In today’s competitive college admissions environment, high school administrators and school boards regularly grapple with the question of whether to rank graduates or not. This is a relatively recent phenomenon.  When most of today’s high school parents graduated from high school, there was no question class rank would be reported to colleges.  There was also no question Grade Point Average (GPA) would be reported on a four-point scale, and that there would be only one Valedictorian and one Salutatorian.  Times have changed.  The rules that governed high school transcripts for so many years are no longer set in stone.

The answer to the question of whether to report class rank is not clear cut.  Ranking graduates may help some students, and harm others.  Schools must decide which approach will be of greatest benefit to most of their graduates.  Below are some of the factors local school consider when they make the decision whether to report class rank or not:

Texas Top 10% Rule Impact – For 20 years, the state of Texas has directed state colleges to automatically admit all high school graduates that graduated in the top 10% of his/her class (some exceptions have been granted when the top 10% is too high a percent of admitting classes). This rule was created in an attempt to increase ethnic diversity in the top universities once affirmative action programs were called into question.  This heavy emphasis on class rank has driven high schools to place a lot of scrutiny on how they report GPA and class rank on transcripts.

School/Student Competitiveness – As a general rule, private and public schools with competitive students will be less likely to report class rank.  The concept is that very good schools will have excellent students much higher up the class rank scale.  But using the Top 10% rule as a guide, these students outside the top 10% will not be admitted.  If these schools do not report class rank, they school be able to earn more than their top 10% admission into Texas schools (or private and out of state schools).  Conversely, the quality students at lower quality schools will find admission into quality schools easier if they report they are in the top of their class.

Emphasis on Other Factors – For many schools, graduates are made more competitive for college admission when non-GPA factors can be emphasized.  Reducing college admissions down to one number, class rank, goes against the “whole person concept” many schools cultivate. By de-emphasizing class rank, schools can increase the importance of factors such as rigor of courses, community involvement, part-time jobs held, extracurricular activities, personal statements, essays, and recommendations.  College Board offers a good analysis of class non-ranking.

Class Size – At large schools, each class will generally distribute GPAs the same.  The GPA that earns top 10% status will likely stay consistent year after year.  As the size of student bodies decrease, the variance in GPA from year to year will increase.  Having very small graduation classes, statistically, ranking does not provide colleges with significant information regarding a student’s admissibility. In general, because of the wide swing in class GPAs at small schools, it is less beneficial for small schools to report class rank.

Some schools are getting even more creative, allowing students to select whether they want class rank reported on his/her high school transcript.  To be sure, colleges and universities understand what is happening at the high school level.  They have processes in admissions to accurately rate candidates even cooing from high schools that do not rank, use inflated grading scales, or report multiple valedictorians.  College admissions offices are tuned to read through these inflated honors to find the students most likely to be successful at their school.  Most colleges will have systems in place to derive the information they believe important to admissions decisions, whether it is provided by the high school or not.  For example, colleges will re-score transcripts using their own grade point average calculation.  On the common application school counselors from schools that do not report class rank must also provide information which allows colleges to deduce class rank (highest GPA in class, number of students with highest GPA, etc).

The bottom line for schools, each year it’s important to evaluate where their college acceptances.  Schools must evaluate and decide which class ranking policy is of greatest benefit to their graduates.  If you would like more information about a schools that give each of its students the individual attention they need to gain admission and be successful at the college level, we would love to hear from you.  Please contact us about our individualized program.