JFK's Princeton Admission Essay: The Revealing Juvenalia

by Ross Kenneth Urken · January 21, 2011

Coinciding with the end of the college application season comes the 50th anniversary of JFK's inaugural address. High school seniors may lament the fact they didn't have a chance to model their essays off of JFK's Princeton app. Check out the excerpts below.

Though JFK ultimately took his degree from Harvard, he spent six weeks at Princeton in 1935. His one-paragraph statement, penned on the back of his application and dated March 8, 1935,  begins facilely.

"My desire to come to Princeton is prompted by a number of reasons."

His next statement follows the platitudinous effect that must fill innumerable admissions essays each year:

"I feel that it can give me a better background and training than any other university, and can give me a true liberal education."

JFK indicates that he had kept his sights on Old Nassau since the beginning of his schooling.

"Ever since I entered school, I have had the ambition to enter Princeton, and I sincerely hope I can reach my goal."

He speaks vaguely about the idea of a "Princeton Man" and his desire to fulfill that role.

"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."

Perhaps the kibosh put on the "The Kennedys," an eight-part miniseries starring Katie Holmes and Greg Kinnear A&E Network planned to run on its History Channel before pulling the plug, came in response to the revealing biographical excavation the project undertook. Perhaps, we'd like to think, the true scandal could be seen in these jejune sorts of tid-bits and feuillets as seen in this application.

For his more verbally mature inauguration speech from January 20, 1961, check out the clip below.

[Image of JFK via AfterAmerica.com]

[Document compliments Princeton University Archives, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library]