Every so often, a student logs into Aeries and sees a statistic perhaps even more ominous than their GPA or letter grades – their class rank. As of right now, Leigh still still ranks their students, even though many other high schools have stopped,due to the undue stress and unhealthy competition that stems from it. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 40% of high schools stopped ranking students, or at least didn’t share the information with colleges. While class rankings are potentially more beneficial for college applications, many students at Leigh agree that it should not be kept due to the unnecessary risks it brings with it.
Before the detriments of class ranks are mentioned, it’s important to understand their purpose. Class ranks allow colleges to gauge where a particular student stands when compared to their peers. This may seem like a reasonable way to judge students at face value, but the factors that determine a student’s rank actually tell a different story.
Class rank is often based on weighted GPA, which can be inflated by taking more AP and Honors classes. While advanced classes are generally considered good and students should continue to be rewarded for taking them, the pressure of class ranks can result in students taking on more APs than they can or should handle. AP overloading is extremely harmful because the high amount of homework these classes assign will mostly require students to sacrifice their other activities just to focus on school. This means hanging out with friends or other fun activities are thrown out the window. In addition, a class rank is just one of the factors that can boost chances of college acceptance, so in an effort to raise it through AP overloading, students will neglect other areas such as their unweighted gpa, community service, and extracurriculars. Neglecting one or more of these has a definite chance of negatively affecting their overall chances of being accepted into the college they want to go to.
Among the students, the rankings may brew unhealthy competition. While some students enjoy and benefit from competition, others find it stressful, and too much of it is never a good thing. Class rank can create rivalries between the top students as they fight for the few highest spots. Along with the risk of students overloading on APs or sacrificing things, there is also the threat of a hostile social climate due to the pressure and competition.
The resulting stress is a very relevant and serious issue in the current times, as students have already been under an immense amount of stress due to the coronavirus pandemic. They have had to deal with online school for over a year, which makes even the best students struggle. In addition, some of them have had little social interaction during this time, and many more are suffering from worsened mental health issues. Class rank just adds to the massive amount of stressors that students are dealing with during these difficult and unprecedented times. Its removal could prevent it from being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Additionally, class rank goes against the purpose of school, which is to help students learn. Because class rank is determined by percentage grades and GPA, students are likely to lose sight of this purpose as they will shift their focus away from actual learning and towards solely grades. In the future, they will be unprepared if they have not properly learned the material that is taught in school. By extension, the focus on grades alone can result in a higher incidence of cheating, because the grade is all that matters in a student’s mind, so if they are competitive enough they will do whatever it takes to obtain it.
The final reason that class rank is detrimental to students makes a full circle and comes back to the very purpose of the statistic-a method that colleges can use to determine the academic caliber of a student. According to the Washington Post, “The differences in grade-point averages among high-achieving students are usually statistically insignificant.” It’s therefore both pointless and misleading to single out the one (or ten) at the top. Class rank is, simply put, a poor indicator of a student’s academic aptitude. Small differences in GPA are not significant in terms of a student’s ability. However, two students with GPAs just a small fraction of a point apart can be a world away from each other in terms of their rank, hurting their college admissions and self-image. In addition, taking 7 classes can, in some cases, lower a student’s GPA and rank, although students taking 7 are generally more academically advanced since they can handle a harder workload.
Some alternatives to solve the aforementioned problems could include decile ranks instead of specific ones or using GPA distribution charts to show roughly where one falls within the school. Many schools have already abolished class rank to eliminate the host of downsides that it entails, and there is no reason why Leigh shouldn’t follow suit. Hopefully, future generations of students can be free of the pressures of class rank and be able to have a pleasant and fulfilling educational experience.