- The College Board is giving colleges a new metric to gauge applicants’ socioeconomic status, The Wall Street Journal reported. The "adversity score" runs from one to 100 and is applied to students who take the SAT test. A score of 50 is average, with higher scores indicating hardship and lower scores privilege.
- It is based on more than a dozen factors based on a mix of public and proprietary data, including crime rates, poverty levels and housing values in students' neighborhoods; their high schools' academic rigor and free lunch rates; and their family incomes.
- The score will be available widely in the fall of 2020, following a pilot with 150 colleges this year. Last year, 50 institutions participated in a beta test. Colleges, and not students, will see the score.
The College Board hopes the score will give colleges a fuller picture of applicants and help them compare achievements. And it comes as more institutions look beyond GPAs and standardized test scores for ways to evaluate prospective students holistically.
After all, The Journal noted, data show students from higher-income households and those whose parents have more education do better on the SAT on average. Asian and White students also tend to score higher than Hispanic and black students.
Colleges that have piloted the tool so far say it has helped them wade through increasing numbers of applications, as well as identify students who may have been overlooked without the score to contextualize their applications, according to the College Board. It adds that the score can also be helpful when review boards are choosing between two students.
In addition to the composite adversity score, application reviewers can also access a dashboard — called the Environmental Context Dashboard — to compare a student's advantage level with that of their neighborhood, high school, the institution and nationally.
With affirmative action policies being challenged in several venues, legal scholars are encouraging colleges in states that allow it to begin seeking alternatives to achieving diversity in their incoming classes. The College Board’s new measure may be able to help. Florida State University, one of the measure’s early testers, has said it helped admit more black and Latino students.
However, some observers say adoption hasn’t been seamless:
Last year at the @CB_Forums, there was a lot of push back among the beta testers about how helpful this really is. I saw it in action at 3 institutions this year. App readers rarely looked at it. They have too much else to review and think they "know the high schools." https://t.co/JnmMhD2mI0— Jeff Selingo (@jselingo) May 16, 2019
Other efforts to increase equity in the admissions process include offering students access to more preparatory resources and the opportunity to submit a wider array of materials to colleges, as well as the use of committee-based reviews that get more perspectives on a single applicant.
Dropping standardized testing requirements can also help increase the diversity and size of incoming classes, according to a review of nearly 1 million applicant records published last year by the National Association for College Admission Counseling.