What’s the Fuss over Class Ranks?

Words: Caroline Lawrence

At last- the miniature manila envelope that sits in your quivering hands contains the key to your dream school, your future. Two simple numbers that will determine your acceptance or rejection.

Or will they?

Seniors have been buzzing about class rank since its official release on Friday, but the hype is superficial.  While this list has been the subject of much planning and anticipation since freshman year, in reality, it will not have much bearing on anyone’s future.

One of the biggest concerns regarding class rank is that, by not attaining a certain level, a student has ruined all hopes of getting into his or her top choice college.  Fortunately, class rank is not by any means a make-or-break feature in an application.  First of all, every rank is relative.  Being in the top fifty percent, for instance, at Centennial means something different than being in the top fifty at another school in Howard County, which means something different than being in the top fifty at a high school across the country.  Colleges know this and take high schools’ reputations into account when evaluating applications.  Additionally, many schools boast of their holistic review approach, meaning they peruse every application looking for all the qualities that make their applicant an interesting person.

Even with holistic review, the application process creates a rank of its own.  Colleges will devise their own scale of desired GPAs based on the pool of applicants they receive, and a student’s position within his or her high school is not relevant unless it is exceptionally high or exceptionally low.  The majority of students who fall in the middle will not be strongly affected.  Besides, class rank is often naturally correlated with standardized testing scores and GPA independent of rank, so it is unlikely to stand out compared to other elements of the application.

Another common misconception is that a low class rank indicates a low likelihood of success in college and the professional world.  In fact, many would be surprised – and some dismayed – to know that your success in middle school is more relevant to your achievement in college than your high school GPA is (“The Forgotten Middle,” ACT.) This might be because your middle school grades are a better indication of your natural academic character – whether you are driven to achieve even when the stakes are relatively low, as they often are in undergraduate studies.

As you begin to apply to colleges, anxiously awaiting their responses, just remember: in the end, class rank is mere frippery decorating the substance of your application.  It is not an indication of your chances of getting in or of your future success.  What will matter is the person you show yourself to be.

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