College Board introduces new adversity index for SATs

Mollika Singh
senior graphics editor

Students may have wondered how yet another factor may affect their college applications: College Board’s adversity index.

Announced on May 16 by The Wall Street Journal, the adversity index ranges from 1-100, with 50 being the average. Fifteen factors are taken into account, though all of them are community-based, not individual. There are some factors regarding neighborhood environment (crime rate, poverty rate, housing values, vacancy rate), some regarding family environment (median income, single parent households, education level, ESL rate) and some regarding high school environment (undermatching, curricular rigor, free lunch rate, AP opportunity). Students will not see their index score, rather it will be reported to colleges along with their SAT score.

The index is part of a larger program from College Board called the Environmental Context Dashboard. They recently piloted the program with over 50 colleges. According to the website, participants, said that the dashboard “allows staff to see SAT scores in context.” The website quotes one officer: “In my mind, it is the only responsible way to consider testing in a selective college context. Having standardized contextual information makes me feel much better about requiring standardized testing of our applicants and using the information after students enroll for help in transitioning them.”

All the dashboard will do for the majority of this school’s population is report to colleges some context of the privilege that contributes to our ability to have our scores.

Ultimately, college admissions are not accepting the index as a strong authoritative figure. At the Coast to Coast college fair at Bethesda-Chevy Chase on June 2, a student asked the admissions staff (representing University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, Northwestern University, Dartmouth College, and Vanderbilt University) how they would be using the adversity index score in the admissions process.

The Princeton representative said they would use it but hadn’t decided how yet. The Berkeley representative said that they would be using it and emphasized their use of holistic admissions. The representative from Vanderbilt said they don’t like to set students up to fail in the rigor of Vanderbilt’s courses. From this we can glean that her admissions staff will maintain high standards for SAT scores despite the addition of the adversity index.

Paul Compton, Senior Assistant Director of Admission, represented Northwestern at the event. “The only part that’s actually attached to the student is just how their test score relates to other scores from your particular school,” he said.

As this is the general doctrine that college admissions have held for some time now, students need not be worried about their relatively high scores, as this school generally has, being diminished.

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