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#MoreThanAScore: Our Magoosh Take on the College Board’s Move Towards “Adversity Scores”

At Magoosh, we believe that students are more than a score.

Following their announcement to start using “adversity scores” to measure the socioeconomic position of SAT takers, we commend the College Board for acknowledging how systematically unfair the college admissions landscape can be to students from marginalized backgrounds and for taking steps, as a leader in the field of standardized testing, towards greater equity.

That said, this approach of an “adversity score” raises concerns for us as a company committed to improving access to college for all students.

Our Concerns

The choice of the College Board to hide the adversity scores from students and parents themselves, while sharing them with colleges for admissions purposes, is ethically concerning, even if well-intentioned.

This lack of transparency leaves students and parents in the dark about how – and how accurately – they are being represented to admissions committees. In the likely instance of an error in computing a given adversity score, students and parents are being refused the agency to advocate for themselves, perpetuating the same inequity that the College Board is trying to alleviate.

More importantly, scoring adversity doesn’t solve the problem of alleviating adversity.

While important for colleges to take the various nuances around privilege and access into account when making admissions decisions, as education advocates, we should continue to invest in approaches that tangibly level the playing field for students – well before their senior year of high school.

Proven approaches include increasing access to mentorship for students from underserved populations, providing free meals so that no student has to prioritize studying over hunger, and providing funding for complementary academic and test prep support in and out of the classroom.

Our Recommendations

If they choose to move forward with this program, Magoosh strongly urges the College Board to make adversity scores and associated data fully available to students and parents, with enforceable avenues to address concerns and correct mistakes as they arise.

We’ve been fortunate to learn from the work of some of our nonprofit partners, including Oliver Scholars and Strive for College, who work daily to level the playing field for students. We encourage the College Board to stay devoted to its advocacy for increased equity in college admissions while looking to the robust field of educators, scholars, and advocates for more effective means of ensuring that all students, no matter their background, are able to access the college of their choice.

Here at Magoosh, we truly believe in the transformative power of education and very much acknowledge that our current educational system falls short of making that promise of transformation available to all students.

We’re constantly thinking of ways we can better support our mission and would love to hear from you – how do you feel about the College Board’s adversity score effort? Let us know in the comments below!

Interested in interviewing a Magoosh SAT expert? Reach out to [email protected].



  • Kemi Bello

    Kemi works to tell stories about the who, the what, and the why of Magoosh in order to encourage more students, parents, and educators around the world to prep smart, go far, and enjoy the ride with us. With a BS in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Houston, she has spent the past decade advocating for the rights of immigrants, including stints touring the southern US in a bus named Priscilla and dancing in a workers’ rights flashmob. When not waxing poetic about increasing educational access for all students at Magoosh, Kemi can be found whispering sweet nothings to her many houseplants, trying on cardigans, or wandering the streets of Oakland, in search of sunshine.