How will the “Adversity Score” impact college admissions?

May 23, 2019

The Varsity Blues celebrity admissions scandal that broke just a few months ago left many yearning for a so-called meritocratic admissions system.  Just last week, the CollegeBoard announced their development of an “Adversity Index” that will allow colleges to view an applicant’s SAT score in the context of the socioeconomic status, crime rate, and average education level in their community.  The ACT is supposedly investing in a similar tool.

Now more than ever it is important that students are able to capture who they are in their college applications and admissions essays.  Universities have always maintained that standardized tests only tell part of the story: that they matter more than you want them to, but less than you think they do. With this new development, we expect the same will be true.  However, this adversity index only makes the college process- which already warrants criticism for its lack of transparency- less transparent.

It is impossible to assign a quantitative metric to something like adversity. A number 1-100 will never tell the full story and there is no such thing as a homogenous student population or community.  Given the nature of the college application process, admissions officers are forced to make quick assumptions about an applicant based on limited information.  This adversity index will likely exacerbate this tendency to make assumptions.

The adversity index will be used by 150 colleges in the 2019-2020 application cycle. We don’t know exactly how it will affect the admissions outcomes of the students we work with. What we do know is that students need to be as prepared as ever to present themselves and their stories in a compelling, sincere, and positive way.

If anything, this adversity index emphasizes the importance of the other parts of a student’s college application, especially the parts that do a better job of capturing the aspects of a student’s identity that can’t be quantified.  It is through the admissions essays and letters of recommendation that a student can provide the most authentic insight into their lived experience. As the beginning of the application season rolls around, students shouldn’t focus on the way the adversity index might affect them, but on crafting a compelling application that will give the admissions committee an accurate idea of who a student is and what unique perspective they can bring to a school.

We, at Streamline Tutors, offer all of our current clients a free college counseling consultation. We are dedicated to ensuring that our students are doing everything they can to demonstrate who they are in their applications.

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