The College Board SAT ‘Adversity Score’ Unnecessary


Gabrielle Daley, Editor-In-Chief

The SAT is given to two million students per year. It’s a four-hour test out of four years of high school that determines a student’s chances of getting into the college of their dreams. As time passes, colleges are beginning to question if the test is an accurate representation of a student and their ability to excel in college. There are now approximately 1000 colleges in the United States that have become test optional, according to the Los Angeles Times. With more and more movement away from the SATs, the “non-profit” College Board has added a new measure to the test in hopes of the test more relevant.

This measure is called the “adversity score” or “Environmental Context Dashboard.” The score will be a number on a scale of one to 100, and it’s purpose to give colleges context of factors that a student has had to overcome in life. A student’s “disadvantage level,” will be determined by a variety of sources: whether they live in a neighborhood with high rates of poverty, crime, family instability, and if the school they go to lacks available challenging courses. Average family income and education level of the area will also be considered. The College Board will use neighborhood census data, FBI crime data, and other sources not yet disclosed to determine the adversity score, according to the Los Angeles Times. In other words, this score is based on a student’s environment, not them individually. That’s a red flag.

It’s a good idea to put troublesome factors a student has faced in life into college admission but a number, based on neighborhood data is just not the way to do it. How can an SAT score be put into the context of a student’s neighborhood? Every student has to deal with many different circumstances in life. For example, if someone lives in a rich neighborhood, it doesn’t mean they’ve lived an easy life and vice versa. Some parents rent out the cheapest houses they can in a decent school district so their child can get a good education. Does that make them privileged? Domestic violence, unstable families and health-related problems occur in “privileged” families too. What about homeless families living in hotels in decent neighborhoods? According to the California School Dashboard, 17.5% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch in Beverly Hills. Where this score will leave students in middle-class school districts is unknown. This score is completely irrelevant to the individual student.

Many critics claim this will reinforce affirmative action, and give students of color a greater advantage in the admissions process. Supporters are happy that race isn’t a factor considered, and it will put more relevant issues students have to overcome into perspective. Factors such as family instability, poverty, and school ratings can be brought up in other parts of the application like their college essay, school profile, letters of recommendation and interviews. This “score” is unnecessary.

The Board is looking to extend this adversity score to 150 colleges by 2020. Apparently, 50 schools have already participated in it, but the impact of the score on their admissions process has not been released. According to the Chicago Tribune, the College Board won’t let students see their adversity score and are only sending it to colleges in case of students and their parents trying to fix the score like the recent scandals. In reality, the College Board should just stop trying to turn college-admissions into some sort of number and monopoly.