SAT Adversity Score changes, but same problems persist

Reversing plans that were announced last May, the College Board will no longer include a score based on the socioeconomic conditions of a student’s location with their SAT score. Instead, the College Board will launch a digital tool for college admissions officers that includes data about students’ neighborhoods.


The decision comes after backlash from admissions officers, many of whom felt that a single, uncontextualized score would not accurately capture a student’s story. Said David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, “the idea of a single score was confusing because it seemed that…  the College Board was trying to score adversity. That’s not the College Board’s mission… The College Board scores achievement, not adversity. . .] We’ll leave the interpretation to the admission’s officer. In other words, we’re leaving a lot more room for judgment.” 

The new program, named Landscape, will provide data to college admissions officers about applicants’ high schools and the surrounding area. According to the College Board website, the information will include senior class size, the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch, the applying student’s SAT score compared to the average SAT score for the past three graduating classes and AP participation and performance at the high school. The program will also include information about the student’s area such as crime rates, college attendance, median family income and housing stability. 

Last year, 50 colleges piloted the programs, which will expand to 150 colleges this fall. Next year, the College Board will offer Landscape to all colleges. Students and counselors will be able to see the information sent to the colleges about their location next year. 

While it continues to collect data, the College Board currently lacks information for about 25 percent of high schools. 

John Benz, a counselor at LOHS, commented, “[The adversity score] is a bigger conversation that I think we’re having, in this school in particular, about equity in the admissions criteria [and] how much information they give based on that criteria. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing… There is just a difference between the resources that students have in a socioeconomically disadvantaged school or town as opposed to others… I would just question what the conversations are like behind closed doors when they’re utilizing those things to determine admissions criteria… They’re only looking [generally] and not at that specific student’s socioeconomic standing… they are gathering… big pictures of a student’s community. In certain communities that are socioeconomically disadvantaged, this will likely help. But in districts like ours that are socioeconomically advantaged, it actually hurts students that may not have those types of resources at home because the assumption is that they have them in general, which isn’t always the case.” 

This has led some to worry that poorer students in richer districts will be misrepresented by the data from the general community. “I think it hurts students who are a subset of our population here… because a lot of those resources come from home,” Benz added. 

Christopher Sun, a senior, believes that “It’s a good idea, but it could use a lot of refinement… impoverished areas do deserve that advantage… I think it’s unfair for the poor or impoverished students in rich areas, [and overall, it] should take into account a lot of other things as well, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.” 

This change could affect students in LOSD especially as, “We have many students who need help accessing those resources, so… that’s a big misperception about our community,” said Hannah Moriniti, the LOSD nurse.