3 Reasons Why “Adversity Score” Is NOT New, But More Helpful. (Part 2).


I believe in an attempt to help level formalize and systematize what is already being done informally – the College Board has come out with a tool called the Environmental Context Dashboard. For this section I want to cite College Board – everything can be found in the links I share in my show notes – but this comes directly from College Board:

The Dashboard has three components:

  • • SAT scores in context:

    Student’s SAT scores can be seen within the context of the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile of SAT scores from the student’s high school (3-year average). The SAT score is the only piece of student-specific information admissions officers see in the Dashboard.

  • • 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; and average first-year SAT score of colleges students from that high school attend, the percentage of seniors taking an AP Exam, average number of AP Exams taken, average AP score from that high school, and the number of unique AP Exams administered at that high school (3-year average).

  • • Contextual data on the neighborhood and high school environment:

    The context data includes two measures—neighborhood and high school environment—calculated using data drawn from a combination of publicly available sources (e.g., NCES - National Center Education Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau), and aggregated College Board data.

To clarify:

  • · The Environmental Context Dashboard doesn’t alter a student’s SAT score

  • · It does show how a student’s’ SAT score compares to those of other students in their school.

  • · It doesn’t take into account any personal characteristics of a student beyond the test score.

  • · It does provide admissions officers with better context about an applicant’s neighborhood and high school.

Now you know what is included – and if you’ve been following along – you can probably guess the answer to the next question – HOW DOES THE ECD FILL THE GAPS OF CURRENT PRACTICE?


In my humble opinion – the first 2 components of the Dashboard (SAT Scores an High School Information) should be found in the School Profile. The 3rd component (Neighborhood and High School environment) is public information – but colleges don’t gather that information and may make incorrect assumptions about the neighborhood or high school.

To clarify:

1 – ECD serves to help bolster the information found on the School Profile and/or offer information that is otherwise not included in the School Profile. As mentioned before, not all school profiles are created equal. This tool helps college admission officers to compare schools using the same quantifiable data.

2 – The ECD helps put that quantifiable data within the context of other environmental factors, the neighborhood and high school environment, by providing the already public information in one local and practical format. This takes the onus off the individual Admission Officer to know each individual high school. Again, in my opinion, it removes the need to surmise anything about a particular high school or neighborhood that the Admission Officer is NOT familiar with, allowing them to review each applicant with data and knowledge s/he now has for every applicant, not just some.

3 – The ECD fills the gaps of knowledge where a student or recommender may not. What I mean by this is not just the neighborhood data, which is what I believe is causing the media to label this as an “adversity score,” but also the raw testing data. Let me give you a practical and very candid example.

TRUTH: When I was at Vassar College, I can tell you that I never worried about the students who came from schools where there were multiple applicants. Those High Schools like Yselta High in El Paso or Palo Alto High School in Northern California, or Crossroads School in Santa Monica – I knew those schools. I visited those schools every year because they were considered our feeder schools. Even if the high school did not send a School Profile or did send one but it was not updated, I could rely on our own historical data at Vassar. Which applicants did we typically take, what test scores do they have, of those admitted and attended, how are they succeeding at Vassar? I could figure all of that out and know exactly who were my best applicants. That served as my foundation as I read through each applicant and then made difficult choices of whom to take among all those who met the qualifications among THEIR SCHOOL GROUP.

Understand – admission offices are comparing the applicants to THEIR OWN SCHOOL COUNTERPARTS – THEIR PEERS WITHIN THEIR SCHOOL.

I was not comparing my California applicants to my South Dakota applicants – or my Kansas applicants to my Texas applicants. No. Each school was its own committee.

SO – let me get off my soapbox.

The students I worried most about were those who were what we called “singletons;” Applicants who were the lone applicant from a high school from which we had not seen an applicant in several years or ever. For these students we had very little information and data. I relied solely on the School Profile and what was found in the application. That was all I had to go on. God forbid the Profile was lackluster – that might be the end of that applicant.

In wrapping up I am reminded that in one of my presentations I have a slide that says this:

“This Process Is NOT Objective.

It Is Subjected To Humans.”

I often joke that while we often say we wish this process were objective, we don’t really wish that. Every teenager wants a fighting chance at an acceptance letter, and the best way for that to happen is through a holistic process.

I believe the ECD, if used correctly, will prove to be helpful for all applicants.

And now you know, that is where I stand. I believe this tool comes from the idea of how to improve college admissions, not to hinder it.

That is all I have for you today, my friends!!

Thank you for tuning in to Destination YOUniversity.

I’m Dr. Cynthia Colon – If this episode has in any way helped, fueled, or inspired you, please share this episode with 3 people in the next 30 minutes.

Be sure to tune in next week for

 “The Pre-Senior Year College Application Checklist”

If you are a rising senior or parent of one, you will not want to miss this episode. Fall of senior year will be brutal. I’ll walk you through what needs to get done in the next 90 days so you can avoid the added stress and enjoy more of senior year.

Parents – there is a section for you as well. I’ll give you your marching orders as well!!

Until Then, Wherever you are – May you have a Happy and Sunny Day!

Bye For Now.

Portion of David Coleman’s statement: CEO College Board

“There is talent and potential waiting to be discovered in every community—the children of poor rural families, kids navigating the challenges of life in the inner city, and military dependents who face the daily difficulties of low income and frequent deployments as part of their family’s service to our country. No single test score should ever be examined without paying attention to this critical context.”

Coach Me To The Finish Line!

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