What You Need to Know About Class Rank

teenage student Things to know about class rank!  Most high school students don’t know much about class rank, and in my opinion, most of you don’t exactly need to worry about it.  It becomes really important for a handful of students in each school–the top 10%, to be precise.  But it is interesting, and an oft’ discussed subject, so let’s cover the ins and outs of ye olde class rank.

What is class rank?  Class rank is when your high school lists each student in your grade in order based upon their GPA.  This means that if you have the highest GPA you will be first, the second highest GPA makes you second in your class, etc etc.  The issue, though, gets interesting because class rank is something that some high schools do and some high schools don’t.  So what are colleges to do then?  Use it or not?  And does it mean anything to you?  I would say that in general it doesn’t tend to end up mattering to most students because only the very most competitive colleges use it, and the vast majority of students aren’t applying to places like that because they wouldn’t be happy there.   Most colleges do not use or consider class rank in admissions, so the vast majority of students don’t need to worry about it.


Some counselors do not feel that colleges should use class rank at all, since not all high schools provide it.  When high schools do it, the most competitive colleges use it.  What this means is, if you are a student applying to the most competitive colleges, and your high school does not do class rank, then you are at a disadvantage at those colleges because those are points in your evaluation that you just won’t get.  Say the college grants 10 points possible for each “category” and one of those categories is class rank; if your school doesn’t do it, you get a zero in that category.  This makes it really difficult for you to get into the most competitive colleges, so you should talk with your counselor about that.

Also, some high schools “weight” class rank and some don’t.  This means you get more points for having taken an AP or IB class.  At schools where class rank is unweighted, consider this scenario: Some student may have taken all of the easiest classes at school and earned a 4.0.  Some other student may have taken all of the hardest classes at school and earned a 4.0.  Because the school does not “weight” class rank, both of those students would be tied for first place rank in the class.  Both of those students would be Valedictorian.  Most kids feel this is unfair, even the kids who take the less rigorous courses.  It’s a pretty weird decision on the part of the school, in my humble opinion.  The most equitable solution seems to be for schools to “weight” class rank, giving more points for more challenging courses.


Another factor to consider about your class rank is pulling up classes from middle school to raise your GPA.  If you took Algebra 1, Spanish or French 1, or Biology in 8th grade, AND IF YOU GOT A’s, you can pull those classes from 8th grade up onto your high school transcript and they will PERHAPS raise your GPA.  If your high school weights GPA by giving more points to your GPA for harder classes, then be aware that these middle school classes are UNWEIGHTED and they will come in as 4.0 points, not 5.0 for an A, so they can actually bring down a GPA.  And if your high school weights class rank, then bringing up unweighted A’s from middle school will also lower your class rank, so watch out.  Know before you go.  As in, know the facts before you ask your counselor to pull up middle school grades.  Most times that decision is not reversible!


If you have a low GPA, bringing up middle school A’s can raise your GPA (B’s will just pull it toward a 3.0), so pulling them up can be good.  Besides, if you struggled with GPA, then you’re not concerned about impressing any colleges with your class rank, so truly, don’t worry about it.  If you have a really high GPA, like a 3.9, I do not recommend pulling up middle school grades because it will (ask your school) likely drop your class rank, which could be decently high, so watch out.


At the end of the day, if your class rank does actually end up putting you in the top 10% of your graduating class, be sure to list it on every possible college application because all colleges will love it.  Most won’t expect it, but hey, if someone hands you a Ferrari, you just take it, so list it.


For the vast majority of my loyal readers out there, don’t sweat your class rank.  GPA is another matter, but let’s discuss that another day, Camper.  Until then, Yay College!


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