John F. Kennedy’s Harvard Application Was A Bit Thin

JFK's Harvard application was, well, ordinary.

JFK's Harvard application was, well, ordinary.

It was a lot easier to get into Harvard in 1935. Or maybe it’s because he was a Kennedy.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has digitized most some of its massive collection of presidential photographs, telegrams, phone recordings, notes and doodles.

While digging through the digital treasure trove — called the largest project of its kind — I turned up Kennedy’s undergraduate application to Harvard. His grades are mediocre and his penmanship poor.

In his admission essay, dated April 23, 1935, Kennedy writes that he wants to become a “Harvard man,” just like his father, alongside a sparse but faithful self-portrait.

Why do you wish to come to Harvard? (The Committee will expect a careful answer to this question.)

The reasons that I have for wanting 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.

…And that’s it.

Enclosed are Kennedy’s average report cards (he was ranked 65th in a class of 110), a letter of endorsement from his father, Joseph P. Kennedy (then chairman of the just-created Securities and Exchange Commission), his extracurricular activities (zilch) and a hand-written letter requesting permission to delay his enrollment one year so that he may study abroad (permission granted).

Kennedy would attend Harvard, of course, and the School of Government would become named after him.

You can browse Kennedy’s college application materials on Scribd.

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9 thoughts on “John F. Kennedy’s Harvard Application Was A Bit Thin

  1. Gloria

    I suspect that this is typical for most legacy students. Most poor nobody citizens have to cure cancer before they can get into Harvard…not so if your father was a “Harvard Man.”

  2. Timothy D. Naegele

    Kennedy was a fraud, pure and simple, as I have discussed in an article entitled, “John F. Kennedy: The Most Despicable President In American History.”


    The problem is that the Kennedy family members and sycophants have been burying the truth since his assassination, and it needs to be told. When he died, his “image” was frozen in time, but the truth is grotesque. To lionize him like his sycophants have done is a crime, and unconscionable.

    The latest travesty is Caroline Kennedy’s successful distortion of the truth by forcing the History Channel to drop its already-completed min-series about Kennedy and his wife, starring Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear.

    1. cl

      I love that title” Most despicable President” It sounds Fair and Balanced. You say Kennedy is a fraud- how about you? When you click on to your web site it appears that you are the only lawyer in your firm despite the ” and Associates” in the name. You claim to have offices in DC and LA (with generic office building photos) but no address except for a POBox in Malibu. Am I misreading your Web site?
      I entered MIT in the 70’s. My application essay was similarly clueless compared to today’s applications. 30% were admitted then compared with 7% now. I interview for MIT so I know how current admissions work. Before you sneer at JFK’s essay, I would be interested in seeing other successful essays from men who weren’t legacies. I am sure there are few deep thoughts in any of them.
      I think JFK proved that he was worthy of his admission

  3. Thomas

    Legacy? Check. Attended a bluer than blue blooded institution for high school? Choate… check. Can prove, and has demonstrated ability to breathe? check. Can guarantee that the family can afford the tuition? Check.

    That could have been the application from someone who got in this year. It’s really no different than it was. If there’s even the remotest chance that you’ll be invited to join The Porcellian Club, there’s no chance you’ll get rejected from Harvard.

  4. Ron Streetenberger

    One must never forget that there are Harvard graduates, Yale graduates, and the rest of us schmucks; you know, the truly meaningful sector of our country.

  5. ed morgan

    so much for objective journalism. I can’t read through the Kennedy application article without having to read opinionsdescriptions from an obviously anti-Kennedy writer. Isn’t gathering an opinion about the facts my job? Aren’t there enough jobs at FOX for your type? Is it really an eye opener to the writer that money and power bring success? Even in 1935? I wonder how much bashing we’d get if the writer reviewed , oh say, Bush jr application to Harvard Business school or the Air National Guard…. Don’t worry I won’t hold my breath.

    It’s like the headline for Jets alawys a spectable. Wonder what the headline would be if Pats…hmmm.. No comment..

  6. shrin

    Bottom line, there are plenty of privaleged/wealthy kids that get into ivy league schools….not all of them become senators and presidents. JFK had incredible luck with his genetics, but he did have a great deal of charisma, passion, and grit to become president.

  7. jeff walsh

    “The most despicable president”? Duh, that would be Richard Nixon the “I am not a crook” leader who resigned from the office in disgrace after his VP Spiro Agnew plead guilty to crimes and resigned.
    JFK was a bona fide war hero and the elected president. Besides starting the peace core and America’s successful race to the moon, JFK championed the civil rights movement, faced down Kruschev avoiding nuclear war and brought grace and dignity to the white house. He was a beloved figure throughout the world.
    No matter what anyone thinks of JFK he did not deserve to be gunned down by whatever cowards shot from far away. What a brave act that was for the craven fanatics that believe democracy is not threatened by such acts.
    Oh yeah, did I forget to mention Watergate and Nixon’s Christmas bombing of Indo-China? Despicable indeed!