On paper, education is all about numbers. Our academic achievement has always been measured numerically. Since elementary school, we have awaited progress sheets and report cards with little, neatly printed numbers that tell us how well we have learned each quarter.
Now that we are in high school, the stakes are higher. College is looming for most of us, and there are many factors to be considered in the application process. Class rank is one of them.
For the first time, we are actually being ranked against our fellow students. This has sparked some common queries in this year’s class of 2014: How do we compare in a monstrous class of 525 seniors? Have our rigorous course loads, chock-full of AP and honors classes, finally paid off? Have we landed one of the most coveted spots in the top 10%?
And the ultimate question: Does class rank really even matter?
Class rank is determined by GPA, and GPA is determined both by the difficulty of our courses and by how well we perform in them. Theoretically, class rank would give colleges a clear idea of your academic achievement in comparison to not only your classmates, but also other applicants to their institution. In reality, it is not so helpful or exact.
The College Board website points out that often there are too many discrepancies in high school curriculum across the country for class rank to be an accurate barometer of success. Many high schools and colleges alike now feel that too many variables, from grading standards to courses offered, stand in the way of making class rank a dependable method of evaluating students.
Consequently, now so more than ever, colleges are putting less and less stock in the importance of class rank. According to an Admission Trends Survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, only 21.8% of colleges consider class rank to be of “considerable importance” in the admissions process.
This is a welcome change. Not only does class rank usually instill a needless sense of competition among students, it only adds to the ever-present ideology that grades are everything.
Hopefully the diminishing influence of class rank is the first step in creating an educational system in America that focuses less on the numbers and more on the students themselves.
Too often we students become so fixated on our grades themselves that we miss the point of school entirely – to learn. Putting so much value on class rank in the college application process only adds to this superficially numeric culture.
Kudos to these high schools, universities and colleges for realizing that the potential of a student cannot simply be reduced to a single number.