Princeton 275: Samuel Atkins ’31’s Application for Admission, 1927

This post is part of a series about items currently on exhibition at Mudd Library as part of “Princeton 275.” In this series, we go in-depth about selected items on display to let you know more about the story behind them and why we chose to include them.

First page of Samuel DeCoster Atkins ’31 *35’s application to Princeton University, 1927. (Click to enlarge.) Undergraduate Academic Records (AC198).

Living graduates of Princeton University had a much more complex admissions process than others before them, but it was important to us to show how Princeton’s restrictive admissions represented, in many respects, an paradoxical expansion of opportunities for an education for some people. Before the 1920s, students seeking admission to Princeton would simply sit for an entrance exam. Those who passed were admitted. In the 1880s, for example, the exams included English grammar and composition, world and U.S. history, geography, Latin grammar and literature, Greek grammar and literature, and mathematics. These exams effectively barred most public high school graduates from Princeton. One reason the admissions policy changed was that prep schools tended to prepare students to pass these exams, but not as much for college itself.  Continue reading