What’s Your Adversity Score?

What's Your Adversity Score?Have you heard that the College Board is adding an adversity score to the SAT? This is designed to place the SAT score in the context of a student’s advantages and disadvantages in life. On average, wealthy students earn higher scores than middle-class students. They can afford tutoring and can take the SAT multiple times. Students from low-income families don’t do as well on these standardized tests. Life is not fair.

The adversity index will help the college admission boards normalize the score. Each college can decide to use the score or not. One positive progress is that race isn’t a factor in this score. The adversity index will be calculated with 15 factors in 3 categories – neighborhood environment, family environment, and high school environment. Personally, I think this is a better idea than affirmative action. There are rich minorities too and they have many advantages in childhood. Race should be a very small factor if at all.

The adversity score will range from 0 to 100. The average score is 50. If you’re above 50, then you’ve some disadvantages. We know the broad outline of how the adversity score works, but the calculation is secret.

Aha! Why don’t we have a little fun with the adversity score instead of complaining about it? That’s why I created the RB40 adversity index (TM.) However, I couldn’t quite get to the same range. I just added a bunch of adversities I could think of. The average turns out to be around 15. That’s a regular normal childhood. Anyway, take it and share your score in the comment section below.

The RB40 Adversity Index

This is a pretty long list. You can open up the calculator app and tally your score there or you can use this Google sheet. Also, feel free to give yourself partial points. Now, imagine back when you were 17…


  • You had a normal stable family. +0
  • Parents were divorced. +2
  • You had a single mom/dad. Basically, one parent was mostly out of your life and didn’t help out much. +3
  • Moved out of town more than 5 times. +2
  • Abusive people in your life. +5
  • Teenage parent. +2
  • Parent did not finish high school. +2
  • In trouble with the law. +2
  • Parent had a problem with drug, alcohol, or gambling. +3
  • No parents. +5
  • The parent was too strict or too permissive. Either extreme is bad. +2

Neighborhood Environment

  • You went to good schools. +0
  • Bad schools. +5. This is a good place to get partial points. If your schools were mediocre, then you can get 2 points or something like that.
  • You lived in a wealthy or middle-class neighborhood. +0
  • You lived in a poor neighborhood. +5. Here is another good place for partial points. We moved around quite a bit when I was young and lived in all sort of neighborhoods. I gave myself 2 points here.
  • Got free lunch at school. +2. This means your family didn’t make much income.
  • Was a victim or perpetrator of a crime. +5. Partial points here if the crime was a misdemeanor, vandalism, petty theft, or something like that.
  • Gangs in the neighborhood. +3
  • Drugs in the neighborhood. +2


  • Your family was financially stable. +0
  • Family struggled to pay the bills. +3
  • Not enough food to eat and/or had to use SNAP (government assistance.) +5
  • Experienced homelessness. +5
  • Had more donated clothes than new. +1
  • No cool toys. +1


  • Family immigrated from a different country. +2
  • Experienced war or famine. +8
  • Experienced discrimination due to race, gender, religion, sexual preference, caste, etc… +5
  • Was bullied or ostracized. +2
  • No car. +1
  • Had a physical or learning disability. +5 This one is good for partial points too. For example, RB40Jr has a hearing disability. It is causing some problems, but he can still function pretty well in school. I’d give him 2 points here.
  • Mental illness. +5
  • Worked regularly. +2
  • Grew up in an unloving environment. +5

My score

This adversity index quiz test isn’t perfect. It looks like the bar is quite high here. The average score is probably around 15.

I thought I had some adversity when I was young and I only got 23 on this quiz. RB40Jr gets 2 points for his disability and that’s it. Of course, he is still very young. He has 10 more years left to go before he has to think about this adversity score.

Score chart

This is my interpretation of the score.

  • 0 to 10: Privileged Advantaged. You had an advantaged childhood and probably reached your SAT score potential.
  • 11 to 20: Normal. You had a regular Normal Rockwell childhood.
  • 21 to 30: Minimal adversity. You’ve seen some adversity, but generally had a good childhood.
  • 31 to 40: Some adversity. Your childhood was tougher than average.
  • 41 to 50: High adversity. Life was difficult when you were young. There were many obstacles in your way.
  • 51 to 60: Serious adversity. I think you deserve special consideration for college acceptance.
  • 61 to 70: Awful adversity. Really bad stuff happened.
  • 70 to 80: Extreme hardship
  • 81 to 90: Damn! Did you live in Dystopia (the fictional worse country in the world.)
  • 91 to 100: Inconceivable! I hope nobody got this high.

Okay, what was your score? I got a 23 and I don’t think I needed special consideration from a college. I applied to 4 universities and one accepted me. If I didn’t get that acceptance, I was going to attend community college for a couple of years. I’m glad I went to a 4-year university, though. It was a great experience and I’m still good friends with many of the people I met there. Also, I met Mrs. RB40 there. That alone is worth paying for the 2 extra years.

*This proprietary quiz cost $50 to take. You can send the money to my PayPal account. If you need help with your adversity score, I have a consulting service with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Your kid’s adversity score will improve immensely for just $999. (Discounted from $2,500 for our readers.) This is dirt cheap. It’s your kid’s future we’re talking about here. ***I hope you realize I’m joking here. *** But, if you want to support RB40, you can buy an SAT Prep book from Amazon. 😉

What was your score? Did you encounter adversities when you were young?

Image by skeeze

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48 thoughts on “What’s Your Adversity Score?”

  1. I know I’m a little late but I think this was a pretty dope idea. The only problem I have is that it seems like everyone else that commented had a much lower score than me(I got a 79). The older I get the more I realize some things just isn’t normal but I guess I’ll just charge it to the game.

  2. If I add to when I graduated high school at 18 I got a score of 37. Which isn’t horrible. If I add up to my current age of 21 I got a score of 56, but I guess an increasing score is a part of life.

  3. I got a 43, instead of me paying to take your quiz I think your over privileged self should pay me reparations for my suffering, hahaha

    I over came a lot, the secret was I had a Mother that instilled a great work ethic and told me nothing was free. Unlike many today that get so much and think they deserve more.

    It is terrible that we have the greatest country with the most opportunities in the world yet there are so many that think they need to come up with BS like adversity scores.

  4. Super interesting! This quiz really got me thinking. There is some cultural bias here because things like “Got free lunch at school. +2. This means your family didn’t make much income.” would actually be consider a privilege viewed from the POV of people in third world countries looking at people in first world countries. In rural China for example, if your parents don’t make enough money, no way would the school give you a free lunch, you’d just starve.

    “Grew up in an unloving environment. +5” is also open to interpretation. In certain cultures, love is valued differently. In fact, it might be perfectly normal to beat up your kids. My mom beat me up so bad one time with so many bruises I had to tell my teacher I got hit by a bike to cover for her. She still tells me that story frequently these days because she thinks it’s hilarious. But this not considering “unloving environment” in my culture. It’s perfectly normal to hit your kids and even considered responsible parenting because it’s believed that the kid always did something to deserve it. That might seem barbaric in western parenting, but it’s normal in Asian parenting.

    So in a way, privilege is relative. There’s always someone else worse off than you–even if you’re on food stamps because your parents can’t afford to pay the bills. Someone in a 3rd world country would love to have access to food stamps.

    Anyway…my point is, it’s very interesting to think about, when you look at the same question through the eyes of a someone from a different culture.

    I think it’s cool that colleges are trying to even the playing field with the adversity index–it’s just very subjective and biased towards western culture.

  5. +17 my friend. I had it pretty good, even with all my self-perceived woes. Funny when I get to know some of the big shot leaders at work. Many have been through hell in childhood. I wonder of that gives them the motivation to achieve what they have… Probs

  6. If you got a good score I think we should make a point to thank our parents for it.
    Most of the reasons we’d get good scores are due to hard work and good parenting on their part.

  7. Super privileged. I went to one of the worse school systems in the state (a kid in band with me in eighth grade was shot dead in a crossfire between a couple of druggies back in ’92) but due to test scores I went to the best schools in the system. I graduated from college with no debt and a music performance degree, and here I am with a salary reasonably above the median wage (because my hobbies in the 80s involved computers back before many people owned one). Dad’s salary handily covered our needs so mom could focus on raising me and my brother.

    Your list could use some negative adjustments as well as positive ones. “Learned BASIC at five years old”, “parents who could spend time on extracurriculars”, that sort of thing.

  8. I got a 12! This was fun thanks for this Joe. They should put this in the Cosmo magazines for 17 year olds to give them perspective 🙂

  9. I scored a 0 in your adversity test. So I guess you can say I’m definitely advantaged/privileged.

    Interestingly, there were a few questions that I could have answered the other way. Those questions are “Experienced discrimination due to race, gender, religion, sexual preference, caste, etc…” “No cool toys” and “The parent was too strict or too permissive. Either extreme is bad.”

    To me, these questions are highly subjective and relative.

    Perhaps I have experienced some discrimination but I’m not sure it made a huge impact on my life. In some respects, I think everybody could experience some form of discrimination, even white males of course. (Btw, I’m not a white male in case anybody was wondering.)

    Also interestingly, my parents deliberately deprived me of some of the coolest toys. When Nintendo first came out, all the cool kids had to have it. But my parents refused to give in. They didn’t want video games to interfere with our studies. So in a way, NOT having cool toys can be an advantage.

    When I was growing up, I always thought my parents were on the stricter side, and sometimes maybe too strict. This is a tough one because now that I am older, I think my parents were great at parenting and they were just the right amount of strict and permissive enough for me to experience enough freedom and independence. The question of being too strict or too permissive is highly subjective and the perception of this can change over time.

    Nevertheless, I fully acknowledge my privilege and all the advantages I have been born into.

    Great post and fun test!

    • ” I always thought my parents were on the stricter side”

      Isn’t that what every kid thinks ? 🙂
      I mean can anyone find a kid that would say : “my parent’s don’t discipline me enough and they let me do what I want too much”. 🙂
      Maybe there are… I wouldn’t know.

  10. I got 27, which is about right. I would imagine most of your readers would be on the advantaged side.

    I wasnt self aware enough to realize that we were so poor. I was such a intovert. I think financial hardship was tougher for my younger sibling because it limited her social activities.

    • Thanks for sharing. A kid growing up in an advantaged environment probably don’t know it. It’ll just seems normal. They won’t know other kids face a lot more adversity unless we tell them.

  11. Interesting exercise.

    I came out as ‘Advantaged’ which is apparently the bestest possible life of a child ever. 🙂
    We were borderline poor growing up and my dad only worked something like 50% of the 1980’s. But that was the only real adversity I faced. I should travel back in time and tell my 12 year old self to stop feeling sorry for him/myself. 🙂

    I think some of the scores might need adjustment or flushing out. e.g. not all crimes are equal. I might add another item for 10 points for victim of a major traumatic crime.

  12. Whew, definitely makes me appreciate what I had more (with a score of 14). That’s mostly based on a childhood with divorced parents – sometimes with both of them unemployed, but not struggling to eat or provide what was needed to live. The stability and love from them offset that for sure. Makes me wonder how much we seek out what was missing in childhood later. I know for me that’s financial stability as something to not worry about.

    Your check is in the mail. :p

    • Thanks for sharing. That sounds about right for the US. So many marriages end in divorce now. As long as the kids can handle it, I guess it’s better than staying together. It sounds like your parent still did a very good job.

  13. I got a 42, whoa. Still wound up graduating from Stanford and retiring by 35 with a kid. Maybe I have some kind of superpower I don’t know about??

    There’s so much potential for gaming the adversity score, I can see this being abused by ambitious parents (including the parents who use bogus learning disabilities to get IEPs and extra test time for their kids). I volunteer in the college admissions realm and the level of dishonesty is far worse among the parents than the kids.

    “Drugs in the neighborhood” – that’s the entire west coast (legalized). And why is “no car in high school” a disadvantage? Does no one take the bus anymore?

    • Wow, that’s high. Great job with college and early retirement. That’s fantastic.
      I hope it’s not easy to game the score. The real score is mostly about the things you can’t control. I guess you could move to a crappy neighborhood on purpose, but who wants to do that? It seems like a desperate gamble.

  14. My two were doozies (mental illness, abusive person), but they still only added up to 10, which confirms what I already knew: I was very, very advantaged growing up. I went to great schools (public schools in Alaska are quite good) that allowed me to take all sorts of honors and AP classes. I had a financially stable family that was solidly middle class. And I was lucky enough to avoid any learning or physical disabilities until I was 19. (At which point I guess I got unlucky but for childhood purposes, I was pretty good.)

  15. I fell in the normal range – wasn’t really expecting that, but I’ll count my blessings!

    — Jim

    PS I missed the part about PayPal and sent my money via check… you should receive that in the next 6-8 weeks. 😉

  16. I don’t know why but this bought up/triggered some negative memories, I remember my dad use to wake me up when I was sleeping as a little girl just to yell at me over something I didn’t do / something small that I did months ago.

    Then I go back to sleep and sort of think “What??? Eh I’m going back to sleep.”

  17. Joe, What a great value, your $50 check is in the mail. I don’t have any kids, but if I did I would be sure to sign them up for your training. Anyway, I came up with 4 points. 2 of them were for working when I was 17. Actually, that was a good thing and more common in the early 80’s. And yes kids in my high school/neighborhood did drugs, so another 2 points for a total of 4. But my youth was in anything but priveledged. If you come up with a stability index or boredom index, I will score much higher. Tom

  18. My score was an 8 so I guess privileged it is.
    It will be interesting if colleges do indeed factor this in admissions. I think the goal of college admissions is to get students that want to learn as well as add some diversity to the student body. Hopefully this adds some benefit.

  19. I love the RB adversity index (TM). I scored a 6 – so I would be extremely privileged.

    However, like some of the commenters above, I don’t think I was that much different than many other people in the Boston suburbs. In fact, since my father died when I was 14 and I worked since I was little, I picked up some adversity points that my friends wouldn’t have.

    What’s interesting is that one of my friend’s father was a city’s big lawyer – they had lots of money. His adversity score was about the same as mine. He could have taken all the extra SATs and test-taking classes in the world.

    I think there’s a big range of privilege for people who simply didn’t experience a lot of adversity – if that makes sense. It’s almost like it’s worth pairing with an “Advantaged” score.

    • I changed privileged to advantaged. Privileged is too strong.
      You’re right that there is a big range in the lower end. That’s probably why the SAT score normalize at 50. They have more padding on the lower side.

  20. I got 7 points, mainly because my parents had a business around when I was 17 and sometimes struggled to pay some of the bills. They where also quite strict and also never pushed me to do anything I didnt want to do, because of this I was very reluctant in trying new activities and travels. Comfort of home…
    My mom only go to school 6 years, it was pretty commonf or farmer families in Sweden in the 1950s. You leaned some basic algebra, read and write, then you went off to work in some factory or industry or become a maid. My dad have some college education.

    Also, I had to put 0 points on the free lunch, because in Sweden all lunches in school are free, and it doesn’t imply that you are poor. Free lunches for eneryone, on behalf of the taxpayers… 🙂

    The only regrets I have regarding my parents are that 1) They knew nothing about stocks, 2) They sold off their rather nice villa (mainly because it was hard to maintain) a few years before a major upturn in housing prices. Today they could sell it for 6 times the value back in -94. They could have asked me to help out more with the maintenance…

    Now they are retired, both at the age of 76 with 5000 USD on their bank account. They have both worked really hard their whole lives, and I think they deserve better than a rental apartment and some pocket change. They also refuse any kind of gifts from me, say for a nice vacation.

    We have had a great life togheter, they are both kind persons, helpful and hard working. It is a pity they dont have a better quality of life during the final chapter in their lives. This shows how important it is to make good choices early in your life. It can have a huge impact many years later.

    • Life is down to luck a lot of time. How would they know the villa would appreciate so much. At least you have a good social program, right? Retirees in the US with that level of savings would struggle a lot more.
      I hope you can convince your parent to accept some gifts. A nice vacation together would be great for your family. I think you’re lucky to have such a great parent.

      • Yes, you are right. My dad has really never appreciated the fact that owning properties can be a great source of income. He has always focused on the maintenance (which he hates). For me, owning a property is both quality of life, a great workout (no robo mower yet) and an investment, since our house is in a nice location with great planning and layout. Sadly he sold the prioperty when prices where at the lowest ever, when we had an interest rate of 500% here in Sweden. Yes, the mortgage cost a lot, but it was managable.

        Yes, the social program is great, which I have leaned during my travels in other coutries outside of Europe. Yesterday I took him to the hospital, since he ha´vae had problems with balance, and speach. The doctor suspected a stroke, and the same day he got a CT-scan of the brain, which cost him 30 USD and a few hours of waiting time. He complained he had to wait too long, but I told him that for most people around the workd, they could only dream of getting this kind of quailty healthcare almost for free. Hell, the nurses even got him and me coffee while we waited for the examination.

  21. I would have said I had a normal upbringing, but the score came up as privileged. On reflection, I’m sticking to normal. Lived in a nice area, but often with hand me down clothes, we had a pretty old car, annual vacation was a family camping trip, local state school (but it was decent), main toys were balls and our bikes, delivered papers and worked in the store while growing up and didn’t go to university/college. Glad to have a good and loving family. I’m hoping that’s normal, because it’s a bit sad if that’s privileged and the majority have much worse than that.

  22. I ended up with 2 pts but I never thought I was privileged at all. Both parents HS graduates, but no college. Solidly, lower middle class family, and neighborhood. Public school, not private, no tutors or test taking courses. Got good SAT scores but ended up at the local university because my parents couldn’t afford anyplace else. I do know that I’m privileged in that they paid my way through school. Don’t know if I would have been motivated enough to work my way through myself.

  23. Hah! Smart. Looks like I got it rougher than you Joe and have Minimal Adversity.

    But I witnessed Extreme Hardship growing up in several Asian countries and Zambia, so that really shocked me into not being too big of a screwup.

    What type of disability does your son have? And is it possible it may improve over time? A couple of my students had learning disabilities. One couldn’t read in order. Forgot what the name was… but he got into Swarthmore!


    • You were lucky to see the world when you were young. Most of us didn’t have that opportunity. I’d love to work for the foreign service. You ever thought about that? It’s difficult to get in.
      My son has a hearing impairment in one ear. Unfortunately, it’s permanent.

      • Unfortunately, I am not smart enough to get into the foreign service. I think they have like a 2%-3% acceptance rate.

        I think you need to redo your scale a little bit in crate at most five categories. And change the wording. It would be more effective!



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