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What Is Class Rank? What Is a Good Rank?

Posted by Christine Sarikas | Mar 14, 2018 2:30:00 PM

Coursework/GPA

 

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Have you heard of class rank but aren’t sure what it is? Maybe you want to know why class rank is important or how you can figure out what a good class rank is. And, by the way, what is a good class rank? 

We have answers to all these questions! Read on to learn what class rank is, how schools calculate it, and how it’s important for your future.

 

What Is Class Rank?

Class rank is a way to see how your academic achievements measure up to those of your classmates.

Your class rank is determined by comparing your GPA to the GPA of people in the same grade as you. So, if you are a junior and your high school has 500 juniors, each of them will receive a number, 1-500, with the person who has the highest GPA ranked #1.  If there are 500 people in your class and your class rank is 235, then 234 of your classmates have a higher GPA than you, 265 classmates have a lower GPA than you, and you are in the top half of your class.

Class rank is reevaluated each grading period, whether that is semesters or trimesters at your school. So, every time new grades are added to transcripts, class rankings are updated and your rank may go up or down.

 

How Do Different Schools Measure Class Rank?

All class ranking methods involve assigning each student a number based on how their GPA compares to that of their classmates. However, there are several different ways to measure class rank.

There are two main types of class rank: weighted and unweighted. Unweighted class rank determines your rank by using your unweighted GPA. Unweighted GPAs are measured on a scale of 0 to 4.0 and do not take into account the difficulty of your courses. Weighted class rank determines your rank by using your weighted GPA. Weighted GPAs usually range from a scale of 0 to 5.0 and do take the difficulty of your courses into account.

So what does this mean for your ranking? If you have taken honors or AP classes, your weighted class rank will likely be better than your unweighted class rank, even if you didn’t receive A’s in all those courses. This is because more challenging courses are given a higher weight (usually a 5.0) when calculating GPAs. For unweighted class rank, a person who takes regular-level classes and receives straight A’s in them will have the same unweighted GPA and class rank as a student who took all honors and AP classes and got straight A’s in them. For unweighted GPAs, every A, no matter how difficult the course, counts as a 4.0.

Some high schools provide weighted class rank, some unweighted class rank, and some provide both rankings. To learn more about unweighted vs. weighted GPAs read our guide on the topic.

Your class rank also determines your class percentile. If your school does not list your percentile, it is easy to figure out. Divide your class rank by the number of students in your grade,  multiply by 100, then subtract that number from 100. For example, if there are 600 students in your grade and you are ranked 120th, then you are in the 80th percentile because (120/600)*100=20, and 100-20=80. You are also in the top 20% of your class.

 

Why Is Class Rank Important?

Besides letting students know how they stack up against their classmates, class rank is used for several other reasons.

 

#1: College Applications

Class rank offers a way for colleges to see how your academic achievements compare to those of your classmates. For example, if you attend a high school that gives very few A’s and you have a transcript with mostly B’s and C’s, this may make your GPA lower than the average applicant's GPA. However, admissions officers will see by your high class rank that you were one of the best students in your grade, and this will strengthen your application.

Conversely, if you have straight A’s but only took easy classes or went to a high school that gave many A’s, you may have a great GPA but your class rank will not be particularly high because a lot of your classmates received the same grades you did.

Your class rank helps colleges put your GPA into context and gives them more insight into your academic abilities. Some states offer high school students guaranteed admission to state universities if they have a certain class rank. For example, Florida students are guaranteed admission to at least one in-state university if they are in the top 20% of their graduating class.

 

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#2: Scholarships

Some scholarships require applicants to have achieved a certain class rank or percentile (such as top 25% of your class) in order to be applicable. Like colleges, scholarship committees may also use class rank as one criterion to judge a student’s academic abilities, along with GPA and standardized test scores.

 

#3: High School Honors

Some high schools award honors to graduating seniors who achieved a certain class rank, such as top 10% or 25% of their class. There are also honors for those at the very top of their class rankings. The graduating senior who is ranked #1 in the class is honored as the valedictorian and often gives a speech at graduation. The person ranked #2 is the salutatorian of the class.


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Why Do Some Schools No Longer Use Class Rank?

Although class rank has long been used by colleges to help judge students’ academic skills, only about half of US high schools currently provide class rank.

There are several reasons more and more schools have stopped using class rank. Some schools believe that students who just miss important percentiles, like top 10% or 25% of their class, may be unfairly disadvantaged for scholarships and college admissions. For example, a student in the top 11% of their class may have a GPA very similar to a student in the top 9%, but may not receive certain scholarships or college offers because they aren’t in the top 10% of their class.

Some also feel that class rank doesn’t promote teamwork and cooperation because it makes students too competitive with each other as they vie to improve their class rank. Some schools also believe that providing class rank encourages students to take easier classes to boost their ranking, instead of challenging themselves and taking more difficult classes where they may not get an A, but may learn more.

There are also schools that no longer assign a rank to each student, but only provide broad percentiles. These percentiles may divide the class into quarters and show if a particular student is in the top 25, 50, or 75% of her class. This lets you know roughly how well you are doing compared to your classmates, but you won’t know your exact class rank. Some schools also only use percentiles to designate which students are in the top 10% or 15% of their class and don’t provide percentiles for students below that cutoff.

Because fewer high schools are including it on transcripts, many colleges are giving class rank less importance when they review college applications. Instead of using class rank as a critical admissions criteria, some colleges instead focus more other components of a student's transcript such as GPA or the rigor of the classes taken.

 

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You won't need to search too hard to find your class rank.

 

How to Find Your Class Rank

In order to find your class rank, first check your most recent report card or high school transcript. Your class rank should be there, usually near the bottom of the page. You should be able to see what your class rank is and how many people are in your class. Your school may also provide your percentile, as well as indicate whether your ranking is weighted or unweighted (or it may provide both).

If you can’t find this information, or don’t have access to your report cards or transcripts, stop by the school office or ask your guidance counselor. They should be able to give you your class rank. If your school doesn't provide class rank, they may still be able to give you a percentile estimate. If you're interested in learning this information, try asking something like "I would like to learn my class rank so I have a better idea of my chances for getting into college. If you can't provide my exact rank, could you tell me what rough percentile I fit into?"

 

How to Find What Percentile You're In

Many schools will list your percentile along with your rank, but if your school doesn't, it's easy to figure out. Use this formula:

(1- (your class rank / number of people in your class)) * 100= your percentile

 

If a student is ranked 78th out of 600 people in her grade, she'd plug in those numbers and get:

(1- (78/600))*100= 87

So, she'd be in the 87th percentile. Remember, percentiles show how many people you're ranked above,  so a higher number is better. Being 87th percentile means that her class rank is higher than 87% of her classmates' class ranks. By subtracting 87 from 100, you can also see that this student's class rank puts her in the top 13% of her class.

 

What If Your School Doesn't Include Class Rank?

Only about 60% of high schools still use class rank, so if your school doesn’t provide class rankings, you are not alone.

Some students worry that if their school doesn’t provide class rank, it will hurt their chances of getting into college. However, this is not true. When a high school doesn’t provide class rank, colleges simply look at other information, such as GPA, high school transcripts, and standardized test scores to judge a student’s academic ability. As mentioned above, because fewer high schools provide class rank, it is becoming less important for college admissions.

 

What Is a Good Class Rank?

So now that you know what your class rank is, what's a good class rank? This answer depends on a lot of factors, including your high school and where you hope to go to college, but we can still give some general answers.

If you want to attend college, your minimum goal should be to have a class rank that puts you in the upper half of your class. So if you have a class of 500, you'd want your rank to be 249 or higher. You can certainly get into colleges with a lower class rank (especially if you go to a highly competitive high school and/or magnet school), but being in the top half of your class is a good baseline goal to aim for since it shows colleges that you're an above-average student at your school.

If you want to attend a more competitive college, you should aim to have a class rank that puts you in the top 25% of your class, or the 75th or higher percentile. For Ivy League and other top tier schools, a class rank in the top 10% or 5% is a good goal to aim for.

Remember though, that colleges take many factors into consideration when they look at college applications, and your class rank is just one piece of the puzzle. Having an overall strong application--with high grades, a transcript showing you took difficult classes, strong letters of recommendation, and dedication to extracurriculars--matters much more than just your class rank alone.

 

Recap: What You Need to Know About Class Rank

  • Class rank is a way to compare a student’s grades to those of her classmates. Students are given a number ranking based on their GPA.

  • Class rank can be weighted, unweighted, or only include percentiles.

  • Class rank is one criteria colleges use to determine an applicant’s academic abilities.

  • Some high schools no longer use class rank due to growing concerns that it causes students to take less challenging courses and puts students who are just outside certain percentiles at an unfair disadvantage when applying to colleges.

  • Your class rank can typically be found on your high school transcript or report card.

  • If your high school doesn’t include class rank, it won’t negatively affect your chances of getting into college. Universities have many other criteria, such as your GPA, essays, and standardized test scores, to help make their decision.

 

What's Next?

Wondering what else colleges look for on your transcript? Check out our guide on what information a high school transcript includes and why it's important for college applications.

Want to improve your class rank? Read our guide on different strategies to raise your GPA in high school.

Wondering how strong your GPA is? Learn what a good GPA is for college.

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points? We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.



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