Do You Have the Smarts to Pass Harvard’s Entrance Exam—From 1869?

smolaw11/iStock via Getty Images
smolaw11/iStock via Getty Images

Back in the 19th century, when higher education wasn’t yet the norm for the majority of Americans, even top-notch universities placed newspaper ads to attract applicants with promises like free tuition, prime room and board, and more.

According to The New York Times, they also held entrance exams right up to the very weekend before classes started to ensure that every possible high school graduate had the chance to make a last-minute, life-changing decision to pursue a college degree.

If you’re thinking back to your own harrowing, drawn-out college admissions process and fantasizing about Harvard University begging you to go there in the 1860s, pause your daydream long enough to read the rest of this article—because you might think Harvard’s entrance exam from that era was more of a nightmare than anything else.

In addition to subjects like geometry and algebra that you might have known at some point but have since forgotten, the 1869 test includes subjects that you very likely never learned at all.

Do you have enough background in ancient geography, for example, to name the chief rivers of Ancient Gaul, or explain who Jugurtha was?

And even if you have a few years of Latin under your belt, you might still find it difficult to translate this sentence:

“In the first of the spring the consul came to Ephesus, and having received the troops from Scipio he held a speech in-presence-of the soldiers, in which, after extolling their bravery, he exhorted them to undertake a new war with the Gauls, who had [as he said] helped Antiochus with auxiliaries.”

Compared to those sections, most of the arithmetic questions seem relatively manageable, but only if you can whip out your handy pocket calculator—a device that wasn’t popularized until the mid-20th century.

Hopefully, the future faces of Harvard were at least allowed to use slide rules to divide 33,368,949.63 by 0.007253, or find the cube root of 0.0093 to five decimal places.

While the curriculum has evolved enough in the last 150 years to make this exam seem like quite a doozy to us, prospective students apparently fared well. According to IFLScience, Harvard boasted in a newspaper ad that 185 out of 210 candidates passed the test.

Check out the full exam [PDF] to see just how many answers you know (or don’t know), and find out 11 other ways school was different in the 1800s here.

[h/t IFLScience]

A Handful of Lucky College Students Live With Senior Citizens in This Minnesota Mansion

vadimguzhva/iStock via Getty Images
vadimguzhva/iStock via Getty Images

When Winona State University student Ashley McGaw skateboards home after a long day of nursing classes, she’s greeted by an unusual entourage: the elderly residents of a Minnesota assisted living facility called Senior Living at Watkins.

According to WFAA, McGaw and several other college kids live there with 45 seniors as part of Winona Health’s “Students in Residence" program, in which students volunteer their time with residents in exchange for discounted rent. For 10 volunteer hours per month, it’s $400, and doubling your hours drops it to just $200 per month. Not only does that include meals, it also gives students the chance to forgo the usual college dorm building for the stately glamour of an old mansion—their rooms are located in the historic Watkins Manor House, which is attached to the assisted living facility.

For freshman Joel Olson, the opportunity seemed like a no-brainer.

“'All you have to do is spend some time with some really nice people?'” he remembers thinking, according to KARE 11. “Of course!”

As for how they spend that time, it’s up to the students. Graduate student Laura Jensen hosts weekly crocheting sessions, nursing student Hanna Rottier offers manicures, and bulletin boards advertise free tech support.

And, in return for sharing their time and talents, students get to experience the familial affection and grandparental concern that’s often scarce on a college campus.

“They all mother me,” Jensen tells KARE 11 about the members of her crocheting club. “They take care of me.”

Winona Health assisted living director Cheryl Krage sees evidence of this, too.

“I hear residents wondering how the students are doing with their studies,” Winona Health assisted living director Cheryl Krage tells KARE 11. “‘Are you eating enough, are you getting enough fruits and vegetable[s]?"

According to the program page on Winona Health’s website, the program is especially beneficial to students looking to enter the healthcare industry, whether that’s medical school, nursing, social work, rehabilitative therapy, or even music therapy.

It also keeps senior citizens connected to the next generation in a deeper way.

“Helps us stay young – ger,” senior resident Diane Sheldon told KARE 11.

[h/t WFAA]

Le Double Fond Just Became France’s First Official School For Magicians

fergregory/iStock via Getty Images
fergregory/iStock via Getty Images

At night, Le Double Fond is a charming Parisian bar where the whole family can enjoy bites and beverages with a side of magic tricks. During the day, however, the venue transforms into a school for the next generation of magicians.

Though Dominique Duvivier and his daughter Alexandra have been training students by day and entertaining patrons by night since founding the establishment in 1988, they just achieved a new level of status: France’s Ministry of Labor has recognized Le Double Fond as an official magic academy.

According to Reuters, the certification elevates the institution to the level of other performing arts schools and legitimizes it as a form of post-high school education. For 18-year-old Thomas Bioret, the prospect of a diploma was the reason he decided to enroll in the three-month program instead of continuing on a path to becoming a professional croupier.


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Before joining Le Double Fond (which translates to “The False Bottom”), Bioret practiced magic in his spare time and even organized high school productions. Now he spends 35 hours a week in the basement of the restaurant learning magic tricks, the history of magic, practical management skills, and more.

“It’s really engrossing—you don’t notice the day go by,” Bioret told Reuters. “Sure, it’s 35 hours a week with lots of travel, lots of homework, but the time passes at crazy speed.”

With Le Double Fond's new standing as a government-recognized institution comes opportunities for public funding, which will hopefully help alleviate the financial burden on aspiring magicians who can’t afford to pay for the three-month course, which costs a little over $16,500.

Looking to learn a little magic without moving to Paris? Here are 15 magic tricks you didn’t know you could do.

[h/t Reuters]

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