Landscape and the SAT
“What is Landscape?” As a college counselor, this was a question that I raised on a recent university visit. Landscape is a platform developed by the College Board that provides data to help colleges better understand an applicant’s background. Used by select colleges and universities, Landscape accompanies a student’s SAT score and provides information about their neighborhood and school context. Historically, the SAT has been a barrier for Black students and lower-income students. A performance gap persists, with white, asian and higher-income students performing better on the test. To address this, the College Board developed Landscape to mitigate the impact of SAT performance discrepancies among underrepresented groups by providing additional “context.”
Landscape and College Admission
At its best, Landscape could be useful. Admission representatives often read applications from regions all over the country and if they have not visited the neighborhoods or schools for applicants, Landscape provides a snapshot of critical data that could have real implications for college admission. At its worst, it could be dangerous. Landscape doesn’t consider non-quantifiable factors like perseverance and an overreliance on the tool could create hazy narratives about a student and their background.
While the College Board makes it clear that the information in Landscape will not be the primary source of information to make an admission decision, it has the profound ability to shape the way that adversity and advantage are operationalized in the college admissions process. For families to understand the role of Landscape in an application review, it would require transparency on behalf of colleges and, frankly, students knowing the right questions to ask. When speaking with a college rep, consider asking the following:
- Does the admission office at your institution use Landscape and to what degree?
- How are admission counselors trained to use this?
- What other data will an admission counselor consult to support or oppose the information provided in Landscape?
The data provided in Landscape cannot tell a student’s full story. Many colleges and universities are moving toward a more holistic review of applicants (e.g. growing number of institutions no longer consider the SAT in admissions). But even with this push, it’s important for students, families and counselors to be aware of what the College Board is doing to impact admission and standardized testing.