Explaining the Adversity Score

When it comes to college, no doubt we are overwhelmed with metrics. Metrics or numbers are used for our grade-point averages, standardized test scores, and class rankings. Colleges like metrics and for decades, it has been the gold standard in deciding student’s admissions. We are now adding an additional number to this pool, the number of the adversity score, also known as the “disadvantage level.” We find there are many parents and students that are curious about what the new Adversity Score on the SAT means. First, let’s discuss what is the SAT Adversity Score.

According to The Atlantic, this measurement is designed to capture the student’s socioeconomic status and give context to test scores, citing the Wall Street Journal. The College Board is using a range of environmental factors that may influence a student’s home and college life. These factors include neighborhood crime rates, housing values, and the communities average educational level, and poverty levels. These factors are all accessed to calculate a disadvantage level, scaled from l–100 and is based on census data from each student’s neighborhood. 

Student scores above 50 points indicate that the student has had to journey through more obstacles than average to get an education or have a means to college. Scores below 50 signify students who have appreciated more advantages than most of their peers.

Students do not see their scores and admission officers are given a glimpse of the “environmental context dashboard,” breaking down all the factors that are plugged into the score.

After learning and digesting what the adversity score is, some might speculate if there are any benefits to this score. We know the team developing the score learned that college was most concerned about the talent they were not seeing, for example, the applicants who might thrive on their campus but who have weaker transcripts due to disadvantages, the College Board CEO David Coleman has mentioned.

In the past, the SAT scores have been criticized as a representation for wealth and privilege, not intellect or college readiness. Studies have higher test scores tend to correspond with higher family income and education levels, and white and Asian students typically tend to score higher than their Latino or black peers. While one extra metric cannot fix these inequities, the inclusion of the disadvantage level is a step that experts believe is in the right direction

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