Class ranking paints a misleading picture

Karly Bader ('08)/ Eastside Opinions Editor

misleadingThis year I will join my fellow seniors in the frantic and nerve-racking task of applying to the colleges and universities of my choice. When I send in my formal application, the admissions officers will consider many factors in deciding whether or not to grant me entrance into their school: SAT I and SAT II scores, the levels of the classes I have taken as well as how I did, my extracurricular involvement and work experience, my essays, interviews, recommendations by my counselor and teachers and any awards or honors I have received.

In short, each of these previous factors will give the admissions officers a sense of the answers to two vital questions: the first, “How likely is this student to succeed academically at this school?” and the second, “What will this student be likely to contribute to this school, both in and out of class?”

While such considerations are very important, there is at least one other factor that I have thus far failed to mention that is likely to weigh equally as heavily as the other factors for any admissions officer: class rank.

Class rank is essentially a mathematical summary of a student’s academic record as compared to the mathematical summary of the other students in his or her class. Typically it will take into account both the degree of difficulty of the courses taken by the student, such as Advanced Placement, honors, college-preparatory or regular courses and, of course, the grade he or she earned in those courses.

This compilation of courses and grades is then converted into an overall weighted grade point average, or GPA, and then everyone in the class is placed in a ranking order so that the student with the highest GPA will be assigned a ranking of number one and the student with the next highest GPA will be assigned a ranking of number two and so on. Essentially, the higher the GPA, the higher the student’s class ranking.

As the Blue Ribbon banner and the 38th standing out of all New Jersey schools according to Newsweek suggest, Cherry Hill High School East is a rather prestigious school with an abundance of intellectually inclined students; however, because the majority of the students who attend this school exceed the ordinary, our school becomes all the more competitive in terms of making it into the top fifth, tenth or fifteenth percentile. Thus, many brilliant students year after year are consequently over-looked by top schools in which they would most likely excel.

In addition, many students who choose to excel in other extracurricular activities and sports rather than achieving straight A’s are especially at a disadvantage because the rank does not take into account the time and the hard work they have expended in these other areas. In order to make it fair for both the academically-inclined and the extramurally-inclined, this school would essentially have to create two ranking systems—one based on academics and the other based on extracurriculars.

According to a recent report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 55 percent of high schools no longer report a class rank, the majority of which are small or private high schools. Also according to the NACAC, due to the tremendous fluctuation in the curriculum and grading systems of varying high schools across the nation, admissions officers have increasingly begun to overlook the important of the class rank and to discredit the accuracy of such a rating system as a factor in evaluating potential students. Therefore, by ridding this school of the class rank standard, neither the school nor the students would be at any loss in the concluding eyes of the colleges.

Many large state universities, however, still require a class rank. Due to the high volume of applications that such schools receive, the GPA evaluation can be a very helpful and time-saving tool. That being said, many schools are now substituting the class rank for a student’s SAT score and/or a student’s weighted GPA, which is not considered within the context of the rest of his or her class when awarding scholarships.

The fact of the matter is that no student can be represented by a single number since student dynamics extend beyond the classroom onto the field and stage. Excellent students should not be penalized just because they have been squeezed out of the top 15 percent. The exceedingly competitive nature of this school must be taken into account.