Why the SAT’s New “Adversity Score” is Nothing More Than a Money Grab
Recently, College Board announced a major addition to their SAT scores: a new ‘adversity score’ that is an attempt to put a numerical value on a student’s academic and domestic environment. College Board has said 15 factors make up this score but has only revealed a few of those factors, which include neighborhood crime rate and parental education level. This is incredibly untransparent for a score that can significantly affect acceptance, but it actually gets worse. College Board will send the score to colleges but not to students, so students and families won’t have any say about or even knowledge of this new ‘adversity score.’
The college application process is supposed to empower individual students. Instead of simply appearing as a GPA on a transcript, a student can take tests, write essays, do extracurriculars, submit financial details in a FAFSA form, apply for scholarships, talk to admissions officers, etc. Every part of a college application should be a step towards creating a well-rounded picture of exactly who an individual student is, which is one reason why this ‘adversity score’ is so shockingly backwards. Instead of helping students create their unique narratives, College Board is lumping them all together.
So why does College Board think this is a good idea? For one, maybe money. There are of course many factors that would go into a decision this big, but it’s hard not to look at this through business-tinged glasses. The ACT is the SAT’s biggest rival, and for awhile, the SAT was winning in this test-taking war; in fact, in 2006 almost 500,000 more students took an SAT. But right after that, the ACT started to pick up major momentum and by 2016 had signed up almost 500,000 more students that the SAT!
So if you’re College Board, and you see the ACT beating you by more and more each year, you would probably be trying to think of creative ways to win back that market share. Currently, colleges have no preference between the ACT and the SAT, so students can take whichever one they want. But if all of a sudden one of the tests, let’s say the SAT, included valuable information, let’s say an adversity score, then colleges might actually start to prefer that test.
The problem in this case is that the adversity score is not a valuable piece of information. So instead of looking like a company trying to provide the best possible product, College Board just looks like a company trying to grab the best possible paycheck.