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Why Landscape?

Colleges want to understand applicants fully to consider them fairly

Colleges consider many things when reviewing an applicant, including their GPA, personal essay, letters of recommendation, test scores, and more. They also consider what students achieved in the context of where they've learned and lived—their high school and neighborhood.

Knowledge of each high school and neighborhood varies

With colleges receiving more applications from more places, there's simply no way for any admissions officer to know every single high school. Some they'll know very well. Others they'll know very little about. And some they won't know at all. Admissions officers using Landscape estimate that about 25% of applications lack high school information.

Students are applying to more colleges than ever before

This year, colleges will receive more than 10 million applications from students attending nearly 30,000 high schools. With more applications coming from more places, getting consistent, quality high school and neighborhood information for every applicant is becoming much more difficult.

Helping colleges see where each student is coming from

Landscape provides consistent high school and neighborhood information for all applicants to help admissions officers fully consider every student, no matter where they live.

What Is Landscape?

Only one part of admissions

The high school and neighborhood information provided by Landscape is just one of the many things that colleges look at when considering an applicant. Landscape is only used in conjunction with an application to provide additional context about an applicant's high school and neighborhood.

Never alters a test score

Landscape only shows how an applicant's SAT or ACT® score compares to those of others at the same high school. It does not change an applicant's test score in any way.

Doesn't replace, only adds

Landscape does not replace the individual information included in an application, such as an applicant's GPA, personal essay, or high school transcript.

No applicant gets offered or denied admission because of Landscape, only considered

Colleges do not use Landscape to decide who gets in and who doesn't. It simply helps admissions officers give more students from more places a fair look.

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Landscape provides information on high schools and neighborhoods, not individuals. So it doesn't include any personal information beyond an applicant's test score.

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About the Data

We will continue to review and refine the information included in Landscape based on research and feedback from colleges. Here’s what's included for the 2019–2020 application year:

General data about a high school.

  • Locale: This measure is based on the high school location, and relies on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) system of classifying geographic areas into four categories: City, Suburban, Town, and Rural.
  • Senior class size: Three-year average of the senior class size of the applicant's high school (Common Core of Data and Private School Survey, NCES).
  • Percent of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch: Three-year average of percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch at the applicant's high school (Common Core of Data, NCES). Available for public high schools only.
  • Average SAT scores at colleges attended: Average of first-year student SAT scores at four-year colleges attended by the three most recent cohorts of college-bound seniors from the applicant's high school who took any College Board assessments (aggregate College Board and National Student Clearinghouse data). Average SAT scores are calculated using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS, NCES).
  • AP participation and performance: Number of seniors taking AP courses; average number of AP Exams taken per student; average AP score; number of unique exams administered.

Test score comparisons.

The test score in Landscape is based on the scores that students choose to send to colleges. Colleges choose which student-submitted test score to display in Landscape. The College Board concords ACT scores to SAT scores using published concordance tables (.pdf/294 KB). The applicant's test score is presented alongside the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile of SAT scores at the high school, based on a three-year average of the high school's SAT scores. For more details on the data, visit professionals.collegeboard.org/landscape.

High school and neighborhood information, relative to national or state averages.

Admissions officers asked us to capture six key indicators about applicants' communities and high schools. Research has shown these six indicators are related to students' educational opportunities and outcomes.

These indicators are provided at the neighborhood level, which is defined by a student's census tract, and at the high school level, which is defined by the census tracts of college-bound seniors at a high school.

Applicants from the same census tract share the same neighborhood data and indicators; applicants from the same high school share the same high school data and indicators. The indicators are:

  1. College attendance: The predicted probability that a student from the neighborhood/high school enrolls in a 4-year college (aggregate College Board and National Student Clearinghouse data)
  2. Household structure: Neighborhood/high school information about the number of married or coupled families, single-parent families, and children living under the poverty line (American Community Survey)
  3. Median family income: Median family income among those in the neighborhood/high school (American Community Survey)
  4. Housing stability: Neighborhood/high school information about vacancy rates, rental vs. home ownership, and mobility/housing turnover (American Community Survey)
  5. Education levels: Information about the typical educational attainment in the neighborhood/high school (American Community Survey)
  6. Crime: The predicted probability of being a victim of a crime in the neighborhood or neighborhoods represented by the students attending the high school. Data provided by Location, Inc. For more information, please visit www.LocationInc.com/data.

These 6 indicators are averaged and presented on a 1–100 scale to provide a Neighborhood Average and High School Average. A higher value on the 1–100 scale indicates a higher level of challenge related to educational opportunities and outcomes.

For more detailed information on the data and methodology in Landscape, please click here (.pdf/278 KB) or visit our Professionals site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Starting next year, counselors, and students and parents with a College Board account, will be able to access the same information about their high school and neighborhood that colleges will see in Landscape.

NOTE: There will be rare instances when there isn't enough data about a high school or neighborhood to populate the tool. Those neighborhoods and high schools won’t be part of Landscape.

Landscape does not contain student-level data and therefore doesn't require students to opt in. The only exception is the student-specific test scores. The test score in Landscape is based on the scores that students choose to send to colleges.

Colleges choose which student-submitted test score to display in Landscape. The College Board concords ACT scores to SAT scores using published concordance tables (.pdf/294 KB).

The College Board takes students' privacy very seriously and students can always opt out of providing their individual information to colleges, whether through the Student Data Questionnaire (SDQ) they fill out when they take a College Board assessment, or when they're deciding to participate in Student Search Service®.

Colleges do not use Landscape to decide who gets in and who doesn't. It simply helps admissions officers give more students from more places a fair look.

Colleges must agree to the Landscape Appropriate Usage Guidelines.

There is no cost to colleges for using Landscape.

In 2018-19 we piloted the dashboard with more than 50 colleges and universities. This year we anticipate between 100 and 150 colleges will participate in the pilot. Beginning in fall 2020, we plan to make the resource broadly available to colleges and universities for free.

No, this is not an adversity score. Landscape does not measure adversity and never will. It simply helps admissions officers better understand the high schools and neighborhoods applicants come from. It does not help them understand an applicant's individual circumstances—their personal stories, hardships, or home life. This is not the purpose of Landscape or the role of the College Board and it never will be.

Yes. Several test-optional institutions participated in the pilot and continue to participate.

Most participating colleges use Landscape as part of the admissions process. Some are exploring how the information might be used in student advising to support students on campus.

For a full explanation of where the data come from, please see the detailed data and methodology document (.pdf/278 KB).

Over 90% of pilot participants reported that Landscape made it easier to incorporate contextual information about students and provided a more comprehensive view of the applicant.

Participating colleges affirmed that the information in Landscape provides important supplemental information for reading applications.

  • "Looking at the information in Landscape helped us fill in substantial gaps with objective, consistent data."

  • "Landscape helped our application review process by challenging some of the perceptions we had of certain areas and high schools. It allows us to use tangible and consistent information as context when considering a student’s high school experience."