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Academic Summary of “The Implicit Punishment of Daring to Go to College When Poor”

By Zach Merenstein | Academic Summary

In his New York Times opinion piece titled “The Implicit Punishment of Daring to Go to College When Poor” (2019), Queens College (NY) senior Enoch Jemmott contrasts the recent college admissions scandal, in which wealthy parents paid for their children to get into universities, with the difficulties of trying to get into college for low-income students. Jemmott explains that the flaws of the college admissions system cause low-income students to struggle when navigating the college admission process, much less the financial aid process if they manage to get in. Ultimately, Jemmott argues the existing college admissions system “is crafted to keep low-income students like us out of college” (par 15).

To defend his claim that college admission itself  is scattered with pitfalls exclusively for low-income students, Jemmott shares his own experiences as a high school student in Canarsie, New York. He and his classmates had minimal help when applying to college; they couldn’t afford tutors to help them study for the SAT or edit their essays. Moreover, their school, and other schools like it, provided little assistance. Jemmott reports that, on average, public schools have one counselor for every 464 students, and that a school counselor’s main responsibilities consist of many things outside of college admissions, especially for counselors in underserved communities (par 5). Jemmott explains how counselors assist students in a variety of ways such as helping students in crisis and getting students social welfare support services, leaving little time for college support.

After Jemmott is satisfied that he has addressed the difficulties low-income students face in simply getting invited to matriculate, Jemmott segues into a discussion of the obstacles he and students from similar economic backgrounds face. He points out that low-income students “had to do more because [they] had less” (par. 12). He explains that even if students from low-income families get into college, they often do not attend because they struggle to complete the necessary forms for financial aid. According to Jemmott, many parents in low-income communities do not have a “high level of financial literacy,” so Jemmott and many other students like him have to fill out the financial documents on their own (par. 6). To show that low-income students need additional support and guidance in the admission process, Jemmott recounts his own experiences skipping school to go to the I.R.S and Social Security offices to complete the proper forms. He shares with his readers finding out too late that he could have received a waiver from submitting those forms because he was homeless.

Jemmott concludes by re-solidifying his main claim that the college experience is structured in a way that causes low-income students to fail. He reports that “only nine percent of people from the lowest income quartile receive a bachelor’s degree by the age of 24, compared to 77 percent for the top income quartile” (Jemmott par. 15). Jemmott finishes his argument with a call for action to change the existing system. He urges for a greater focus on providing all students, regardless of wealth, with the resources necessary to get into college and thrive.

Works Cited

Jemmott, Enoch. “The Implicit Punishment of Daring to Go to College When Poor.” The New

York Times, The New York Times, 28 Mar. 2019,