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20 SAT & ACT Student Perspectives on the College Board’s Adversity Score

Last week, the College Board announced that they’re rolling out the addition of “adversity scores” – a proxy of socioeconomic status – to the overall score reporting for SAT test takers.

We shared our Magoosh perspective (and concerns) with you, and we’re back today with responses from our students who are currently or formerly studying for the SAT and ACT. The majority of students we heard from disagree with the College Board’s adversity scores, but for a number of different reasons. Students also brought up important questions the College Board has yet to address, such as how they plan to take into account international students and if they plan to communicate this change directly to students.

Students Who Agree With the College Board’s Adversity Scores:

“Honestly, I think it’s a great move. This can even out the playing field and show who can rise out of poverty and want more for themselves.”
Anonymous, studying for the ACT

“I think it’s a great idea that everyone should support especially student athletes”
Anonymous, studying for the SAT

Students Who Disagree With the College Board’s Adversity Scores:

Students Have the Right to Know Their Adversity Score

“I think there are pros and cons but [the] College Board has not disclosed the 15 factors. If they are not transparent with how exactly they are measuring adversity, why should the public be expected to accept it?”
Annie, Nevada, studying for the SAT

“Not a fan. Hiding scores from students and parents will cause lots of problems.”
Anonymous, studying for the SAT

“I wholly agree that if the College Board’s plan to assign “adversity scores” to students is implemented, then the whole process should be completely transparent to the parents and students involved.”
Jonathan McCormick, studying for the ACT

Adversity is Too Subjective and Nuanced to Accurately Measure

“Our society is too focused on scores, numbers and data and not enough focus is placed on the human. It’s sad. Kids are constantly measured every step of the way and not allowed to just be a human who tries their best.”
Anonymous, studying for the SAT

“Ultimately, I think the problem with the “adversity score” is that you can never get an accurate representation of adversity from simple things like race and income.”
Timmy, studying for the SAT

“I don’t believe that letting the College Board do this is a safe idea. It’s too ambiguous and doesn’t actually level the playing field for students with different backgrounds. ”
Anonymous, studying for the ACT

“As a student myself, I feel it is not fair to consider the crime rate of the school in the “adversity score because the crime rate of the school may or may not affect the student.”
Princy, studied for the SAT

College Admissions is Stressful Enough

“I really hope that the College Board cancels this plan, because the college admissions process is stressful enough and flawed enough as it is and this will only make the situation worse. Students are now going to be even more stressed about this adversity score that they don’t even know.”
Anonymous, studying for the ACT

Adversity Scores Could Breed More Cheating and Corruption

“Simply the fact that only colleges can see this adversity score and students can’t opens the door to so much unfairness and possibility of even more corruption in the college admissions process.”
Anonymous, studying for the ACT

“Bad idea. It’s up to the person, not the environment. Plus, this opens up a whole [n]ew path for cheaters.”
Anonymous, studying for the SAT

“I am 100% against this adversity score. Also, the fact that they’ve only “tested” this (whatever that means) on only 50 colleges, one of them being Yale, doesn’t make me feel better at all, especially considering that Yale was one of the colleges involved in the college admissions scandal that recently occurred.”
Anonymous, studying for the ACT

“I don’t know all of the factors that [the College Board] plan to take into consideration, but I believe that what it comes down to is whether or not the student is rich. I think this is going to be a secret signal to separate rich kids from poor kids and, obviously, colleges would prefer to admit richer kids since their parents will be able to donate more to the school and this is simply unfair.”
Anonymous, studying for the ACT

“Lowering” Standards Will Not Level the Playing Field

“I think this is a bad step for the College Board. By assigning an “adversity score”, the College Board is assuming that economic factors have a role in the score that a student receives. However, it is in my opinion that anyone, no matter their social and economic background, can dedicate themselves to achieving their goals. By putting in the effort and hard work, a student will receive the score they deserve, and this has nothing to do with where they come from.”
Catherine, studying for the ACT

“Now, if we have a 1600 score and we don’t get into the choice colleges, we can blame our parents that they are too rich. It is another way of water[ing] down the college standards.”
Ryan, California, studying for the SAT

“The idea of assigning these “adversity scores” to students to me raises concerns about whether there will be lower academic standards for students of disadvantaged backgrounds. Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see more students from disadvantaged backgrounds achieving academically–but they should get there because they reached the original standard of academic skill, not because the standard was lowered specifically for them.”
Jonathan McCormick, studying for the ACT

“It’s a very unfair message. How much you study and try should be what is reflected by your score. To give an unfair advantage to people who don’t try is doing the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Anonymous, studying for the SAT

“I think it is unfair. Two students could get the same score, but because [one] has had a harder life, they can get more attention, even though they did the same on the SAT.”
Anonymous, studying for the ACT

Student Questions for the College Board About Their Adversity Scores:

“I am an international student. I find myself wondering how they will be getting the required information to calculate this score for all of the places all over the world where international students write [for the SAT] from.”
Adri, South Africa, studying for the SAT

Are you planning to take the SAT or ACT soon? If so, what’s your take on the College Board’s adversity score? Let us know in the comments below; we’d love to hear from you!

Interested in interviewing a Magoosh SAT expert or student? 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.