JFK's Teenage 'Harvard Man' Entrance Essay Goes Viral on Twitter 87 Years Later

The 17-year-old future president wrote in his Harvard entrance essay, "To be a 'Harvard man' is an enviable distinction, and one that I sincerely hope I shall attain"

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy. Photo: Photofest

A 1935 Harvard University entrance essay written by a then 17-year-old John F. Kennedy is again making the rounds online, this time going viral on social media for what critics say is an underwhelming piece of writing considering the teen who wrote it would go on to be president.

The short essay — written on April 23, 1935 and now housed at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library — was written in response to the prompt: "Why do you wish to come to Harvard?"

In his five-sentence response, Kennedy extols the benefits of being a "Harvard man" and attending the same college as his father.

"The reasons that I have for wishing to go to Harvard are several," he wrote. "I feel that Harvard can give me a better background and a better liberal education than any other university."

Kennedy continued: "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."

Social media users recently re-shared the essay (which periodically makes headlines), with some reinterpreting it for 2022.

" 'Harvard is a whole vibe. And I'm tryna catch the wave. Lemme in.' - JFK," wrote one Twitter user in response to the essay.

Others noted that the entrance essay Kennedy submitted to Princeton — in which he noted the "enviable distinction" of being a "Princeton man" — was strikingly similar.

Others noted that it was a different time — one in which entrance essays weren't as important a part as the overall application — and the teenager who wrote the essay did go on to achieve some notable things: "You understand that this was 85 years ago, and that he did in fact go on to fairly high office and some acclaim, right?"

Kennedy ultimately attended Harvard, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in government in 1940.

He again wrote of what it meant to attend the prestigious university in a 1956 article for the Harvard Alumni Bulletin titled "Why Harvard Men Go Into Politics."

"But more important than its reputation, Harvard offers the potential politician an atmosphere conducive to the furtherances of such a career," Kennedy — then serving as a Massachusetts senator — wrote. "His interest in national affairs is quickened, and his comprehension of political issues is increased."

He continued elsewhere in the essay: "This gentle though constant pressure has resulted in Harvard men on all levels of community and national affairs contributing immensely to the improvement of our public life. I have no doubt that Harvard men will continue to utilize this splendid background by continuing to enter the political arena in large numbers. Few other professions are so demanding _ but few, I must add, are so satisfying to the heart and soul."

Also that year, Kennedy published his 1956 book Profiles in Courage — co-written by his adviser, Ted Sorensen — for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1957.

He would be elected president in 1960 and serve until Nov. 22, 1963, when he was assassinated in Dallas.

Kennedy, then 46, was struck by two bullets while riding through the streets of Dallas in an open-topped motorcade with wife Jacqueline Kennedy by his side.

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