What the New Adversity Score Means for Students

Wondering if the new SAT adversity score will hurt or improve your college admissions decisions? You’re not alone. My clients are flooding my inbox with questions. In addition to math, reading, writing, and essay scores, the College Board will include an “adversity score.” Their goal is to provide a more comprehensive snapshot of the applicant’s background.  The SAT and ACT have received much criticism about scores reflecting rich parents’ ability to pay for SAT/ACT tutoring, private high school tuition, and elite summer camps, which result in higher scores instead of students’ basic knowledge and academic skills without these special opportunities. Here are the facts:

The Adversity Score considers the following:

High School:
1.  Average senior class size
2.  Percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches
3.  AP course availability
4.  Scores on AP exams

Home and Neighborhood:
1.  Home environment (single parent?)
2.  Neighborhood (safety and opportunities)
3.  Crime level
4.  Family income
5.  Family stability
6.  Poverty
7.  Ethnicity is NOT considered

The adversity score considers 15 factors and is calculated on a 1-100 point system; 50 being the average disadvantage level and 100 being the worst. The College Board will calculate the score and it will be listed on each student’s SAT test along with the subject area scores. Last year, 50 colleges used the adversity scores in their decisions for the 2019-2020 class.  This year, 150 colleges will use them. These scores are not available for students or families to see, just for college admissions committees.

Yale was one of the first colleges to use the adversity score in their admissions decision, which doubled the number of low-income students and first-generation college students to about 20% this year. That will improve the diversity of their freshman class. The adversity score is designed to give low-income and disadvantaged students a leg up on privileged, wealthy students.

The information gathered from the adversity score isn’t new news.  High schools provide colleges with a School Profile that lists many of the details the adversity score includes such as demographics, number of AP and honors courses, and average GPAs. College applications require parent employment, income, and college background. The adversity score is just ramping up the information about neighborhoods and free-lunch programs that colleges might not have.

With the college admissions scandals and affirmative action lawsuits, this is just another attempt to level the playing field for all students. After all, do we really want higher education to consist of just the wealthy? 

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