Class rank, is it beneficial or detrimental?


Class rank has been a significant high school statistic for years. It allows for a direct comparison between a student and the rest of their class, but has it held its value over time?

Although class rank has been on transcripts and heavily valued in the college admissions process for years, many high schools and colleges are moving away from it. This is happening for various reasons like the mental health of students, course manipulation, competition within the classroom, and the value that it adds, or rather doesn’t, to life after graduation.

A student’s class rank is simply how their GPA compares to the rest of their graduating class. For example, if a student has the highest GPA among their grade in a class with 100 students, then they would have a class rank of 1. If a student has the worst GPA in this class, they would have a class rank of 100. 

One of the most powerful arguments for ditching this number is the effect it has on students’ mental and emotional health and the debilitating pressure they put on themselves to achieve it.

Class rank doesn’t promote teamwork because it’s so competitive between students trying for higher rankings,” James Lewis, President of the National Society of High School Scholars, said.

This causes the ranking to become misleading as students can cheat the system and take easier courses to achieve a higher rank. 

High school counselor Mellissa Malcore says class rank means more to students than staff. 

“I think a student’s GPA and course rigor is way more important [than class rank],” Malcore said.

As Malcore said, diminishing course rigor to achieve a higher rank can be a disadvantage in the admissions process. Many colleges prefer to see a more rigorous student than one with perfect grades. In addition, many colleges are finding less and less value in this number in recent admission cycles. 

According to, a tiny percentage—only 9.1% of colleges—said class rank was a factor of “considerable importance” in their admissions. As a result, many high schools are even considering alternatives.

“Class rank should not be at the forefront of student’s concerns when applying to college,” Malcore said. “I think a long time ago, it was [used] to see how you perform compared to your classmates. I think it is a part of the bigger picture but not one of the top things they look at.”

However, from a student’s perspective, rank can mean a lot.

“I think it’s important in terms of college applications. I would say, in terms of my mental health, my grades have a hefty influence. I would be distraught if my rank lowered,” junior Oliver Matthews said.

There is another crucial advantage to keeping class rank amid consideration. This can occur when an exceptional student from a low-performing, high-poverty school could shine through with a high class rank. Without this accolade, a college might not notice or understand this student’s potential and deny their admission. This can cause a less diverse student body, which no college wishes to achieve. 

In short, class ranking in high school can lead to a variety of unhealthy behaviors like increased anxiety, competition in the workplace, and cheating. In addition, the number can be manipulated through a less effort and more grade fixation approach.

On the other hand, it allows students from less fortunate schools to shine through and add to diversity among the university’s student body. There are both pros and cons to this statistic. However, one thing is for sure; there has never been a time of more consideration and progression for what is best for high school students and how they may venture into the world.