Should Class Rank be Abolished in Schools?

The goal of most high schoolers who are looking to attend nothing but the most prestigious institutions of higher education is to do anything and everything necessary to graduate at the top of their high school class.

But because different high schools have different curricula and grading standards, many colleges have dropped class rank in the admissions process.

Class rank can make high schoolers put lots of pressure on themselves and make learning less meaningful. And that is why only about half of all high schools these days use class rank. According to the College Board, there is anecdotal evidence that eliminating class rank can increase a student’s college admissions chances.

Worried that your class rank might not be high enough to impress the admissions officers at your dream college?

You are not alone — a report by the Los Angeles Times said that many high school students are torn between taking college-level classes that they’re interested in and taking challenging ones for the sake of increasing their weighted GPA.

So, in other words, they sacrifice learning something they like in exchange for a high class ranking.

top student

What is Class Rank Reporting?

In a nutshell, the higher the grade point average (GPA), the higher the class rank.

And when high school GPA is being talked about, it can either be weighted or unweighted. Unweighted GPA is the most widely used calculation as it factors only raw scores. Most colleges look at both weighted and unweighted GPAs.

Having a high unweighted GPA, which is typically on a 4.0 scale, serves as an indicator of an academically successful high schooler.

On the other hand, having a high weighted GPA, which usually comes on a 5.0 scale, demonstrates how high school students can maintain the same level of success when challenged with more rigorous coursework.

Whether your high school uses a weighted or unweighted GPA doesn’t matter. That’s because most colleges and universities recalculate GPAs to a 4.0 scale, adding bonus points to the rigor of the high school curriculum.

In many instances, high schools indicate class rank on the report cards of students. Some of them also include it in the materials submitted to colleges.

There are also those that report what percentile students are in their class, which is established by considering their ranking number and the total number of students in their class.

These days, most small private and competitive high schools no longer report class ranking. While many public high schools still rank students, some of them make class rank reporting optional.

How To Calculate Class Rank?

High school class ranks are determined simply by comparing the GPAs of students in the same grade. After arranging their GPAs from highest to lowest, each one receives a number — the highest is #1, the second highest is #2 and so on and so forth. Some students use tools such as Naviance in determining their class rank.

During the college application season, it’s not uncommon for many high schoolers, in particular those who are eyeing selective institutions, to look at the profile of a school’s first-time, first-year students.

And one of the things they check out is the class rank of admits.

Accessing the Common Data Set (CDS) of a college you are planning on shortlisting, you will come across a section (C10) which indicates the percentage of all degree-seeking freshmen students who had high school class rank — how many students graduated from their high school class in the top 10%, top 25%, top 50%, bottom 50% and so on and so forth.

To compute yours, all you have to do is divide the number of students who are enrolled in the same grade as you and then multiply that number by 100. Afterward, subtract the number from 100.

Other than doing the math, you can simply rely on the software tool called Naviance.

Basically, it’s something that allows high schools to track and manage the college admissions process of their students.

Among many of the available tools, it enables students to determine whether the school they are interested in is a safety, match or reach school. It also allows them to easily find colleges that align with their interests, from location, size to clubs.

So, how do you find your class rank on Naviance?

It’s important that you create an account with the software tool.

You can find your class rank by going to the About Me tab and scrolling down to find Profile, which you need to click. By default, the rank is out of 250, although Naviance may use a different class size, depending on the high school being attended.

class rank

Why Do High Schools Get Rid of Class Rank

For decades now, class rank has been used by the vast majority of high schools to determine how students fare academically against others in the same class. It’s a way to order students from highest to lowest based on their GPAs.

These days, however, only about 50% of high schools still use class rank.

A reason why class rank is being dropped by a lot of high schools is that they believe it’s an outmoded way of recognizing a student’s academic strength. In addition, it can be manipulated, too.

For instance, some high schoolers may take AP classes not because they are interested in them but because they know for a fact that they can easily get an A, which can make their GPAs higher than the GPAs of their peers.

And this brings us to one of the reasons why class rank should be abolished: students compete with one another instead of building camaraderie.

This puts a lot of stress and pressure on high schoolers, which can negatively affect their social and emotional health.

Besides, more and more colleges and universities nowadays are adopting a holistic admissions process, which means that they take into account other things than traditional measures of academic success such as GPA, test scores and, of course, class rank.

Needless to say, numbers obtained inside the classroom are no longer the only ones that matter.

As a matter of fact, according to US News, only around 37% of the nearly 1,400 ranked colleges consider class rank either very important or important in the admissions process.

Class Rank Alternatives

There are some high schools that simply stopped using class rank. But then there are also those that switched to alternatives that help keep students from subjecting themselves to a lot of stress and pressure to outdo their classmates.

Some categorize students into cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude.

In most instances, just like in college, it is based on the GPAs of high school students. Summa cum laude, which means with the highest honors, for instance, can be given by high schools to students whose GPAs are within the 3.9 to 4.0 range.

On the other hand, magna cum laude, which means with great distinction may be given to those with 3.7 to 3.8 GPAs.

Depending on the high school, categories can be divided by quality points. For example, a high school may choose to give a different category every 0.25 quality points.

No matter the class rank alternative used by your high school, it’s important to keep in mind that not all colleges and universities take class rank into account in the admissions process.

According to the College Board, many institutions that used to consider class rank now simply look at high school GPAs and standardized test scores.

Just Before You Worry About Your Class Rank

These days, the number of high schools abolishing class rank is increasing. Similarly, more and more institutions of higher education are discrediting the importance of class rank in the admissions process.

Instead of focusing on class rank, it’s a much better idea to devote your time and energy to learning what you like and pursuing your interests, such as partaking in extracurricular activities that can help increase your chances of getting admitted to your preferred college or taking college-level courses that can enrich your mind and broaden your horizon.

Read Next: Do Colleges Look at Attendance?

Related Questions

What is decile class rank reporting?

In general, a decile rank arranges the GPAs of high school students in order, from lowest to highest, and is categorized on a scale of 1 to 10, where each successive number corresponds to an increase of 10% points.

For instance, the first decile is the top 10% of the class, the second decile is the top 20% of the class and so on and so forth.

Does Harvard University consider class rank?

According to Harvard itself, it looks for students who achieve at a high level. It adds that most admits graduated in the top 10% to 15% of their high school class. However, just like at other colleges and universities, Harvard does not put students from high schools that do not use class rank at a disadvantage.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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