His grades are pretty bad.
His father wrote a letter to the admissions committee telling them that "Jack" had to take a year off after school (after attending Princeton for two months) to recover from "a blood condition." He went on to describe his character:
"Jack has a very brilliant mind for the things in which he is interested, but is careless and lacks application in those in which he is not interested."
The application essay is insipid; its basic message is "I want to go to Harvard because Harvard is good." Here is the transcript of the essay:
“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.”
That is the whole essay.
Harvard made the right choice in admitting him, but he was obviously helped by his connections and the support he received. His father was a famous man, and was able to write directly to the admissions committee. His poor grades in high school were excused because of his poor health.
He would probably not have been admitted today. The rise of the importance of the SAT would have made his life difficult.
But what about all the people without those connections, and without that support? The SAT and other standardized tests have helped them. All the critics who hate the SAT should realize that the alternate is not a world in which everyone is considered "authentically" as a "whole person," but the world in which JFK grew up.
Which one is superior?