What You Need to Know about SAT Adversity Score

By Huntington Learning Center

The SAT Adversity Score is supposed to give context to an applicant’s SAT score by rating his or her neighborhood and high school.  The College Board, which administers the SAT, recently introduced its Environmental Context Dashboard (ECD), but it quickly became known as the “Adversity Score”. The College Board claims this score “allows colleges to incorporate a student’s school and environmental context into their admissions process in a data-driven, consistent way”.

The Adversity Score does not alter SAT scores or take into account a student’s personal characteristics beyond their test scores. Instead, it aggregates publicly available information about schools and neighborhoods. It has three components:

  1. Students' SAT scores can be seen within the context of the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile of SAT scores from their high school.
  2. Information on the high school, including senior class size; percentage of students who meet federal eligibility criteria for free and reduced-price lunch; rurality/urbanicity; average first-year SAT score of colleges students from that high school attend; and the percentage of seniors taking an Advanced Placement exam and other information about AP scores and exams.
  3. Contextual data on the neighborhood and high school environment, which is calculated using data drawn from a combination of publicly available sources (e.g. U.S. Census Bureau and National Center for Education Statistics).

The goal is to allow them to view a student’s academic accomplishments in the context of where they live and learn. Whether college admissions officers decide to consider the Adversity Score is up to them. The College Board claims the information is not intended to replace or contradict existing information about schools and neighborhoods. It will refresh its Adversity Score’s underlying data each year.

The tool was piloted for use by admissions officers at 50 colleges and universities in 2018-2019.  This fall, the College Board will expand the pilot to more than 150 colleges in a research partnership and continue to shape the tool. It will become broadly available in 2020.

Anecdotal feedback from the initial pilot is that the Adversity Score helped colleges recognize hardworking students who care about school but might come from an environment that made it difficult to fully thrive. Some admissions officers reported that the Adversity Score helped them contextualize college entrance exam scores within a high school to give a better idea of what success looks like in a certain area.

More information about the Environmental Context Dashboard – aka Adversity Score – is available on the College Board website.