The College Board plans on assigning an “Adversity Score” to every student who takes the SAT. This score will attempt to measure the social and economic background of applicants. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

But what exactly is this score made up of? How will it be used? And is it a good thing in the first place?

Calculating and Using the Score

The adversity score has an average of 50. Hardship is considered anything above 50 and privilege is anything below it. 15 factors will affect the score. These factors are divided into three categories: neighborhood environment, family environment and high school environment.

The Neighborhood Environment section will include the area’s crime rate, poverty rate, housing values, and vacancy rate. The Family Environment section includes the family’s median income, whether or not it is a single parent home, parents’ education level, and primary household language. The High School Environment section takes into account the number of applications students submit to top schools, how hard the curriculum is, the free lunch rate, and AP opportunity.

What factors are deemed most important is unclear, as is where the data will come from. As reported by WSJ:

The College Board declined to say how it calculates the adversity score or weighs the factors that go into it. The data that informs the score comes from public records such as the U.S. Census as well as some sources proprietary to the College Board, Mr. Coleman said.

Students will not be shown their score. Instead, it will be sent to the schools along with their scores. In addition, admissions test competitor ACT is working on a similar measure.

Major Issues

The College Board is aiming to reduce the gap between high income and low income students in the college admissions process. Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce said, “The purpose is to get to race without using race.”

A possible, even bigger, issue is that it tries to assign a numerical value to the hardships that applicants have faced. Author Jeff Yang expands on this idea. He writes that:

Because it reduces the depth of a student’s struggles to a data point, this new score potentially removes a student’s individuality. And college admissions offices, facing ever-greater volumes of applicants and a steady assault from the anti-affirmative-action right, could well be tempted to rely heavily on this adversity score instead of doing a fully holistic immersion on every candidate’s personal experiences.

Reducing the gap between high income and low income students is not the issue. The issue is that the College Board is using a secret calculation to determine the fate of students. The adversity score will punish some students based on a calculation that won’t even be made known to them.

It is impossible to accurately assign a numerical data point measuring their “privilege.” Students face different struggles. They should not be judged based on their racial or socioeconomic background. Rather, each student should be judged as an individual.