The following essay is taken without alteration from Harvard Magazine’s current issue. I reprint it without comment because its clarity and persuasiveness require none.
Read and reflect.
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Porter University Professor Helen Vendler, a preeminent poetry critic, has served on Harvard College’s undergraduate admissions committee. Given contemporary admissions processes and pressures, she recalls “wondering how well T.S. Eliot (who had to do a preparatory year at Milton Academy before he could risk admittance, and whose mother was in consultation with Harvard and Milton officials before deciding what to do with him after he finished high school in St. Louis) would have fared, or Wallace Stevens (admitted as a special student to do only three years’ study), or E.E. Cummings (admittedly, a faculty child).” Accordingly, she proposed that alumni interviewers receive some guidance on how to understand, attract, and evaluate applicants whose creative talents might otherwise be overlooked, and wrote this essay, subsequently posted on Harvard’s Office of Admissions website.
Anyone who has seen application folders knows the talents of our potential undergraduates, as well as the difficulties overcome by many of them. And anyone who teaches our undergraduates, as I have done for over 30 years, knows the delight of encountering them. Each of us has responded warmly to many sorts of undergraduates: I’ve encountered the top Eagle Scout in the country, a violinist who Continue reading “Admitting Writers and Artists to Harvard”