Will the SAT’s New Adversity Score Really Improve College Admissions?

Will the SAT’s New Adversity Score Really Improve College Admissions? main image

The College Board, makers of the SAT, recently announced the addition of an “adversity score.” This bonus data point on applicants is meant to address concerns about the fairness of the test and admissions process in general.

Although the College Board is refraining from explaining the weight of each category, it will calculate the score using 15 factors, including crime rate and poverty levels from the student’s high school and neighborhood.

Students will never see their adversity score, but admissions committees considering their application will see it. Adversity scores will be based on a scale of 1 to 100, with 50 being the average. Above 50 will equate with hardship, and below 50 will intimate privilege.

Last year, 50 colleges used the adversity score as part of a beta test. It will expand to 150 institutions beginning in fall 2019 before being broadly applied the following year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Some college admissions committee members are reported to be generally pleased with this new addition because they have been considering ways to combat inequality, according to US News and World Report.

A change for good?

This news comes at an interesting time for college admissions and standardized tests. They’re facing scrutiny on a number of fronts. For some time now, high scores on college admissions tests, such as the SAT, have been among the keys to unlocking entrance into higher education.

Earning a degree has long been considered the road to better jobs, higher salaries, and some level of financial security. Now, however, people are questioning the efficacy of both standardized tests and the college education itself.

These conversations did not happen overnight. They came after years of rising tuition costs, more student debt, and recognition that admissions have become an unlevel playing field.

“It’s about time selective institutions of higher education see what’s been true forever. The overreliance on standardized test scores in college admissions perpetuates systemic injustice and racial and income inequality,” said Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy at The Education Trust.

These changes aren’t the first time the College Board has tried to make the test fairer and more appropriate for the times. The New SAT, which exhibited the biggest change to the exam in about 30 years, debuted in March 2016. It’s now more directly aimed at testing students on what they’ve learned in high school and there are no penalties for wrong answers.

While QS still wholeheartedly supports the pursuit of higher education, we’re not blind to what’s happening in the space. Our mission includes providing equal opportunity to everyone seeking higher education. Anything that makes the playing field more level resonates with our values.

As a result, on principle, we support the College Board’s efforts to provide this adversity score. However, the proof will be in the details.

We recognize the adversity score might have its limits and addressing this issue of fairness is difficult. In other words, we’ll have to wait and see whether this additional score achieves its purpose. Like everyone else, we’ll be watching.  

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Nunzio Quacquarelli

Nunzio is the founder and CEO of QS. Following completion of his own MBA from the Wharton School, he has gone on to become a leader in education management with over 25 years of experience in the industry. He is truly passionate about education and firmly believes in the QS mission to help young people to fulfill their potential through educational achievement, international mobility and career development. 

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