Applying to College ca. 1869

Seems like these days the college process is pretty straightforward. Fill out your CommonApp, write an essay that recounts your hamster’s death and its impact on your decision to take 5 APs during junior year, have gramps write a check a great transcript and with a few mouse clicks you’ve set yourself up for a 1-in-10 chance of Ivy League acceptance. However, this was not always the case. Yesterday, Buzzfeed posted this gem from the Harvard University archives: an entrance examination that’s so personalized it even let the applicant pick 2 questions in the ‘History and Geography’ section!

Don’t expect to find any blank space to write a two-page essay on great uncle Charlie’s life-changing wisdom here. There’s only a series of questions that test one’s mastery of a typical 19th century curriculum: Latin, Greek, History-Geography and several areas of mathematics. Apparently, Harvard didn’t regard Sex, Gender and Society as a necessary part of a rounded education. This test, rather, emphasizes the dead languages and cold facts that everybody knows will nurture one’s ability to think broadly and critically better than silly analysis or worthless discussion of  intellectual and real-world issues.

But in all seriousness, if most of us (or most college students for that matter) were to take this exam, we would most definitely be in alta merda (that’s Latin for deep shit). Luckily, it’s the 21st century and for that, we can all be thankful.

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