SAT “Adversity Score”

Have you been reading about the new SAT Adversity score? Let’s see if we can answer some questions.

1. What is the adversity score?

It has recently been reported by NYTimes and the Wall Street Journal that CollegeBoard will soon begin gauging a student’s “adversity.” Previously referred to as the “Overall Adversity Percentile,” this will then be provided to colleges along with a student’s SAT score.

This score is designed to put a student’s “environment” into context for college admissions counselors.

A paper recently published by CollegeBoard titled “Data-Driven Models to Understand Environmental Context” gave insight into a program designed to better gauge school districts, family environments, and neighborhood environments.

This new score will be used by college admissions counselors insight into a student’s family, neighborhood, high school, and cultural background, which will be used with the SAT score to gauge that applicant.

Until this score’s implementation, it will be difficult to predict how this score will impact future applicants.

2. How is the adversity score calculated?

Applicants are provided a score between 1 to 100, with the “average score” being 50. As seen in the figure below from a CollegeBoard publication labeled “Data-Driven Models to Understand Environmental Context,” numerous categories and sub-categories are used.

Figure 1 - Framework for Environmental Context

Figure 1: Framework for Environmental Context from Data-Driven Models to Understand Environmental Context published by CollegeBoard

There are three major categories that will be used: neighborhood environment, family environment, and high school environment. Although these were outlined in the aforementioned study, there is no guarantee that these will be the same used when the score goes into effect.

The Neighborhood Environment category is designed to give counselors more “data-driven” insight into socioeconomic factors that applicants face. They can then compare those neighborhood factors with the applicant’s high school environment.

Any discrepancy helps provide a larger picture for counselors as they make admissions decisions.

3. Will “race” a factor in the scoring?

As reported by the NYTimes, CollegeBoard claims that race is not a factor in determining an adversity score. However, the “neighborhood environment” portion of the study did identify peer culture, and influences as markers on how they would gauge adversity.

Although these factors don’t identify race directly, implementation of the score will depict of these show a racial divide between scoring.

4. Can I see my child’s “adversity” score?

No, the score will only be provided to the college. Students will not be able to see their own scores, before or after their application submissions.

5. When will the adversity score be implemented?

A paper by CollegeBoard titled “Data-Driven Models to Understand Environmental Context” identified the following as an “environmental dashboard prototype.”

Figure 2 - Environmental Dashboard Prototype

Figure 2: Environmental Dashboard Prototype from Data-Driven Models to Understand Environmental Context published by CollegeBoard

It is still unclear if this will be the exact interface that college admissions counselors will use. 

The NYTimes reported that 50 universities have implemented the system, with 150 more universities adding it by the fall of 2019. CollegeBoard will likely implement this more broadly by 2021. 

This blog post relies on information from the following sources.

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