Perspective: College Admission Leaves Low-Income Students Behind

Courtesy of Personal Statement

The college admission process is complex and the fight for equity and access within it is far from over.

Enoch Jemmott, now a senior at Queens College (NY), recently shared his experience as a low-income student navigating the college admission process in a The New York Times piece titled, “The Implicit Punishment of Daring to Go to College When Poor.”

“I came to realize that, in every step along the way, we had to do more because we had less,” Jemmott wrote.

In his high school, he didn’t have access to a school counselor or an adult that could walk him through the process. Though he knew the SAT existed, he didn’t know much beyond that. And as for college essay help – forget it.

“We were also on our own when it came time to fill out the dreaded Free Application for Federal Student Aid: the document you have to fill out if you need financial aid — which was the case for nearly everyone in my high school. And the FAFSA can be numbingly complex for families without a high level of financial literacy — which was also the case for nearly everyone in my high school,” Jemmott wrote.

“The FAFSA is pages upon pages of details about your parents’ finances. I had never filed taxes, so I didn’t know what half of the terms meant. It was scary because there was so much at stake.”

The challenges didn’t stop after he received his college acceptance letters. Figuring out if he could afford to enroll prompted another round of complicated financial documentation.

“That some rich families bribe their children’s way into college is the least of our problems,” Jemmott wrote, referring to the recent bribery scandal.

“We’re more concerned by the college guidance gap and the maze of applying for financial aid. It shouldn’t be that difficult, fiscally or strategically, to get college advice and to fill out the FAFSA. Higher education’s admissions system should be designed to support our success, not to suppress it.”

Read more from Jemmott in The New York Times and see his experience onscreen in the documentary Personal Statement.

Ashley Dobson is NACAC’s senior communications manager for content and social media. You can reach her at

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