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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 made 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?
According to a recent report from NACAC, class rank is considered among the “next most important factors” for college admissions after GPA, test scores, grades, and strength of curriculum. However, in practice the importance of class rank will vary from college to college.
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.
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.
Your class rank doesn’t define you as a student, and colleges know that. While you should strive to achieve a high class ranking, that shouldn’t be your only goal. Get involved in extracurriculars, develop leadership qualities, and build relationships with teachers who can write recommendations for you. In the end, your class rank will end up as a small component of your college applications.
Also read: Advice for low test takers
Frequently asked questions about class rank
Where do I report my class rank on the Common App?
You’ll report your class rank in the same section as you report your GPA on the Common App. This will be in the Education page. If you don’t have a class rank at your high school, you will select “None” in this section.
What if my school doesn’t have class rank?
You’re not alone! Many high schools don’t report class rank, especially competitive ones. This will not hurt your chances of college admission. College and scholarship applications will contain an option to select that your school has no class ranking.
Does class rank matter once you have reached the top 5%?
The answer to this question will vary significantly based on the prestige of your high school and the admissions staff reading your application. But to start off, we’ll say that if you are in the top 5%, you are in good shape! That is a great achievement and you should be proud. Of course, if you reach an even higher rank, it will look more prestigious to colleges. Being in the top 5% at a big high school or a competitive one is also more prestigious than at a low-performing or small school. But either way, if you are in the 5%, you are doing great.