Having Adversity To Your Advantage?: College Board’s Environmental Context Dashboard discounts time students of wealthier communities invest to reach success

Aditi Kumar

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Is being privileged a disadvantage? The obvious answer may seem to be ‘No.’ However, with the College Board’s recent creation of the ‘adversity score,’ this may no longer be true. Last May, the adversity score, or (as it is officially known) the Environmental Context Dashboard, became the newest addition to the college admissions process. According to the College Board, the Dashboard allows colleges to use data to contextualize college applications. The Dashboard displays several pieces of data including AP opportunity at a student’s high school and neighborhood crime rates. The College Board uses such information as part of a score that reflects the level of adversity a student faces. While this sounds justified at the outset, how these scores are calculated is not clear. This adds more ambiguity to an already opaque process. 

While the College Board’s intentions are admirable, the adversity score’s implementation has many implications for students of wealthier backgrounds. Just the fact that one lives in a better, safer neighborhood does not necessarily translate to more privilege over another locality. At CHS, I appreciate the multitude of resources I have access to and recognize that many students make do with much less. But resources mean little without taking initiative to work hard and succeed. My grandfather attended a small government-run school and often studied his classwork under the streetlight outside of his house. He relentlessly pursued his education and earned an occupation as an aerospace engineer. Despite not having the same advantages several of his colleagues had had early on, my grandfather earned comparable achievements. For him, it was his dedication that was a deciding factor in his life and success. 

As CHS students, we have many opportunities at our fingertips; but that’s no reason to discount our accomplishments. The awards our Science Olympiad and Science Bowl teams earn, the countless championships our sports teams win and the laurels that the performing arts department receives—these are all a result of hours of rehearsal and practice. I’m not denying that our teachers and coaches are a part of our success, only highlighting the sacrifices we make to reach our goals. The adversity score is not the answer—instead the College Board should better the chances of students from less privileged communities by improving the standards of schools in those areas. To millions of high school students, the adversity score only suggests that where you live is more important than what you do. 

The views in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of the HiLite staff. Reach Aditi Kumar at akumar@hilite.org

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