USC will consider ‘adversity score’ in determining who gets accepted into the school

The University of South Carolina has begun looking at an applicant’s familial, economic and social background when considering whether or not a person gets accepted into the school.

USC will be one of 50 colleges in the United States to consider these factors alongside ACT, SAT, grade-point average, community service and other considerations created by the College Board’s Environmental Context Dashboard, officials for USC and the College Board said. The College Board is best known for creating the SAT.

The new consideration, which some have dubbed the “adversity score,” lists the student’s SAT score alongside several factors including: the average numbers of advanced placement exams taken at an applicant’s high school, crime and median income in a student’s neighborhood and more, according to the College Board’s website.

The end result is a sheet that weighs the social and economic factors and applies a numerical value. It does not change a student’s SAT score, College Board spokesman Jerome White said in a statement.

The score does not factor in a student’s race, though USC does consider race in deciding who gets accepted into the school.

USC has been using this technology “primarily for in-state freshmen who may have good, but not the highest standardized test scores or grades,” spokesman Jeff Stensland said.

“The hope is that we will be able to give more students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds the opportunity to attend, which is important given our mission as the state’s flagship institution,” Stensland said.

The College Board, which has spent several years developing the measurement, says it helps colleges see more than just a student’s test score. Test scores tends to benefit wealthy and privileged families, according to a 2014 article in the Washington Post.

“The Environmental Context Dashboard shines a light on students who have demonstrated remarkable resourcefulness to overcome challenges and achieve more with less,” College Board CEO David Coleman said in a statement. “It enables colleges to witness the strength of students in a huge swath of America who would otherwise be overlooked.”

The use of the “adversity score” has led participating colleges to increase the number of students they accept from disadvantaged backgrounds, White said.

The “adversity score” has its share of critics. The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board blasted the College Board for providing the “adversity score” to schools and not providing the number to students and parents. Also, it’s unclear how exactly the College Board weighs factors like neighborhood crime versus family structure, the Editorial Board pointed out.

“The college admissions process needs more transparency, not less,” the Tribune’s editorial board wrote. “This secret-sauce solution will only breed more public mistrust that college admissions is a rigged racket.”