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How Important is Class Rank in High School?
If you’re in high school, you’ve probably heard the term “class rank” thrown around. But what exactly is class rank and how important is it when applying for college? In this guide, we’ll break it down for you.
What is class rank?
Class rank is a way to measure how your academic achievements stack up against other members of your grade. Class rankings are determined by ordering students from highest to lowest according to their GPAs (which can be weighted or unweighted depending on your high school). The higher your GPA, the higher your ranking. The difficulty level of classes is usually taken into account, meaning that Honors and AP courses (plus IB) are weighted more heavily than regular courses. Imagine there are two students with the same exact grades, but one takes AP courses and the other enrolls in regular courses. Even though they’re earning identical grades, the student taking AP classes will have a higher rank.
Does every high school use ranking?
Only about half of high schools in the U.S. use class ranking. Competitive private schools in particular are doing away with it. These schools worry that ranking puts some students at a disadvantage for admissions and scholarships. For instance, students at rigorous schools can be very high-achieving and still not make it into the top 10 percent of their class. As a result, some colleges may overlook them.
Most public high schools still rank students, but some make it optional for students to report their rankings to colleges. Other schools won’t disclose ranking information to the student population, but they’ll track it and provide it to colleges only upon request.
Does class rank matter for college admissions?
Class rank was once considered among the next most important factors for college admissions after GPA, test scores, grades, and strength of curriculum. However, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), over 50% of high schools do not report class rankings.
Selective private colleges tend to view class rank as less important. These colleges place more emphasis on personal essays, recommendations, leadership experience, and individual talents. However, most large public schools (and many scholarship programs) still require applicants to report class rank. Large colleges and universities rely on this information to help sort through the high volume of applications received.
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Admissions officers will consider it if the information is available to them, but they know it doesn’t paint a complete picture. Many colleges have realized that ranking holds limited value because it only shows student comparison within a particular school. And of course, high schools vary widely in terms of resources, competitiveness, and grading systems. As a student who will apply to colleges, however, it is wise to do your personal best from the get go in high school. This way, you will have options when application time comes.
Advice from an Admissions Professional
For some universities, class rank does matter. For example, you may hear the statement “to qualify for admittance you must be in the top 10% of your class.” However, GPA is almost always considered in the admissions process. Again, check-in with your admissions counselor and they can help guide your expectations.
So, if you do your personal best, you should be in fine shape for all applications. Some students do just that, and their class rank might not demonstrate that to the degree they would like. Remember, there are other ways to show who you are, such as portfolios, standardized test scores, and strength of transcript that shows that you challenged yourself.
What if my class rank isn’t great?
If you don’t think that your class rank is as good as it could be, do not let that get you down. Class rank is subjective for many different reasons, and many colleges do not look at class rank when determining admissions status. This is where the other elements of your application and resume come into play, and where you can show the schools you are applying to what your strong suits are.
Also read: Advice for low test takers
Frequently asked questions about class rank
Where do I report my class rank on the Common App?
What if my school doesn't have class rank?
Does class rank matter once you have reached the top 5%?
How do I report class rank?