read the entire application here.

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 24, 2011; 8:23 AM ET
Categories:  History  | Tags:  college application, college essays, harvard application, harvard college, jfk, jfk anniversary, jfk application, jfk documents, jfk library, john f. kennedy, joseph p. kennedy, kennedy family  
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