It’s Time To Ban The SAT And The College Board

I think it's time to ban the SAT and The College Board. The SAT is clearly unfair to kids from poorer families. I mean, how many poor families can afford $3,000+ for a Princeton Review course that teaches kids how to game the SAT? Not many!

When I was 16, I took the SAT test for the first time. My idea of test preparation was going to the library and flipping through a $20 test prep book.

The result? A mediocre 1,040 out of 1,600.

My parents were disappointed so they encouraged me to actually buy a test prep book and this time take all the practice exams since I couldn't write in the library book. After a couple of months studying I took the test again.

The end result? A better-than-average 1,160. However, my goal at the time had been to get a 1,200 or higher because that was the cut off level to be eligible for the best schools according to the data and the recommendation by my college counselor.

Didn't Have The Money To Excel At The SAT

When I asked my parents whether I should take the exam again they said it was up to me. The test was three hours long and cost about $50 in today's dollars to take the exam each time.

When I asked my parents whether I could take one of those private Princeton Review Courses that cost $500, they were not enthusiastic about the idea.

At the time, I couldn't understand why they weren't willing to pay to help me score better. I remember a rich Lebanese classmate telling me his parents paid $1,500 for SAT tutoring, so I thought $500 was a bargain. He ended up getting a 1,360 after he first got a 1,040 like me.

What I now realize as an adult is that money doesn't grow on trees. When you don't have an endless amount of money you've got to find a level where you must accept “good enough.”

Greater Wealth Correlated With Higher SAT Scores

The more time and money you can throw at the SAT, logically, the higher your SAT test score. I'm absolutely sure if my parents had spent $500 – $1,500 on SAT tutoring I would have gotten at least a 1,200 on my SAT.

I'm also sure that if I spent $1,500 and took the SAT exam 30 times, at least one of the top six scores accepted would have been higher than 1,200 as well. Heck, I might have even gotten a 1,400+ and gotten into Harvard to only get rejected by the investment bank I ended up working at!

But due to our financial circumstances, we decided a 1,160 SAT score was good enough for a kid who came to America at 14. I was already aware we didn't have much money given we drove around in a seven-year-old Toyota Camry and lived in a small townhouse.

It's not like I was going to attend a prestigious private university and pay $25,000 a year in tuition, equivalent to $50,000 a year in today's dollars. Instead, I applied to in-state schools: Mary Washington, UVA, and William & Mary. For $2,800 a year, tuition at William & Mary was a bargain based on its ranking, so I went.

The College Board Profit Machine

Despite calling itself a “not-for-profit,” the College Board is one big money-making machine thanks to its monopoly position of administering the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams.

As of 2021, the SAT Reasoning Test plus the essay costs $64.50 ($93.50 if registering late) and the AP exams cost US $94 each. The SAT Subject Tests cost a baseline of $26 with a $22 fee for each test. Further, there are numerous other services available that can be added to the basic costs, including late registration, score verification services, and various answering services that are available.

SAT score reports cost $12 per college for 1–2-week electronic delivery, or 2–4-week paper or disk delivery, depending on what method the school requires ($31 extra for two-day processing).

Even College Board's College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS), a college financial aid application meant to help students pay for college, requires a fee. For the 2019-2020 school year, the price is $25 for the first report sent and an additional $16 for each additional college receiving the information.

Take a look at the College Board's historical profit and loss statements below according to With $1.1 billion in cash and investments, the College Board is one rich non-profit!

The College Board Profit And Loss Statements

Thanks to hefty profits, the President of the College Board makes over a million dollars a year while several of its executives make over $300,000 a year in salary and benefits.

Maybe if non-profits stopped paying their executives so much money, they'd be more profitable. Or maybe, that's the point of registering as a non-profit – to get favorable tax breaks and pay management big bucks. Cash cows are highly valuable in a low-interest rate environment.

Unfortunately for students, there are no other competitors for the SAT Subject, AP, and PSAT Tests. ACT still is far behind when competing against the main SAT test. When you have a monopoly, you can make excess profits.

The SAT Adversity Score

Conceptually, we know the more time and money you have to dedicate to studying for and taking the SAT test, the higher your test will be.

Now we know for sure there is a correlation with test scores and household income thanks to the College Board's own data of millions of test takers. See the graphic below by the WSJ.

Nobody is going to argue against trying to even the SAT playing field for poorer households. Having parents who attended college or received a graduate degree is a huge competitive advantage because attending college is an expected part of the child's upbringing. 

For these college-educated families, all decisions made throughout their child's grade school years are made with an eye on college admission.

The College Board, in all its social engineering wisdom, has decided to create an Adversity Index to help the less fortunate. Check out the multiple variables used to come up with a secret Adversity Index score that will only be reported to colleges and nobody else.

Adversity index for the SAT score

The College Board Should Help The Disabled

I applaud the College Board for trying to create more fairness in its test scores. The variables seem reasonable. But what about one of the biggest variables of all? Having some type of mental, visual, or physical disability that may prevent a student from reading as quickly or understanding as clearly?

Having a disability is one of the most important variables that will make life a little to a lot harder. To not include disability as one of the variables in the Adversity Index is a huge oversight, especially since more than 15% of the world's population has some type of disability.

Further, why keep the Adversity Index score of between 0 – 100 a secret? Secrecy is what creates consternation that the system is rigged.

It would have been much better if the College Board just stuck to household income and the highest level of parental education when highlighting their data to push for the Adversity Index.

Including Race Is Insulting

Finally, why did the College Board and the WSJ have to include race in its Adversity Score promotion? I understand race is not one of the specific variables in the index.

By factoring race into SAT results, the College Board and the WSJ implies Black and Hispanic people are less intelligent than White and Asian people. As a result, unfair racial stereotypes will become sanctioned and spread.

The implication is insulting.

We all know a couple of the biggest factors in scoring well on the SAT are time and money. To imply race as a factor is racist.

It is not your race that allows you to score better or worse on the SAT. It is your circumstance and the environment you've been brought up in over your first 16-17 years that determines your SAT score.

Please do not let others make you believe race determines your SAT test-taking abilities. Whatever your race, know that you are good enough.

I truly do not believe my SAT score would have been any lower if I were White, Black, or Hispanic. And if you are White, Black, or Hispanic, do not believe your SAT score would be higher if you were Asian.

Related: Three White Tenants, One Asian Landlord: A Story About Opportunity, Or Lack Thereof

The College Board Is Dumb Smart

The College Board is all about making money. By creating these statistics and highlighting its secret Adversity Index, not only does it get a lot of publicity, but it creates a lot of anxiety.

One of the reasons why I'm writing this post is because I thought after seeing the first graphic, “Oh wonderful. I guess my son is going to have an even tougher time getting into college if I am correctly reading between the lines.

I started questioning why I decided to get an MBA part-time while already working 60-70 hours a week. Those three years were a killer. I've also started to wonder why the hell am I working, saving, and investing so aggressively to try and generate over $200,000 a year in passive income?

Spending an extra 20 hours a week for three years to get an MBA part-time and another 25 hours a week writing on Financial Samurai to generate active income to reinvest to generate more passive income were two things I could control.

But something I cannot control is being born a certain race and neither can my son. So why should my son be penalized for being Asian on the SAT and in college admissions? That's not right.

Don't forget. His old man got a mediocre SAT score.

I have little problem if the College Board and Universities want to penalize children of affluent families who have parents with graduate degrees. I draw the line at kids getting penalized for their race.

Organizations making life harder for my son is a huge motivating force to keep my business going forever. I want him to have the option of bypassing such institutions altogether.

Now consider all the other Asian and White families who may not have their own businesses and are thinking they need to spend even more money on SAT tutoring and materials to run in place.

Now think about all the Black and Hispanic families who can now either believe the College Board's pontification that race is a factor in their SAT test results or think they should perhaps spend more money on SAT tutoring and testing because they then might have a better chance at attending college.

What makes me particularly annoyed about the College Board's decision to highlight race in their propaganda is that it may create self-doubt. Succeeding at whatever you want has a lot to do with self-confidence and vanquishing FOPA.

Put In The Effort If You Want To Succeed

For 10 years, I've tried to instill in readers that you deserve to be rich and successful if you put in the effort, no matter your race. The College board is doing the opposite and undermining my efforts.

The College Board is simply race-baiting families into spending more time and money on the test to ameliorate the anxiety they manufactured. It's like spending $100 applying to great preschools and having no chance of getting in .

Unfortunately for the College Board, their attempt to boost its revenue from nervous parents of all socioeconomic classes and races will prove temporary.

SAT Score Percentile

The Long Term Trend Is Negative For The SAT And The College Board

Students and parents aren't going to be uninformed forever. As the value of a college degree depreciates due to the lower returns, higher costs, higher student debt, free internet, and an increasingly exposed rigged system, more people will begin to opt out of going to a traditional four-year college.

As more people opt out of a four-year college, fewer people will be taking the SAT.

If there is a way to short the SAT and The College Board, please let me know! I think we could make a lot of money once parents know the gig is up.

At the very least, we could pressure the non-profit to share some of its massive profits by lowering the cost of test-taking and test preparation to allow for more underprivileged kids to score higher.

But when your main purpose as a non-profit is to make lots of profits as a monopoly to pay yourself boatloads of money, it's hard to really make a change for the greater good.

I'm very glad more and more colleges are omitting SAT test scores from their admissions process. The University of California system is the largest school system that began the process. Now many other colleges are following suit!

Related posts about college:

The Wide Implications Of The College Admissions Scandal

Why More Public Schools Will Rank Higher Than Private Schools In The Future

For more resources check out my:

Financial Samurai has been online since 2009 and is one of the most trusted and largest independently-run personal finances today. You can sign up for my free newsletter for more insights. 

82 thoughts on “It’s Time To Ban The SAT And The College Board”

  1. They do suck.
    They have reps that so not speak English well and system often crashes so cannot register properly. They tell you one thing one call and 10min later tell you another.

    Agree with below writer!
    I Hate The College Board

    David Coleman can fight me
    Lily O, Staff Writer|March 27, 2021
    The College Board sucks and here’s why.
    1) They are an exploitative “non-profit” organization.
    In 2020, The College Board grossed approximately $1.2 billion USD by exploiting desperate high school students. Nearly 2.2 million students took the SAT in 2020 and were forced to pay a fee of $52 and $68 if they chose to complete the essay as well. Additionally, many students will take the test multiple times to improve their score as attending a prestigious institution is partially contingent on high standardized testing scores. For example, I took the SAT three times outside of school and ended up paying a total of $156. The College Board recognizes that a majority of students will take the SAT at least once and have chosen to capitalize on students’ desperation for a high score. In addition to standardized testing, students are forced to pay outrageous amounts to take AP tests. AP courses count as “college-credits” and represent a high-intensity course load on high school transcripts. If you want to show colleges you’re capable of taking on college-level courses then you bet your a** you’re taking an AP test, especially at AMHS. The issue is, in order to take an AP test you have to pay a fee of $95 per exam and if you order the test late you incur a $40 late fee. Even if you only took one AP class per year in HS, you would still be giving $380 to The College Board to take tests. In addition to this, if you want to send your AP scores to colleges after you receive them you have to pay a score-send fee of $15 PER COLLEGE and pay $11.25 to send your SAT scores if you don’t use your “4 free sends” when you register for the test. If you don’t want to blindly send your AP and SAT scores to schools then you might end up paying an arm and a leg just to apply for higher education. The College Board wants you broke before you even get a chance to be accepted.

    The College Board wants you broke before you even get a chance to be accepted. ”
    2) You can’t get into college without them… and they know that.
    This one is quite possibly the most infuriating aspect, The College Board has a monopoly. It is essentially impossible to apply to college without them. Even if you somehow make your way through high school without taking a single AP class or taking the SAT, a large majority of schools will require you to submit a CSS profile in addition to FAFSA if you want to be eligible for non federal financial aid. And guess what… there’s a fee! It will cost you $25 to fill out the CSS profile and send it to one school. If you want to send it to more, it’s an additional $16 per college. There is no way around it, one way or another every high school student will eventually be roped into forking over their money.
    3) Finances
    Finally, I think it is time to dive a little deeper into the financial aspect of The College Board and where all the money they steal from students goes. First off, the CEO of college board, David Coleman, supposedly makes about $1 million dollars a year. That’s right, MILLION. Additionally, many college board executives will take home about $300,000 – $500,000 a year. The average household income in the United States is roughly $68,000 and the average cost of college is about $20,000 – $30,000 per year. The College Board uses lower income students and families to make a profit and include their employees in the 1%. The company has no concern for the students it was designed for and could care less if simply applying to college makes it harder to put food on the table. When America decided that a college education would be the baseline to acquire a successful career, The College Board should’ve recognized it as well. Getting a higher education should not be a luxury when it has become a necessity.
    Overall, The College Board is a shady “non-profit” monopoly that has little to no concern for students or their families. They find money in any way they can through score sends, testing fees, cancellation fees, late fees, etc because they recognize there is no way around it. I am disgusted by their practices, and yet I probably gave them over $1000 because I want to go to college. It is essentially impossible to boycott The College Board, so sign every petition that you can, leave them snarky comments on Instagram, make your voice heard and tell them how much they suck. I’m not one to support bullying, but maybe if we hate on the company just enough… they’ll see the error of their ways (but probably not). At the end of the day, money is what makes the world go round, and it’s difficult to make money without going to college

  2. Proud Black Parent

    I have to admit, as a black man with kids, I am in favor of the adversity index and implication that race engineering is the end goal for the index.

    My family makes about $800,000 a year, and I have two sons. If they can get an advantage on the SAT score and college admissions, while also being taken care of by me and their mom, that’s great for my family.

    You can’t always have winners in society. It’s time for America to purposefully make African-Americans winners again. White people had their time already and Asian people will just have to wait another generation or two.

    1. LOL…very good chance the Russians have infiltrated your message board to stir the pot with this one…

  3. Sam, the SAT Preparation book cost $20 back when you took the test, and is still today cheaper than the $50 re-test fee you paid to take another bite of the apple. You owe your parents $30.

    One good troll deserves another, FS.;-) Seriously, people are different, and the attachment to tribal identity is proof. We all want the best for everyone and for equal opportunities for everyone. So when outcomes are different by race, income, gender, parents education level, etc. the difference is hard to accept. Correlation doesn’t indicate causation.

    The SAT test has been retooled and rebaselined multiple times in the past few decades, and it makes no difference. Racial gaps still appear, and even become greater. Here’s another example of differences:

    Look at the top 20 countries for IQ, which are monocultures with minimal ethnic diversity. Look at the bottom 20 countries, also monocultures with minimal ethnic diversity. What do you observe? Is this a surprise? Is it bad?

    Would doing away with IQ tests help make things more equal? Would doing away with SAT and ACT tests make things more equal? Would the differences and stereotypes go away?

    1. Correlation doesn’t indicate causation. Except when it comes to IQ and….climate? Clearly no imbedded bias here…

  4. This is sooo stupid. This will just stack the system ever more in favor of the rich because they will have the resources to game the system. With the system, here’s what to do if you have money:

    1. Buy a house in poor crime ridden neighborhood and make that your primary address for a few years. You are now officially a poor resident. Side consequence is pushing out existing residents. Yay gentrification? If you’re super rich, you can buy a whole apartment building and keep the units empty and unkempt. Now you have low vacancy AND you have lower property values. After your kids take the SAT, you sell the property (possibly to another rich family) and get all your money back.

    2. Temporarily get a divorce just as your kids are taking the SAT. After your kids take the SAT, get remarried. Boom, single parent. Give sole custody to a spouse with no income. Now your low income! ESL – LMAO yeah English was my second language, 25 years ago. But who cares, I’m ESL now!

    3. High school environment – Home school with private tutor for Freshman and Sophomore years. BAM! No AP at home. No matching. Take the SAT before Junior year. After kids take the SAT, enroll in a private school with AP/IB or whatever and proceed as usual.

    1. I saw all three in high school

      1. A pair of very wealthy physicians sent their daughter to an inner city school near their job becuase the school had low schools and was in an economically depressed area, making it far easier to stand out and have the “rags-to-ritches” story despite going home to very posh neighborhood. She had extra tutors to make sure she knew everything so the only real risk was the safety of the area.
      2. My mother got married and married well right before my senior year of college. Being the good citizen I am, I was obligated to put the official amount on the joint tax documents which meant that I was disqualified for pretty much any need based aid despite not actually getting a dime from my father (alcoholic who surprisingly isn’t in jail) or stepfather. Only after college did I learn that nobody really verifies income so plenty of people just used one parent or similar.
      3. I saw much the same. The parents “in-the-know” and with money started all the way in middle school if not earlier. The top 10 people in my high school class could not be beat even with straight As because they were taking high school courses in middle school during the school and during the summer. Neither option was publicly offered by ANY school in my district.

      These tests can be gamed in all sorts of ways. I am pretty sure there were more than a few Chinese classmates who paid someone to take their tests because they lacked very, very, very basic skills compared to other international and native students. The admissions scandal we recently saw is just the tip of the iceberg in the USA, but is a quietly accepted practice elsewhere.

      And then there’s the wonderful SSAT for elite private schools and its junior equivalents. The craziness begins at preschool.

      My mother made an apt point. “If you have the money, why not do what the Kusher’s did and just donate your way in?”

      1. It is rational to assume that if you have the money, you will do whatever you can to buy yourself more access and an easier life for you and your kids. We are seeing this play out in real time and I don’t think it’ll ever change.

  5. Sam-

    The race conversation that you once again stroke is one sided and ignores what blacks, native americans and latinos typically face in terms of racism that aren’t consistently faced by other minorities. Think about the unbalanced incarceration rates, police brutality, educational bias amongst teaching professionals based on implicit racism as early as age 5. These are MUCH more serious issues than college entrance. d
    Drop affirmative action based on race once we correct our judicial system & implicit racism. Come on Sam, the data is all there and I know you’re better than this?

    For example, why don’t you ever comment on your son not having to worry about being pulled over and harrassed by the police? How about the fact that he’s a male? Being a definitely has it’s advantages in university admission in comparison to a female. Sam, be more open and less one sided.

    1. Hi John – Because I HAVE been pulled over and harassed by police MULTIPLE times. I even had the police come to my house and yell at me and hold a gun about to draw for not showing my ID that I own my own house.

      Are you saying Asians don’t face racism as a minority in America as well? Are you saying the discrimination I face or other Asians face feels different and less that what other minorities face?

      What race are you and what makes you think Asians don’t face racism in America? I do want to understand why there is a common disregard for the plight of Asians in America, but not all other minorities. And do want to understand why we can’t focus on upbringing disadvantages instead.



      Silent Threats In The Night

      The Importance Of Feeling Consistently Uncomfortable For Progress

      The Chinese Exclusion Act

      1. To both Sam and Andy-

        I NEVER said asians don’t face racism, please read my post. I’ve actually stood up for asians (and non asians) who’ve encountered racism from others when they’re not present. I have ZERO tolerance for racism. Also, zero disregard for the racism that asians face. However, I did mention the actual Data that exists amongst the other those minorities (black, native Americans & Hispanics) within the criminal justice system (more time for the same crimes as non minorities) , education, etc. And unfortunately failed to mention asian.

        However Sam, this mirrors exactly what you’ve done on the asian front for different topics while failing to mention data for other ethnicities, Right? Sam, you also keep mentioning bringing up opportunities for disadvantaged, but then you’re against this adversity measure for poorer families followed by an false claim that it’s the measure is racist?

        I’ve reread your post and still can’t figure out why you had to go the “this is race based affirmative route” on this one when it’s clearly not race based. However, it’s what “you’re reading and seeing” between the lines.

        1. Proud Black Parent

          Right on my brother! We need to do more to help black people in this country. If it ends up hurting other races in the process, then so be it. We have suffered enough.

          I worked hard to become an executive and make multiple six figures a year. I should be rewarded and so should my children.

      2. @sam, it’s okay that you didn’t post my initial reply but please clarify a few items:
        – i never said Asians don’t face racism, but i did mention that the data shows it’s in fact at different levels for different situations. Similarly to how native Americans face higher levels of racism than African americans within the judicial system and also have higher chance of being murdered by cops than any other race.
        – discrimination is discrimination in and I have Zero tolerance for racism which is why I always plead that you look at the full picture. It’s no different how your posts consistently target african Americans and Hispanics while failing to include native Americans.
        – my nationality is African American and part native american; for what its worth my spouse is half asian and we now have a child who’s 1/4 asian
        – i love looking out for the disadvantaged as I grew up surrounded by poverty, however i struggle to see this in your post. For example the adversity index tries to do this but yet you take the conversation to being about racial division amongst minorities?

        Best of success

    2. How is Sam racially biased when he is encouraging the mega profit SAT and colleges to LOOK BEYOND RACE when making an objective decision about a student?

      It makes no sense to say that every other minority except for Asians experience racism. That’s either ignorant or a racist statement.

      Have you ever thought that perhaps the reason why the incarceration rates are the way they are is because people of certain races commit more crimes than other races?

      I truly hope you’re not some white guy who has no idea of what it’s like to be a minority in America. But your last statement makes it obvious you’re ignorant.

      Asians face racism in America all the time. Just because Asians aren’t as vocal about racism and decides to get on with it more doesn’t mean racism doesn’t exist.

      1. @andy: my last statement about sams son concern for the cops could’ve been better stated as potentially having less concern for being pulled over “statistically speaking”. However the fact that males have an advantage in college admissions vs equally qualified females process is true. Also, the fact that many of Sam’s racially based posts are one side are also true. Nothing wrong with that because it’s his site, but it’s just the truth.

    3. “Drop affirmative action based on race once we correct our judicial system & implicit racism.”

      I want it all to be corrected, but only by improving things for the folks that need it. I reject any plan that involves anyone willingly agreeing to being second-class citizens for even a few generations, let alone some subjective measure that may never be agreed on.

      You don’t get to higher places by stepping on other people who mean you no harm, and never did any to you.

  6. I’m not as awesome, I only scored 1400 on the SAT, pretty low in my asian community of 1500s and perfects, but in the end, we went to each of our respective state schools (for my friends living in CA). The only difference between me and my 1500s counterparts was the scholarship offered. I’m fine with it because my family saved up for college (we’re middleclass) and we live pretty close to our state college, close enough to commute everyday. In the end, I can get the same opportunities as 1500s kids and more if I actively seek to.

  7. Ken Williams

    34 yr old African American male here. Can’t recall exact score but it was mid 1200 range. Let’s not make good the enemy of great.This should be a welcome gesture for those who care about giving kids, like I was, from inner city communities and poor rural areas a fair(er) shot. If you don’t know what many of these kids face and can’t relate, then say that. If you don’t care, then say that. But you can’t see the numbers (racial wealth gap and any other statistic you want to look at) and say “this attempt to fix it isn’t perfect, don’t do it and I don’t have any other solutions.” Its inherently difficult to quantify subjective matters like this but some of the responses seem to be “sucks to be you, try harder.” I have a 2 year old who THANKFULLY will not benefit from the adversity score nor should he. I’ll gladly take (and prepare him for) the “problems” he will have getting into a decent university. Most likely because I’ve lieved other side that the adversity score is looking to help, and many (but not all) commenting have not.

    1. Good point on good being enemy of the great.

      Here are two problems:

      * Whether people will tell you or not, they may discount your academic and professional achievements based on the social engineering that has resulted in trying to help Blacks and Hispanics.

      * Let’s say you turn out to do very well for yourself professionally and for your family. Your son will have an unfair advantage just because he is Black when taking the exam and applying to schools over other races that may be poorer. What do you say to the Asian son a first generation immigrant dishwashers in Chinatown? Doesn’t seem fair to give an edge based on skin color.

      As an African-American, it’s logical to be a proponent of affirmative action and using race as a factor in getting ahead. But I challenge you to think beyond race, and think about the poor and struggling of any race.

      1. Austin:

        Thanks for the candid feedback. Stating the obvious, I can only speak for myself and not a group of people:

        *If the same people don’t add back a premium for the negative social engineering/discrimination that played a role in creating today’s gap then I wouldn’t dedicate much energy to their concerns. At the very least, I would hope the same people discount the nepotism, legacy admission policies, etc. that play a role in current wealth gap as well -which might help to equal their affirmative action discount and still help to level the playing field. Wishful thinking at best.

        *As I understand it, this particular policy is not race based affirmative action. I’m not a fan of race based affirmative action policies. Its a moot point because any other objective metric will assist those who need it most given wealth gap, primarily inner city blacks, Hispanics, and rural whites. In your example, the dishwasher’s son would get additional considerations not available to my son who comes from $280K income 2 parent HH, college educated, etc. I’m fine with that, as I’m fairly confident given our resources my son will be able to compete and do just fine.
        *Outside of stating my race for the reader’s awareness, I’m not sure why you assumed I was focused on race and not poor and disadvantaged in general. I stated explicitly that my son should not and would not benefit.

        1. More great points. Thanks.

          Your son would likely get an advantage, even if his parents made $280,000 a year because of his race.

          Check out the different test and scoring standards in the Harvard vs Asian American lawsuit.

          My question to you is: what do you say to the poor Asian American kids in America who don’t have wealthy parents and who do not have the same resources yet have to jump over a higher hurdle?

          Don’t you think Asians should get some benefits too since they are an even smaller minority?

  8. I’m not a big fan of this adversity score. I believe students should just put in the effort to do well.

    i believe greatly that America is the land of opportunities and anyone from any walk of life can do very well. There is no limit to what they can accomplish. But I think this would only work in a meritocracy.

    To adjust the score to factor in X, Y and Z take away from a meritocratic system. Other factors now come into pay outside of a standardized test. Now, would the students get the same benefits when they graduate? Should they expect to make more per hours worked because they came from a financially poor household or were raised by a single parent?

  9. Dudley DooWrong

    I do believe kids with better prep opportunities (and parents who push them to prep) overall and on average do much better on these tests.

    But there’s always exceptions. I was a poor foster kid from a crappy little high school in a crappy little town who joined the Army out of high school. One Saturday morning in boot camp, after a fun feature called “24 hour guard mount” all night in the freezing Missouri rain/sleet, they yanked me out of the breakfast chow line and took me to take the SAT.

    I remembered bubbling my name in on the sheets and remembered turning in the test sheets afterwards, but nothing in between. I scored a 1530.

    My daughters used the Khan Academy mentioned by above Yetisaurus (Sal Khan is a true humanitarian saint, IMHO) and other free stuff and scored over 1550 each.

    This adversity rating is not inherently a bad thing and schools can use it as they see fit, but the implementation of it (including the secrecy aspect) seem fraught with potential problems.

    1. Cool. What do you think is the reason why so many people are scoring 1,500 in this comments section? Based on the data, a 1,500 score is in the 99th percentile.

      Maybe the SAT score is really much easier than reality? Or maybe only people with really high SAT scores want to comment?

      What did you end up doing after high school and what are your daughters doing?


      1. Dudley DooWrong

        “maybe only people with really high SAT scores want to comment?”

        I think that’s it – it is mainly self-selection. If I had scored 900, I wouldn’t have wanted to comment, right? :-)

        I played soldier for a bit over 8 years then finally grew up and went to college to get a chemical engineering degree. I worked as a research scientist for several years, then decided to go to law school and became a patent attorney. I’m still doing that right now because I’m in “one more year!” mode and afraid to pull the trigger on retiring. Maybe next year!

        The two older daughters I mentioned above are in college and pursuing engineering degrees (one is is in a 5 year dual degree program where she would get a BS math first then finish with a BS EE at a second school; I’m already hearing rumbles that she might want to keep going and get a PhD in some math discipline instead of getting the EE, so we’ll see in the end).

        The other kids are young enough they haven’t taken the SAT yet so we’ll see. But make no mistake, if they are not testing well enough on practice exams after the Khan Academy etc. inexpensive prep stuff, I’m sure I will (maybe grudgingly) shell out $1500 or whatever to help get their scores up.

        P.S. I think the person who jumped on you for saying you grew up middle class is nuts. From your description it’s almost the epitome of middle class, at least as I understand it.


        1. Cool beans. It does seem like those who score highest on the SATs tend to go into professions like law.

          I guess the way I’m looking at it now is that just because you scored 99% on the SAT doesn’t mean you automatically destined for great wealth and fortune by going to an elite school.

          It seems like a lot of folks who have 1,500s need to WANT to leverage their high score to go to the best uni possible to get the career and pay possible.

          It never would have crossed my mind NOT to apply to the top 10 schools in the country if I got a 1,500+. So this is a cool adjustment that I’m now aware of, and it also makes me feel better about not studying and trying more to get a higher score.

          1. Dudley DooWrong

            “It never would have crossed my mind NOT to apply to the top 10 schools in the country if I got a 1,500+”

            Well, here’s one more data point. In our state is a better than top-10 engineering school by every measure. It’s kind of urban/downtown, and my wife and girls both expressed some concern about that environment.

            I REALLY wanted the girls to go there, both for the prestige of a T-10 engineering school, and also because it was super cheap for us for them to go there, so I pushed on it. And they did an admitted students’ day orientation visit. That same day, there was a horrible physical assault upon a woman on campus – really just a random event – but that was the end of the idea of them going there from their mindsets.

            So instead of going to one of the best engineering schools in the nation for close to free, I’m paying a small bit to have one of them going to an out of state good (but no where near T-10) engineering school and the other to an in-state private good (but no where near T-10) school. Their test scores cut tuition at these schools by close to 90%, but it still would have been cheaper if they’d gone to the local bigname college.

            “I guess the way I’m looking at it now is that just because you scored 99% on the SAT doesn’t mean you automatically destined for great wealth and fortune by going to an elite school.”

            I agree with that. I’ve scored 99+ percentile on every standardized test I’ve ever taken, whether SAT, ACT, ASVAB, GMAT, or LSAT. But I went to my state’s main university only because they had a veteran’s tuition waiver, which was a huge help financially – I only had to work to cover fees, books, and housing. It was not an “elite” school but was top 20 in my ChE discipline, which I’m sure helped me get my first job.

            But I know a lot a “smart” people who scored highly on the same test who are struggling, particularly lawyers who I went to school with, who are incredibly smart but not doing well financially.

            1. Sounds like you are talking about Georgia Tech. I really considered going there, even after my SAT scores came out and some of the Ivies tried to recruit me. Took the tours and everything, but it was just too close to home. Loved my folks, just didn’t want them dropping by my dorm unexpectedly.

              As far as relating IQ to success? There are at least a couple of dozen different aptitudes. Having one of these means you are BOTH talented at it and enjoy it.

              Most successful people have a handful. The problem occurs when the number begins getting much larger and, for people with higher IQs, this is all too likely.

              While a jack-of-all-trades can be valued and do great things, it usually means not enough focus and focus (or luck, or a lifetime of patience) is required for getting rich.

              People with too many aptitudes are split too in many different (and often conflicting) directions. The world doesn’t really need a rocket scientist who is also a master chef and an excellent musician. Because they are unable to employ their talents well, a lot of them wind up as employees and, without quite knowing why, often resent it.

              It also tends to make them job hoppers which isn’t a great path for financial success.

              Nowadays I hold a great job in IT, although I cannot say it defines me or is in any way a calling. I also, among other things, write novels, brew beer, garden, read, play strategy games, travel, study theoretical physics (along with both human and natural history), have a great family, and I am reasonably happy.

              I took me some time to get to this point, however, and although I have a very good life, I am not quite a one-percenter, not up for a Nobel Prize, am not heading up my own private space program, and, outside of my office, am not even a recognized authority in my field (at least partly because I have too many of them). This occasionally causes me a certain dissatisfaction in that, because I suspect I could have been one or more of these, with a bit more focus and/or guidance.

              Google for “The Too Many Aptitudes Problem” by Hank Pfeffer

            2. ATL Engineer

              Georgia Tech is immediately what I was thinking as well. It was close to home for me but I leveraged my 1500 SAT score to get in and the Hope Scholarship to graduate from there debt-free. A fantastic deal for those able and wanting to take advantage of it. The only other top school I considered was Notre Dame, but when I found out I needed to write 5 or 6 essays I only applied to GT (which had just an online application – a big deal in the mid 90s – and no essays).

      2. Yes I think it is self-selection. I didn’t do the SAT as I wasn’t in the US. But did do the GRE to go to grad school in the US. Scored 1530 on verbal and math combined. It used to be scored the same way as the SAT. This got me a scholarship with stipend without any extra work requirement (i.e being a TA or RA) for my first year. But I didn’t try to go to MIT or Harvard with this score, because I thought my chances of funding would be weaker than where I did go to grad school – another R1 university in Boston…

  10. Me to my 15yo cousin:

    Sorry you work your ass off to get straight A’s, spend hours a week as a leader in band, clubs, etc. Sorry you work helping out your dad at his company. Sorry your parents sacrificed to move to a better area they can barely afford so you can do to a better school. Oh and sorry your parents are still together. I guess it’s community college for you!

  11. If diversity is the goal and the scores are secret that indicates to me that some numbers are going to be “massaged” for the desired outcome. It almost makes the test score pointless. Is the next new trend going to be “race fraud”?

    1. Steven Schiro

      Serious question: My high school aged cousin is a quarter Samoan (his dad is half Samoan half New Zealander, and his mom is half Russian and half Italian). His dad immigrated here as a child. Does my cousin put Pacific Islander or is he white?

      When his mom told him he should put pacific islander on his forms, he asked why. She said he’d have a better chance of getting in to schools or getting scholarships that way.

      His response: Why should that matter?

      Here’s a kid who is one of the hardest working people I know, with a great attitude, and takes advantage of all his opportunities. But see his parents are together and (even though they rent), he goes to a good school. He also may be too white for certain bigots.

      Yeah, this mindset is a cancer. You are never going to get to a fair or just society by perpetuating this.

  12. One thing I like is the idea of having more alternatives to the SAT that are considered widely accepted substitutes. Right now the main ones seem to be SAT, AP, and GPA, but not much else. My 1280 score was one of the lowest amongst all of my friends at the time. Luckily I wanted to go to a cheap state school and that, coupled with a 2.9 GPA (3.6 weighted) was more than enough. I do remember how stressful that time was though since everything in an unknown and the only levers you have to improve your odds are scores and extra-curricular activities – neither of which demonstrates skill in the field.

    I think there’s a lot more room for the portfolio process here in more majors. Creating a portfolio of your relevant work for the major you’re pursuing shows (to me) more about a students passion for what they think they want to pursue. I sat in on the film portfolio review process at my college (I created the web app the professors used for it) and it was amazing to see how much thought these experts put into reviewing peoples work. It doesn’t scale as well as raw scores, but also not everyone would do it. It would have its own problems though – as not everyone has equal access to the resources needed to create a portfolio, but it is another option.

  13. As an academic who works in a STEM field in higher education, I think it is important to point out that spatial skills are a better predictor of STEM degree attainment than SAT or ACT scores. If we want to expand our STEM workforce, we should really consider shifting our focus from SAT and ACT scores to spatial scores. It also has the potential to add diversity to the workforce. I have seen numerous times in middle school classrooms the A students struggling with spatial reasoning while the C students excel and are able to help the A students – it is very empowering for everyone for these roles to be flipped.

    1. Steven Schiro

      The SAT is basically a backdoor IQ test disguised as a not-IQ test. Sure you can pay money for prep to get a better score, but it’s correlated at I believe .7

      1. Not really. Mensa dropped the SAT and ACT years ago as a result of all the monkeying around with the tests. LSAT is still there, as is GMAT.

  14. Khan Academy now has SAT prep available online for free. It’s amazing. I tutored my nephew using only their practice materials, including 8 practice tests, and it was fantastic.

    When I was in HS (back in 1995, yeesh) I did one practice test the night before the SAT and got a 1460 on the real test. I tried to dust off my skills a bit to tutor my nephew. I did every practice test with him, as a sign of solidarity. By the end, I got a score of around 1560. I don’t say this to brag, only to illustrate how much the practice work can help, even if you’re at the upper end of scores.

    Khan Academy is a game changer for kids with fewer resources, IMO. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. They have an insane amount of study content online, including videos explaining most of the concepts. You basically have one of the best teachers around explaining things to you, and it’s 100% free. There are TONS of courses, too. I donate a little bit to them every year because I am so frigging impressed with the work that they do. I hope they end up stamping out the College Board test prep.

    I also hope that more kids find out about it and use it to study. I think that would really help less affluent kids learn and be able to really compete with the more affluent kids. In time, it would be nice if no playing-field-leveling needed to happen, because everyone would have access to the same quality of education. Fingers crossed.

    1. Wow, a 1,560 is huge! I had a friend who scored a 1,560, and he was a math genius that went to Cooper Union.

      With such a high SAT score, where did you end up going to university? And do you feel you have achieved in your life commensurate with your high SAT score?

      1. Ha! I ended up going to UC Irvine, for financial reasons. Bang for buck, you can’t beat state universities. I think the cost was around $4,500/yr for tuition back then. It’s more now, unfortunately, but still a steal compared to private schools. Plus, by staying local, I got to live at home for the first year or two, which saved a ton of money.

        Oh boy, that last question. Hard to say. I definitely didn’t go to a high-powered university and end up at a high-powered law firm, working round the clock to make the big bucks. I did go to law school (private, but mega scholarships that made it cheaper than state schools), and work at a small firm (partner now) that gives me more life balance. It also gives me time to work on the real estate investments I have going on the side. I have small fractional interests in a few family mobile home parks and I help manage them, in addition to owning and managing my own fourplex nearby. I get bored and antsy easily, so this oddball mix of things works better for me than a life that’s solely wrapped around a biglaw career. I guess if you define “achievement” as being able to choose your life trajectory, then yes, I think I’m more or less there.

        Ideally, if I can keep this mix of stuff happening, I’d like to retire at age 50-55 and get out of Southern California into a beachfront property further north. Maybe get a paleontology degree for fun at that stage of my life. That would be a huge win. :)

        1. UCI ain’t bad, but couldn’t you get massive merit scholarships to an Ivy League school with a 1,560 score?

          Private schools keep doubting that nobody pays rack rate, especially kids from poorer families.

          But somehow, I feel they help as much as they say they do.

          1. I only had a 1460 back then. I only got a 1560 last year after doing the Khan Academy studying with my nephew. So I wouldn’t have gotten mega scholarships like you’re thinking. My family wouldn’t have qualified for needs-based scholarships.

            Even if I could’ve gotten free tuition, that would have meant moving across the country and paying an extra however much $$ for housing, instead of living at home for free. I dunno, maybe it would’ve been a good move, but maybe not. It might’ve just pushed me into the hard-charging law firm track, which I know would’ve led to burnout by now. I’m just not wired for that one-track thing.

            I only applied to two schools, UCI and a Cal State school as a backup. What’s funny is that my mom saw the acceptance envelope from UCI and said “No way!!’ LMAO. She meant it out of excitement, and not disbelief, but I still tease her about it.

  15. There are two reasons to take one of these tests. One it is statistically proven to be an indicator of success in college curriculum. Secondly, it has years worth of data on how high school students have done on the tests. I work in the testing industry (granted, in cyber security) but have seen and am fascinated at what goes into setting up a test.

    I took the PSAT and got a 900, took the SAT and got a 1080. I got into a great school (Purdue) with that score and a 2.8GPA. I never claimed to be the best student, but I got a degree (or 4). I also took the GRE and the GMAT (as I have a MS and MBA).

    The problem is not the assessment, it is how it is being used. It is just like using Net Worth as the sole determining factor on if you are able to retire. It would be absolute madness.

  16. One of my friends in high school’s parents paid over 2 grand for an ACT prep class and he went from a 22 to a 24. Did not help him very much. He didn’t really care much about the score because he knew he was most likely getting an athletic scholarship. Just 1 example I have seen. Another friend of mine didn’t do any prep specifically for the ACT but scored a 34 which is really strong. Something I find interesting about this whole thing with the race and income and parent education data is that siblings within the exact same household score very different scores! Reminds me of a quote from Thomas Sowell where he says “If you cannot achieve equality of performance among people born to the same parents and raised under the same roof, how realistic is it to expect to achieve it across broader and deeper social divisions?”

  17. I personally agree with everything you mentioned, except one thing: the AP tests. Those AP tests are designed to allow you to skip the college-leveled class in that topic. Considering that college classes are way more expensive than the 90 something dollars the CollegeBoard charges you, the AP tests are actually a bargain. This, however, only applies to kids that genuinely studied for the test and are not aiming for an Ivy League, which take AP scores as a more difficult highschool class grade.

    1. That’s true. However, I remember plenty of kids getting 4s or 5s on their AP tests and weren’t eligible for college credit in those classes for some reason. Some excuse about different classes or whatever, which all came down to the college wanting the students to pay more money for credits.

      1. Jersey Dirtbag

        I’m not sure such cynicism is fully warranted. I transferred to Cooper Union from Rutgers, and at the time, anyone who was admitted to CU received a full tuition scholarship. Nevertheless, many of the credits (particularly in physics classes) that I’d earned at Rutgers were not transferred and I had to retake those courses. Those decisions were made by relatively low-level faculty who likely had no financial incentive to do so.

        As for the SAT, I took it three times. The first time I took it I was about 15 and I got a 1250. I quit HS in 2001 and in 2002 I got my GED and joined the National Guard. Before I shipped to basic training I threw together a couple of college apps and as part of that effort I retook the SAT and scored 1390 when I was 18. Fast forward a few years to 2005 and I took it again at the age of 21. This was shortly after I had come home from Iraq (I recall my identification being scrutinized rather heavily by the proctor) and I scored 1470, which probably had something to do with me getting into Cooper Union as a high school dropout with a 2.6 GPA from the two years of high school I was able to complete.

        Given the foregoing, I can’t crap on the SAT too much. It’s certainly an imperfect measure of general intelligence (a perfect measure would have zero within-subject variation), but that’s a pretty weak indictment of the test. Hopefully it will continue to improve with the goal of minimizing the aforementioned within-subject variation.

        In the meantime, SAT score reporting should probably be set up so that the test taker’s entire testing history is submitted, rather than an individual score (maybe this is already so?). That would allow institutions to apply a penalty to high scores that were achieved only after several attempts. I think that would put a pretty good check on the ability of the affluent to “out test” those who are less fortunate.

      2. Yes, some colleges don’t take those ap credits. Some colleges are heavily bs-ing that their classes are different and the ap credits don’t count just so they can earn more, but there are other colleges that genuinely mean what they say. Princeton’s physics course is probably a lotttt harder than the average state colleges’ physics course that accept your 4s and 5s. Colleges I’ve visited so far say they will only take 4s and aboves or only 5s. And even then, they heavily recommend to take their course because they don’t want the kids that think they got a 5 on that subject mean that they have the perfect foundation for the second course on that subject and that they will pass. Because some don’t, they fail and have to retake the same class all over again. To prevent that, colleges stop accepting ap credit.

        That said, colleges still do view your ap scores as an academical accomplishment and does help boost chances of getting accepted to a college. For example, if English is not your thing, but math and science are so it for you, you may score badly on the SAT. Let’s say 1100 because your math is 800 but your English is 300. Now if you add ap scores of 4s and 5s in Calculus, Physics or some other math/sciency subject (SAT subject tests included), schools specializing in engineering look onto you more favorably. In math classes, the language isn’t English, it’s numbers and symbols and as long as you’re fluent in that language, English can be negotiated. In this case, ap scores will help out a lot, but they are pretty expensive.

  18. Hi Sam- As a fellow W&M alum, I think we got a great education for an awesome price. I want to comment on students who have documented disabilities, with 504 plans or IEP’s, these students receive accommodations on the SAT and AP tests. Accommodations range from extended time, having the test read aloud to them, being able to use a keyboard, etc., based on each student’s documented need.
    As for the price of score reports, you get (I believe) 5 free reports, and pay after that. As the parent of a graduating senior and a high school teacher for the past 21 years, I think 5 free reports is fine. The issue is that kids now apply to 10-20 schools, in part due to the ease of the common app. My daughter applied to six, but I have numerous students who did 15+ applications. When you also consider that each application is $50-$80, that’s a lot of money as well.
    I also laugh at the $5 per transcript fee I had to pay, for Naviance to digitally send my daughter’s transcripts to schools. Literally a click of a button.

    1. Good stuff about the 504 and IEP plans to help students with disabilities.

      I still believe not having Disability as part of the Adversity Index is a huge oversight.

      As a HS coach, all my seniors apply to 10-20 schools.

      Where is your daughter going?

      Go Tribe!

  19. Nancy Warner Vance

    I teach SAT and ACT prep. Not sure when you took the test, but by your description, I definitely took it much longer ago than you did. Actually, you can score very high by studying the prep books in detail and taking a lot of practice tests over a year or so. But very few people are that dedicated. Also a strong math background seems to preduct a higher score. On the other hand, I have employees who took it once and immediately scored in the 1500’s. In a time when schools are dumbing kids down, I believe the test shows academic college potential. Either the student works hard, or they are naturally high scoring individual. I also believe the essay part of the exam should be used, because you know for sure, the student wrote it, as opposed to the College essay which anyone could have written it for you. I do agree that the college board is making a fortune as a non profit. Further, they now do their own test prep they sell to students, which ishould be a conflict of interest, and not allowed.

    1. Yes, I know I’m not that smart. But I do think I would have done better if I studied more and spent money on someone like you.

      But we didn’t have that much money to spend, so I decided on good enough.

      I’m sure there are people who can score 1,500 in one try, but what percent do you think can?

      I guess in a way I would be like you if I started making money blogging about blogging. It’s something I’m still considering. But I think blogging, like the SAT, is a means to an end. A better life.

      I’m arguing that a lot of this doesn’t really matter because even people who graduate from the best universities end up more or less at the same place as other students from other universities.



  20. Hi Sam,

    I’m a long time follower of your blog, and I respect the work you do, however, I need to be the contrarian to a topic you have relayed in this article, mainly on the subject of how generational wealth and generational education gaps related to Race actually do impact performance, especially in the US when it comes to anyone who is a descendant of a slave; I am 5th generation lineage from a freed slave and first to graduate with a BS and MS degree in the particular lineage, all while setting a path for FIRE in the near-term. My grandparents and great-grandparents finished education at the elementary levels, mostly because of black code and Jim Crow laws of the past; my parents finished at the high school level. While you self-deprecate often about your modest upbringing, perhaps you may need to recognize that some folks have it far worse than you lived your own life in your family; they may have grown up below poverty and on relief (federal/state aid, etc.) – in families that do not even own cars.

    A question for you; “Do you believe your readership population mirrors the same SAT performance quartiles when it comes to race?”. Simply meaning, how racially diverse (or non-diverse) is your readership? (and why?). This is obviously hard to determine, without a controlled survey, but I’d ask you to think about that for a few moments. How many of the parents of Hispanic and Black US families, who are below median income, education level, and SAT performance, are actually reading a blog like yours? I am betting not many to none, as I often poll the diverse group of students I teach/mentor and ask them about the personal finance sites they follow – they are mostly 1st gen college students, with no view into these ideas of financial literacy.

    I truly enjoy all the work you put out, but I believe this article proves the opportunity for bridging the gap on the knowledge and opportunity absent which leads to generational wealth and generational education gaps based on institutional race constructs that exist in the US.

    Your thoughts are welcomed,


    1. Hi Anthony,

      Can you share your recommended solution? I’m not sure what you’re exactly disagreeing on. Can you be more specific?

      I do not believe that there is much intelligence difference between race. It is more the circumstance of the upbringing. Do you believe otherwise? If so, please elaborate.

      Based on the data from Google, the racial diversity of readers here is much higher than the overall general population of America. After all, I’m based in SF, and most of my readers hail from HCOL areas where diversity is much greater.

      What are some ways to encourage more people to try and help themselves by leveraging the free Internet?


      1. Hi Sam,

        My apologies for the delayed reply; I’ve been busy building a patio.

        I am disagreeing with you on your stance that “By factoring race into SAT results, the College Board and the WSJ implies Black and Hispanic people are less intelligent than White and Asian people”. Race needs to be factored in for the discussion, for the historic socio-economic reasons we have arrived at these two groups being marginalized in educational performance in the first place; it took hundreds of years for that to take place – it will not fade or be solved by policy overnight. The first step to progress is to acknowledge there is a problem; we cannot treat this like rainbows and unicorns, and pretend everyone is going to catch up and be the same.

        I grew up in New England (Connecticut to be exact); that “have’s and have not’s” are very well observed – its like night and day between some blocks.

        Race in New England is very tricky and more covert. I knew several Black and Hispanic students growing up, who were at or above middle-class incomes, with college-educated parents, but because of institutional and somewhat racist practices in the well regarded public schools they attended, they were steered away from advanced classes, or even not taken seriously by their teachers, and ultimately suffered when it came to test taking for the SATs, etc. These students had all the means and access, yet their own public school teachers and guidance counselors stifled them, without them even knowing until they got to university.

        I was in SF and San Jose last year for a conference, and visiting a childhood friend and his family, who are in the tech industry, upper-class income, and Asian. He drove me around in his Tesla and told me bluntly the San Jose area, up through SF is becoming more Asian, especially with an influx of Indian workers, who are all making well above the median incomes, in tech industries.
        While SF is HCOL, the median income by race in SF surely tells a story (which could easily mirror the SAT results by race noted above) – see link for 2016 data.

        Why do you think those median incomes are so skewed? Look back to the past 200 years to figure out why.

        So let me ask my question again, using this data, in a different way. Are you making content on your website, that can appeal to the Black or Hispanic readers in SF, who are at median incomes of $45K and $61K, respectively? Can you share your data from Google? Does it cover household income and race?

        In short, I am trying to say that there is a very underserved population across the US that can be lifted if targeted correctly with the knowledge you provide: there are working poor white, black, brown, yellow, etc. who all could benefit from stories, that center on people like them, not just middle-class people like yourself.

        Guiding a person (with similar a similar background to yourself) to achieve FIRE is mostly unremarkable, primarily, because anybody that “…was an average kid living a privileged life as the son of US foreign service officers, with US government provided four bedroom, three bathroom house…” should easily get to FIRE, because of all the support structures were in place from day one – meaning, most would expect someone like yourself, to be where you are today.

        On the other hand, leading a person, from the depths of poverty to FIRE, is much more interesting, because getting there is so much harder than anyone who lived a middle-class life yourself.

        I do not have a silver bullet or solution to provide; I am just stating an opinion and suggestion for future work, as you have a much farther reaching net than I do. Making it fun, K-12 friendly, accessible in public school home economics-like courses and less esoteric is the key. Learning about FIRE post-high school and even after college is way too late.



    2. Anthony, massive congratulations on your achievement! I hear what you’re saying, and I can imagine that having a long family lineage of college graduates and affluence is a huge leg up over kids who don’t have that background. I know there are loads of advantages that I probably had in my upbringing that less affluent kids don’t have, like access to lots of books, and computers, and internet, and relatives with cars who could drive me to the library. I don’t know what access you did or didn’t have to those sorts of things, but it’s always bothered me that there are kids who don’t have that same foundation, and that skews the playing field so much later on in life.

      Affirmative action was a big thing right about the time I was going into college. I think it’s an okay start, but it would be infinitely better if there was some way of giving kids an equal start from the beginning, e.g., making sure they have great teachers in their schools, and that their schools are well funded, and getting their parents involved, and giving them access to computers and resources. That would be so much more valuable than what amounts to an arbitrary point increase on a college admission test.

      For now, taking race and/or socioeconomics into consideration seems to be a good idea (better than nothing, anyway), but I’d really love to see things moving toward a more permanent solution than a band-aid applied at the college level. That’s one of the big reasons I’m a fan of Khan Academy. (I swear I don’t work for them.) I just love that you can give a kid a computer and internet connection and they have access to the same quality learning that rich kids get. I hope that makes a meaningful change over the next 10+ years as kids grow up using it.

      1. Thanks for your reply @Yetisaurus.

        Your point about access to computers is real. I can recall in the mid-1990s, trying to save junk or hand me down PC parts from friends, one-by-one, to attempt to build a 486 PC system….ultimately, I never got to complete it – but I learned everything I needed to know about PC hardware and “simulated” where the remaining parts went in a tower. I wanted the PC to type papers, create my own video games, use AOL, play games, chat, etc. I did obtain a working home PC until 1999, but I used the school-based PCs for as much as I could during this time, to learn, and then I built multiple PCs, that I used throughout university.

        10% of the US adult population does not use the internet in 2019; many are men, black, Hispanic, and with household incomes less than 30K, in the 50-65+ yr age range.

        20 years ago, this same 10% of folks were much younger, and were probably raising pre-teens and teenagers…think of the educational and tech fluency impact to these households by not having PCs or internet access back in 1999. Imagine if those kids had the access and how that would have helped them – the internet was a game changer back then (saved a trip to the library when working on a report); now, it is taken for granted by most adults born after 1995 (based on my teaching experience).

        1. Thanks for replying, Anthony! That’s great insight. It sounds like we should be focusing on more computers and more internet access for all kids, then. Not having access to the vast wealth of internet tools would obviously defeat the whole purpose. I’ll keep an eye out for charitable organizations that do things like that. I’d love it if we could donate old (but still plenty functional) laptops or desktop computers to some group that would distribute them to kids in need.

          Also, I remember that some cities were considering providing Wi-Fi access throughout the city, but I don’t recall hearing anything about that lately. I wonder what happened there. That could potentially solve the internet issue.

          Again, thank you for that insight! Something new to consider and look into.

  21. Please, stop this nonsense.

    The SAT and ACT are empirically proven to be predictors for success in college. For those who say “scores don’t matter,” “look at me, I didn’t score great yet I turned out fine,” or “I don’t test well,” ask yourself this reality-check: do you want your child to have a high-score or a low-score? Pick one, now. Which did you choose? Exactly.

    There is ZERO evidence that racial or gender diversity has an empirically positive impact to education, or to business. The top 15 performing countries in education have statistically insignificant racial diversity. How do you explain that? Is it bad?

    Women are now 60% of U.S. university student body population. How do you explain that? Is it bad?

    There is now a steady movement in upper education going away from test scores and grades. Test scores and grades are the metric for merit. Removing the idea of “merit” now makes a good-performing and hard-working student at the same level as the student-athlete, the ‘legacy’ admittance, the race-based admission, etc. It may make the “woke scolds” feel good about themselves, but it doesn’t make academic or business sense.

  22. I am not in favor of the college board determining a secret adversity score. Stick to administering standardized tests and leave judgement of other social factors to the schools themselves.

    However, if this plan takes hold I can only imagine the numbers of rental properties that wealthy parents will buy in poor neighborhoods trying to better their adversity.

  23. It’s important that the SAT score predict success and their adversity factor may harm that. Colleges are looking for prospective students ready for the challenge their curriculum offers. At the end of the day, student readiness is what these tests assess. It turns out neither ACT nor SAT are great at predicting student success (slight positive correlation). Hence the rise of the test-optional admissions movement.

  24. The adversity score is flat out racism against Asian Americans and Whites. I used to be a Graduate student TA at the University of Virginia and had a number of students that weren’t equipped nor were enjoying being in my engineering classes that I had to teach. UVA required at the time (not sure what they are doing now) that the percentage of black students matched that that resided in the state and I think they stretched the admission policy to less than qualified students to meet this target. Some of these students were as frustrated as I and ended up dropping out. I agree it institutionalizes an unnecessary stereotype.

    On the SAT’s I went to the library and went through the practice books and word lists. Once you get a sense of the test architecture and types of questions it becomes easier to do well. I ended up getting a 1330 after going through all of that and continuing to practice heavily.


  25. I haven’t paid much attention, but race shouldn’t be a factor.
    Anyway, I think it’s a good thing overall. Kids from a poor neighborhood with a challenging childhood probably should get a little boost. It’s up to the university if they would use the adversity index, right?
    I didn’t do that well with the SAT. I got a high score in math and low scores with the other parts. (720 and 400 or something like that.) It worked out well enough. I got into a state school. I only took the SAT twice and probably could have done better if I kept trying.

  26. My son bypassed the SAT control of his destiny (which he had difficulty with due to his challenges with Asperger’s Syndrome) by going to a community college for two years. The community college accepted him on his high school GPA. It was excellent for him as he could spend the first two years of college finding his passion by trying varying fields of study. Good for us as it was economical (one quarter to one fifth the cost of a four year public college). He was able to get a 3.5 GPA, get an internship to try out his chosen field, join clubs, and be part of the honor society. He is now off to a four year public college for his bachelor degree and knows exactly what he wants as a career. He did not have to submit an SAT score as a transfer student. He even got a scholarship! I am convinced of the value of two year colleges to start off…and it does bypass the SAT, which I find beneficial philosophically as well. It is ridiculous to have your destiny based off of one exam, or the judgments of others.

      1. I only applied to 4 schools and got 1 acceptance. I was about to go the community college route to save money, but decided to go to a 4 years university instead.
        I don’t regret it. I still have close friends I met in my freshman year. It was a good experience.

  27. I am shocked like you that race would be included in the adversity score. That really should not have no bearing and does promote racism and penalize some because of it.

    The abuse that goes on when you have a monopoly is not just at the college admissions level. More and more physicians are fighting against the board certification maintenance process which has become a money making machine offering no benefit and just collecting millions of dollars from doctors who have no other choice than to play their game which changes all the time.

    There are several lawsuit against the various specialty boards in medicine starting to crop up and I hope that it truly will expose the corruption behind what were once closed doors (when the American board of internal medicine got sued it was discovered that they had spent I believe a million dollars on a condo in Florida with limousine driver, free travel for spouses as well etc. And they bring in 10s of millions of dollars of profits.

  28. i can’t comprehend why it costs so much to upload scores to colleges. this made “some” sense 20+ years ago when the internet what it isn’t today. but to charge to upload files is a bit obscene. I’d think they would have a FTP site up and colleges could download EVERYONES score relatively easily. the cost to the College Board would be under $10/month to store the data. the cost to take the exam is a bit high, but when you consider they need to pay the proctors, mail the exams, etc. $50 – $100 isn’t out of the question, in my opinion. it’s the publicizing of the scores that makes me angry.

    1. The College Board does not pay AP proctors. High schools are left to pull from already over committed teachers to fill the roles of proctors and hall monitors. High school counselors take on an additional full time job of enlisting and training proctors in order to administer two weeks of testing often with more than 3 proctors per subject exam due to the need for additional rooms to support students with extended time and other accommodations. It amazes us educators every year that the College Board gets away with us all working for them, learning their training modules, spending hours away from our actual jobs to do their work for them. It’s a racket.

  29. This post is right on the broad point, the College Board is a fairly bogus “nonprofit” and are pretty much driven by money above all else. However, many of the particulars here are incorrect.

    – More students have taken the ACT than the SAT over the last 7 years. All 4 year schools take the ACT or SAT equally. The SAT does not have a monopoly, though clearly it is a duopoly (the ACT charges roughly the same fees). People on the coasts, due to the historical legacy of the tests, usually have a blind spot about the ACT.

    -The rise of the ACT (mostly due to selling it to states as the standardized test of record) prompted a re-design of the SAT in 2016. Since then they’ve recovered some market share, but are still trailing.

    – The research says that the SAT and ACT are effective for predicting both freshman year grades and overall graduation rate when taken in conjunction with high school GPA. In fact, due to grade inflation, their predictive power has actually increased.

    – The schools that have gone “test optional” mostly have an ulterior motive – students with good test scores still submit them, and students with poor scores don’t. Thus, their “incoming class test scores” go up, and they rise in the US News college rankings (which take that into account). There is also good research showing test optional colleges are no more diverse than they were before. Lots more schools are going to go this route, but it’s not going to change their student body…or the importance of the tests.

    One last point, any student with a 115 or higher IQ can basically choose their score on these tests. It’s no secret what’s going to be on them, and any reasonably bright 17 yo can learn almost all of it. Most don’t either through ignorance, laziness, or prioritizing other things in their life (which may not be a bad idea!).

  30. I think the SAT is a sham. I never even took the SAT and turned out fine. I got into college and graduated with my degree. Throw in the way they use race to push the Adversity Index score and it’s just laughable. I can’t see why anyone cares about the SAT. In the end, most colleges don’t care and nobody else cares if you scored high. Why bother?

  31. I remember taking the SAT in 7th grade and getting a 1280, got a 1370 the next year at an 8th grader and got a perfect score on my PSAT as a sophomore. However, I knew I was a good test taker and had zero testing anxiety.

    That being said, Purdue engineering was doable for me, and med school was easier… on the other hand my husband struggled with a reading disability and worked hard to finish an associates… given that I have one kid working on self directed programming/CS training at 11 and her twin convinced she wants to be an artist, my solution is to turn my income into a set of businesses including real estate that will give them a backstop no matter what the future holds. All I want for them is to work hard and be good people who can live happily in their own skin.

    My ability to take tests doesn’t make me a better doctor. My ability to consider the wellbeing of others more important than my comfort and my commitment to do anything I can do to take the best possible care regardless of any other minutiae including socioeconomic, language, etc and my years of hard work and willingness to listen and engage make me an excellent doctor. However my ability to take standardized tests gave me the opportunity to demonstrate my other capacities.

    Just an aside – how well does socioeconomics demonstrate adversity? My mother who is a pharmacist spent time on an inpatient psych ward, and was verbally abusive for all my formative years… Not that it compares to the adversity plenty of my patients deal with, but economics don’t fully describe it. Not to mention the fact that despite my parents’ economic situation, I was completely on my own from the age of 17…

  32. I never took any SAT prep, scored a 1400 on my first and only try and still went to the cheapest state university that had what I wanted to major in, Chemical Engineering, and in that class my test score was average at best. I remember the ACT scores averaged 32, which was higher than mine. Still see no reason for anyone to spend a fortune on Harvard or MIT. This was way before the college board wandered off into social engineering. I think the SAT wasn’t bad at predicting success in extreme STEM majors like mine but I do not think it predicted future success any better than a coin toss.

    1. When was this? Those scores sound about right for state engineering schools. One thing to remember is that, unlike sports, the difference between the 90th percentile and the 99th percentile doesn’t make meaningful difference.

      At those top schools, the median(!!!) ACT score is 35. You need to have a perfect score to even have a chance.

  33. John at militaryfire

    Sam, pretty sure race is excluded from the adversity score.

    The wsj graphic with race was meant to illustrate why such a score was needed.

    .agree on regards to secret scores.

    1. I know it is excluded. But using race to promote the purpose of the Adversity Index is nefarious for the reasons I highlight in this article.

      WSJ read between the lines for us.

  34. Oh wow. I had no idea they had this adversity index score and that sure is disturbing it’s secret on top of that. The whole college admissions process has gotten ridiculous,
    especially with all the bribes that made headlines this year, and this isn’t going to help the process.

  35. These guys are as bad as the NCAA and just behind FIFA.

    Make an objective test and leave the correcting for socioeconomic factors to an independent body (that actually knows what they’re doing).

  36. Little Seeds of Wealth

    I predict more schools will make SAT scores optional (my undergrad school already did). The College Board doesn’t have the right to determine the adversity factors or the weights that are used in their formula. Colleges already do this – they shape the class to reach the level of diversity they desire. We just don’t need another level of secrecy around college admissions. As someone whose native language is not English, I hated taking the SAT but looking back, I think it was a great way to prove my academic ability under the same testing conditions as my American peers. It’s not the best test and the score improves with the level of prep, but that’s true for 90%+ of tests in general.

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