However, the former POTUS was not the best applicant when he decided he wanted to take up residence in Cambridge, Mass. He had poor grades from high school, and while he had spent two months at Princeton University before leaving due to an illness, even his own father called him "careless."
In anticipation of the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, The Washington Post has highlighted many of his school records, including a handwritten Harvard application. You can check out the digitized originals at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
As part of the Harvard application — which at the time was a mere three pages — students were asked to give a "careful answer" to the question "Why do you wish to come to Harvard?" Here's what a young JFK had to say:
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
From the JFK library, here's the original:
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Probability: In another exam, a pupil was asked: “A coin is flipped and then a die is rolled, what is the probability of rolling an odd and then flipping a tails.” They replied, 0 per cent, because the coin was flipped first – an answer technically correct, but ignoring the theory of probability.
When hell freezes over: The question of whether hell is endothermic (absorbs heat) or exothermic (gives off heat) is one of the better known exam test legends. While most students answered with theories about Boyle’s law and gas cooling when it expands and heating when compressed, one student wrote an answer saying first they needed to determine whether the mass of Hell was increasing or decreasing.
He then concluded there were two possibilities: “1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
“2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.”
Why? In another widely known rumour about a Philosophy exam, a student was said to receive top marks when answering the one word question ‘Why?’ with ‘Why not?’
Chair: Students in a Philosophy exam were also asked to use all their philosophical knowledge to prove why a chair, placed at the front of the room, didn’t exist. While many scribbled down different theories one student simply wrote ‘What chair?’
The question: Another pupil was also said to take a direct approach to an exam question – which asked 'Is this a question?' His reply was: 'If this is an answer.'
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