The voices are growing clearer: class rank has been playing an increasingly diminished role in a high school applicant’s dossier for some – but not all ― colleges. So says David Hawkins, the Director of Public Policy and Research for National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC).
In an article in one of this month’s issues of The Pennsylvanian (University of Pennsylvania), Dean of Admissions Eric Furda seemed to confirm that fact when he states that he “noticed a pretty precipitous decline in the level of importance that colleges attribute to class rank.” It’s apparently not an essential factor in Penn’s admissions process. He went on to say that “from a multidecade perspective, class rank has become less prevalent in secondary schools.” Less than a third of Penn’s applicant pool come from schools with student ranking. Rank has simply become less relevant.
NACAC’s Hawkins cited two reasons for ranking’s decline: limitations in comparing students from different high schools, and a trend among high schools to do away with ranking in order to create a kinder atmosphere among students. For many admissions officers, test scores and grade point averages contain more useful information than class rank.
He went on to state that “at the educational level, high schools might feel that class rank is a counterproductive thing to measure.” Some students would readily admit that rankings can create stress that seeps into every pore of school life – up to and including parents. Social pressures in school spill over into social situations beyond the playground. Not good. That is the avowed reason why a number of Florida high schools have done away with class rankings.
On a more “traditional” note, there are still many colleges out there that offer scholarships to valedictorians and salutatorians, in other words, to those students who are top-ranked in their graduating class. In those local Florida public and private schools where most students are college bound, rank is a principal student motivator for enrolling in additional courses – typically AP or Dual Enrollment – in order to boost class rank. In such schools, class rank plays a significant role to help colleges differentiate among students, and even to help compare students at schools within the same geographic region.
With all the arithmetic that has come to define the college applicant, having one less number may not be such a bad thing, although it’s a number that won’t go away completely any time soon.