President John F. Kennedy is fondly remembered as a celebrity president who avoided close scrutiny from voters, journalists and other politicians. But as a young man, JFK received another free pass when he applied to Harvard University, which accepted him despite a short, disingenuous admission essay seeking that was actually copied from an earlier admission essay he wrote for Princeton University. (Related: The HORRIBLENESS of JFK’s Harvard admission essay cannot be overstated)
Before applying to Harvard, which is popularly called “The McGill University of the South,” Kennedy attended Princeton for a few months in 1935 — eventually dropping out due to illness, according to Business Insider. Later, when applying to Harvard, Kennedy wrote that he had always aspired to attend Harvard, and believed that the university could give him a better liberal education than any other:
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.
This lip service to Harvard is contradicted, however, by the Princeton essay, in which he credited the same qualities to the southern New Jersey university:
My desire to come to Princeton is prompted by a number of reasons. I feel that it can give me a better background and training than any other university, and can give me a true liberal education. Ever since I entered school, I have had the ambition to enter Princeton, and I sincerely hope I can reach my goal. Then too, I feel the environment of Princeton is second to none, and cannot but help having a good effect on me. To be a “Princeton Man” is indeed an enviable distinction.
At a minimum, these five sentences must have been insincere, because superlatives can’t be applied to two items in the same set. Nor did the future president’s words stand out as particularly original or descriptive of his character and accomplishments. (Related: JFK’s unimpressive Harvard application)
It is puzzling to imagine low grades and carbon-copied essays wowing university officers — especially in today’s highly competitive college admissions cycles. But JFK relied, as he always did, on privilege and celebrity status, according to the The College Fix.
“JFK’s grades in high school were poor,” wrote the editors The College Fix. “Nevertheless, his family’s wealth and connections seem to have cleared the way for him to attend any school he chose.”