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    What Is a Good Class Rank?

    By Will Geiger

    Will Geiger is the co-founder of Scholarships360 and has a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. He is a former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed 10,000 admissions applications and essays. Will also managed the Kenyon College merit scholarship program and served on the financial aid appeals committee. He has also worked as an Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Will earned his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree in history from Wake Forest University.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: January 30th, 2024
    What Is a Good Class Rank?

    Along with your GPA and test scores, class rank is the other big metric that is used to assess your academic success. This is why many students will ask “what is a good class rank?” After all, most students want to put themselves in the absolute best position to win scholarships and gain admission to their top choice colleges.

    In this post, we answer important questions about class rank. This includes what class rank is and whether colleges care about it.  Of course, we also go over what is considered a “good class rank.” Let’s get started!

    Related: Scholarships360 Ultimate Guide to Finding and Winning Scholarships

    What is class rank ?

    Class rank is a metric that measures your academic success compared to other members of your class. As far as how class rank is displayed, this varies from school to school. Some ways class rank might be displayed include:

    • Percentile (you are in the top 5%, 10%, etc. of your class)
    • Absolute rank (you are the number 1, 53, 78, etc. student in your class)

    Where do I find my class rank?

    You will generally find your class rank on your transcript or even through the college planning software your school might use. Every school is different, so you should get in touch with your school counselor for more information about how you can access your most up-to-date class rank.

    Why do colleges care about class rank?

    One of the most important things for admissions and scholarship selection officers is to evaluate students in the context of their opportunities in high school. 

    Class rank based on GPA is a great way to evaluate students in their context since it allows the admissions officer to see how a student compares to their peers. Metrics like weighted and unweighted GPA can tell you about an individual student’s achievement, but what does that mean in the context of their high school?

    For instance, as an admissions officer, I once read an application from a student at a large public school. This student ranked #1 and had a 4.0 GPA. Very impressive, right? 

    It was, but when I looked at their class rank closely, it was revealed that they shared that rank with over 30 other students. This showed me that while this student was impressive, they were not necessarily a huge standout among their peers.

    So simply, class rank is a useful data point to see how a student stacks up against their peers.

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    What is a good class rank?

    This is the big question for students: What is a good class rank?  The short answer is “it depends,” but I will explain the long answer too.

    A good class rank is a high class rank, no doubt. Simply put, the closer you are to #1, the better. However, colleges and scholarships do not generally have absolute cutoffs based on class rank. Instead, it is a general datapoint that will be helpful for them to understand your overall high school performance. 

    If you are #1 in your class, it does not guarantee that you will win scholarships. Additionally, you might not be admitted to all of your top choice colleges. That will certainly help, but it is only going to be treated as a single data point in the scholarship or application selection process.

    It sounds cliché, but your best move is to do your best in school and take the most challenging classes that you can handle. Don’t obsess over how your class rank may ebb and flow. It will only drive you crazy and is not going to help you be your best self.

    Keep reading: How important is class rank in high school?

    What if my high school doesn’t give a class rank?

    One of the biggest trends that I have seen over the past decade is that many high schools are dropping class rank all together. It is not a perfect metric and schools worry that it will lead to more cutthroat competition among their students. So if you are looking at your transcript right now and don’t see class rank, that’s no surprise! 

    Other schools (including the private high school I worked at as a college counselor), will give students their rank in a more general percentile form. At the high school I was at, students would know their rank to the decile: Top 20%, 20-40%, 60-80%, Bottom 20%. However, this was not something that our school reported to colleges.

    If your school does not give a class rank, don’t worry. Not having a class rank will not negatively impact your admissions or scholarships chances at all. However, certain applications may require you to include some sort of a rank. In these situations, talk to your school counselor about what to do.

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Class rank is one way that college admissions officers evaluate your academic success in the context of your peers
    • Not all high schools use class rank, so don’t worry if your high school doesn’t offer you this datapoint
    • Class rank is just one of many factors that college admissions officers consider
    • Transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, essays, activities, and other life experiences also matter!

    Frequently asked questions about class rank

    Is the use of class rank becoming less popular?

    According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), more than half of all high schools no longer report student rankings. Nearly all small private high schools have eliminated class rank because many excellent students are squeezed out of the top 10% of the class. Most large public high schools still rank students, but students still have the choice as to whether to report their rankings to colleges.

    Is 20% class rank good?

    Yes! Earning a place in the 25% of your class is a good place to be for most colleges. For top tier schools and the entire Ivy League, most students aim for the top 10%. 

    What GPA do valedictorians have?

    Usually, students who have an unweighted GPA of 4.0 are considered for valedictorian. Some schools use a 5.0 grading scale, so required GPA depends on the student’s high school.

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