What the New Adversity Score Means for Students

Wondering if the new SAT adversity score will hurt or improve your college admissions decisions? You’re not alone. My clients are flooding my inbox with questions. In addition to math, reading, writing, and essay scores, the College Board will include an “adversity score.” Their goal is to provide a more comprehensive snapshot of the applicant’s background.  The SAT and ACT have received much criticism about scores reflecting rich parents’ ability to pay for SAT/ACT tutoring, private high school tuition, and elite summer camps, which result in higher scores instead of students’ basic knowledge and academic skills without these special opportunities. Here are the facts:

The Adversity Score considers the following:

High School:
1.  Average senior class size
2.  Percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches
3.  AP course availability
4.  Scores on AP exams

Home and Neighborhood:
1.  Home environment (single parent?)
2.  Neighborhood (safety and opportunities)
3.  Crime level
4.  Family income
5.  Family stability
6.  Poverty
7.  Ethnicity is NOT considered

The adversity score considers 15 factors and is calculated on a 1-100 point system; 50 being the average disadvantage level and 100 being the worst. The College Board will calculate the score and it will be listed on each student’s SAT test along with the subject area scores. Last year, 50 colleges used the adversity scores in their decisions for the 2019-2020 class.  This year, 150 colleges will use them. These scores are not available for students or families to see, just for college admissions committees.

Yale was one of the first colleges to use the adversity score in their admissions decision, which doubled the number of low-income students and first-generation college students to about 20% this year. That will improve the diversity of their freshman class. The adversity score is designed to give low-income and disadvantaged students a leg up on privileged, wealthy students.

The information gathered from the adversity score isn’t new news.  High schools provide colleges with a School Profile that lists many of the details the adversity score includes such as demographics, number of AP and honors courses, and average GPAs. College applications require parent employment, income, and college background. The adversity score is just ramping up the information about neighborhoods and free-lunch programs that colleges might not have.

With the college admissions scandals and affirmative action lawsuits, this is just another attempt to level the playing field for all students. After all, do we really want higher education to consist of just the wealthy? 

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Student Sues College For Expelling Him for College Admissions Scandal

EXPELLED! Students whose parents bribed or cheated their way to acceptance at prestigious colleges like Georgetown and University of Southern California should not be allowed to graduate with degrees from these institutions. That’s right. Allowing these students to continue college or reap the same benefits that other students who got in on their own merit only minimizes the depth of the college admissions scandal.

When students sign their college applications, they are swearing that all contents in the application – including their essays, SAT/ACT scores, transcripts, and list of activities -- are true to the best of their knowledge. This is the same for job applicants. When employees get caught lying on job applications or resumes, the employer can fire them and the employee may lose rights to severance pay and unemployment benefits. So why would it be any different for a college applicant?

Adam Semprevivo, a junior at Georgetown, has the gall to sue Georgetown for being expelled. His father paid $400,000 in bribes to have him admitted as a recruit for the university’s tennis team, even though he doesn’t play tennis. But Semprevino wrote essays about his tennis extracurricular activities and submitted them with his college applications. Now he claims that the essays were submitted without his knowledge. Really? The corruption and lies just keep getting deeper and deeper.

What’s worse, Semprevino is blaming Georgetown for not catching his lies! Instead of apologizing for being in on the fraud, Semprevino claims that Georgetown should have found the discrepancy between the essay and his application/transcript. Now he’s really showing his true colors: lying and cheating are okay as long as you don’t get caught.

Thanks to the college admissions scandal, colleges are going to start checking references to verify student claims on their applications, essays, and letters of recommendation. That’s why I’m advocating for students doing independent projects to stand out among their peers. These projects demonstrate their integrity, passion, and leadership. Check out how to do a project with my book Beat the College Admissions Game with ProjectMerit.

Human Trafficking Happens in Your Community: Here's What to Look For

Did you know that human trafficking happens right in your community? I attended a Coalition to End Human Trafficking event to learn more about how to prevent our children and young adults from being trafficked. Here are some red flags:

  • Lack of control of their finances, speaking for themselves
  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Appears malnourished and/or physically abused
  • Is fearful, anxious, paranoid, and/or depressed
  • Avoids eye contact




text 233733 (BeFree)

What Matters Most to Students When Choosing Colleges

Next to the architecture and food on college campuses, the quality of the dormitories are what prospective students consider when making their decisions about which colleges to apply to. Sigh. I send students on college tours during their junior and senior years of high school so they can check out college life while we narrow down their lists of colleges.  When they return from these tours, they all talk about the beautiful campuses, friendly tour guides, design of dorms and bathrooms, delicious food, and amenities.

Seriously? When parents spend $100K to almost $300K for an undergraduate education, I would think they would be meeting with the academic deans to discuss general education courses, major requirements, electives, and policies.  After all, isn’t that what they hope their children will be focusing on while away for 4 years? But, surprisingly, parents assume that all programs are about the same and rarely ask about majors offered, professors, or anything related to the academic experience. 

I do agree that the on-campus college experience is important.  It gives students the opportunity to explore relationships with a wide variety of people who come from different states and countries, different socio-economic backgrounds, and different religious and cultural histories. Having upscale dining halls that serve steak (Harvey Mudd is famous for this) and lobster (yes, Washington University is known for this), certainly adds bonus points and gorgeous architecture (Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) adds prestige for parents as well as students.

I’d prefer that colleges focus on building new departments and labs, recruiting excellent professors, and updating libraries and resources rather than superficial impressions like architecture, dining halls, and dorms. Besides, don’t we want our kids to spend more time learning than partying and sleeping in?


College Options Still Available After May 1st

Even though you may feel like you’re stuck with the college that you accepted on May 1st, you still have options. If you’re one of the students who didn’t get into your #1 college, or even any colleges on your list, and you’ve conceded to head off to a college that you are not interested in attending, you can apply to other colleges and start this fall. One of the biggest misconceptions about the May 1st deadline to choose your future college is that this is only for selective colleges.

Remember, there are over 4,000 colleges here in the United States and only a tiny fraction of them are super selective.  There are over 400 colleges and universities that have openings, financial aid, and other perks available now.

Check out this website to see which colleges are accepting freshmen and transfer students at public and private universities:

If you’re still set on a specific college, consider taking a gap year to beef up your portfolio.  Be careful about taking college classes during this year because some colleges will require that once you take college courses after high school graduation, you’ll need to apply as a transfer student. 

You can also start at a community college and transfer into your dream college.  This is a great path to take if your high school grades were less than stellar. Most colleges will consider only coursework that you have taken at the community college, which gives you a new beginning with a clean slate!

If you’re not feeling comfortable with the college you’ve selected, reevaluate your options.  We can help you make the right choice.  Call 831.462.5655.

Grad Student Mental Health

There’s a new Harvard study that reveals mental health issues faced by graduate students. Unlike undergraduate students who have resident assistants, preceptors, academic advisors and other support systems, graduate students are isolated without important safety nets in place. Only 27% of grad students who suffer from depression receive the psychological support they need. There seems to be a prevalence of depression amongst economics PhD students. Many feel lonely and isolated.

Because grad students are older than undergrads, they worry about finances, social support, and academic/career planning. Most undergrads receive financial support from their parents, but grads typically finance their education on their own. While their academic advisors oversee their programs, many grad students don’t feel comfortable discussing career options that lead to non-academic jobs, preparing for the job market, or reaching out about problems with other advisors.

There is so much uncertainty about market trends, future of jobs, climate change, and sustainability that spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on higher education with the hope for a ROI is creating mental health issues for your youth.


National Doctor Shortage

By 2030, the United States may face a shortage of over 120,000 physicians.  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), these shortages will be in primary care, medical specialties, surgical specialties, and other specialties. Within the next decade, one in three active doctors will retire. While our growing population of seniors (over 65-years old), which is expected to grow by 50%, our under-18 population will grow by just 3%. By 2030, the number of seniors will increase to almost 20% of the total population.

Per AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD.,“Medical schools and teaching hospitals are working to ensure that the supply of physicians is sufficient to meet demand and that those physicians are ready to practice in the health care system of future. To address the doctor shortage, medical schools have increased class sizes by nearly 30% since 2002. Now it’s time for Congress to do its part. Funding for residency training has been frozen since 1997 and without an increase in federal support, there simply won’t be enough doctors to provide the care Americans need.”


College Admissions Cheating Scandal: International Edition

Remember Operation Varsity Blues? You know, the sexy cheating scandal where celebrities bribed coaches to get their kids into top colleges. Well, enter Operation TOEFL Recall. The TOEFL is the international students’ equivalent of an SAT or ACT. It’s designed to determine whether an international student has the reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills necessary to be successful in an American class (taught in English). The ring leader for Operation TOEFL Recall illegally took the exam for over 40 Chinese students, which gave them student visas so they could study in the United States.

According to the Wall Street Journal, universities reported that international students cheat 5 times more than domestic students. The University of Iowa investigated at least 30 Chinese students over allegations of cheating, and in Pennsylvania, 15 Chinese national students were indicted for cheating on the SATs. So now celebrities, ultra-wealthy Americans, and now international students have been caught in the cheating scandal as they try to get their mediocre children into prestigious American colleges.

Chinese families put lots of pressure on their children to get into top colleges. Because many families have just one child, some will do whatever it takes to improve their children’s chances of getting in. Paying someone to pose as their child for the TOEFL and SAT/ACT or paying to get copies of real exams beforehand is considered a gray area. Surprisingly, not all of these Chinese families are wealthy; some make incredible sacrifices to pay for services to get their children into elite American colleges.

One Chinese student paid someone to take his TOEFL, and got into Purdue University. When he arrived in the United States, he paid someone to take all of his classes for 4 years. With his excellent grades, he got into Columbia University for grad school. And, of course, he paid someone to take his classes at Columbia.  This student spent over $1 million on his undergraduate and graduate degrees – and didn’t learn a thing.

This seems ridiculous on so many levels. That Chinese student with a graduate degree from Columbia will never land a job in his claimed area of expertise.  How could he possibly expect that his $1 million education façade will keep him employed when he doesn’t have the knowledge, skills, or experience to do the job? Imagine the guilt he carries as he lives a lie?

Rather than cheat their way into college, these international (and domestic) students could better spend their money on learning the skills and doing a project.  They need to learn the skills to be successful in college classes and future careers.  And, by doing a project, they can explore their passions by developing apps, engineering devices, writing books, starting non-profit organizations, and more. Colleges will recognize their innovative spirit and they’ll get accepted based on their own merit.  Now, that’s a refreshing concept!


New Changes for AP Classes Give Wealthy Students an Advantage

The College Board is changing the date that students need to register for the AP exams from March back to November.  While 4 months may not seem like a big deal, it really is. In November of a school year, the students are just getting into the subject matter and they don’t have a sense for how well they might do on the big AP exam that is taken in May. They’ll have to pay the $94 for the exam, and if they miss the registration deadline, they’ll have to pay an additional $40.  Then, say in March, they realize that they’re not doing well in the class, they would then have to pay yet another $40 to cancel the May exam.  Students who take the AP courses are not required to take the AP exams – they get a course grade that is not tied to the College Boards AP exams.

For wealthy students, these additional fees won’t affect their decisions about taking the exams. Most go to schools where teachers offer study sessions after school and on weekends, and others hire tutors to prepare them for the big test. They can wait until the last minute and cancel the tests.  But for low-income students, they may be more likely to miss the registration deadline, and then also need to cancel the test if they don’t think they’ll do well on it in May.  Most can’t afford AP tutoring and many teachers in these low-income schools don’t offer the same quality of preparation that the upper-income schools do. In the past, over 75% of low-income students don’t pass the AP tests (they scored 1-2; 3-5 is passing).

Instead of taking AP courses, students would learn more and get real college credits by taking a course from the local community college.  They’ll spend the semester learning concepts and engaging in the material instead of wasting 8 months memorizing terms and preparing for one AP exam in May. While in theory, AP courses offers hire caliber material, students are forced to drill down and regurgitate a set amount of material. They spend the whole school year preparing the test, which limits class discussions and teacher creativity.  

It’s unethical to bump back the registration date to November when students are just beginning to learn the concepts.  This hurts all students but especially low-income students because they will probably forgo taking the exams altogether.


Help us Celebrate Mothers Day by Sharing Your Photos

Want to memorialize the mothers in your life?  Post a photo of you with generations of mothers in your family on the California American Mothers Facebook page! We'll make a collage of these photos on Mother's Day on our official website!  Please post your photos and post here: by Friday, May 10th at noon PT. 

Did you know that American Mothers, Inc is the official sponsor of Mother's Day, and it started  back in 1935 with Eleanor Roosevelt!  Let's celebrate Mother's Day with your photos! Here's my photo of my grandmother, mother, me, and my daughter: