Who Knew a Number Could Dictate Your Future

Is Class Rank Truly THAT Important?


Sabrina Tolppi (Left) and Maddy Gates (Right) announcing that they will be attending Brown University and Harvard University.

Pankhudi Prasad

Somewhere in the school, a student is frantic because a PowerSchool alert shows a grade drop. Instead of their desired “A+” they now have to deal with a “B,” which drags their overall grade down. Five perfectly executed assignments later, the grade is brought up one point, but still, it is not enough. And all of this is for their GPA, class rank, and the hopes of getting into a good college because, apparently, survival by society’s definition, means attending an esteemed college and obtaining a degree. So students pile on AP and honors classes. They spend late nights finishing their homework. They get involved in clubs and activities. They fight for leadership positions. But is all of it worth it in the end? Viditah Shah, a class of 2021 graduate, does not believe so, stating, “I don’t think it was worth it. I did all of those things and sacrificed growing as a person and just having fun while the stakes were still low. We don’t know what college admissions committees want. You can do all the things I did and still not see results. There is no point in stressing yourself out to the extent that I and many of my peers did.”  On the other hand, Maddie Gates shared how it was worth it for her, saying, “Yes, I would say it was worth it.” She also wanted to make it apparent that it is important not to get trapped in these webs because they will ultimately bring your mental and physical health down. She stated: “I tried to avoid falling into a trap of attaching my self-worth to measurements like rank.” 


WHS Guidance counselor, Mr. Adler, believes that many of these factors, such as class rank and standardized test scores, are not always a true representation of the student. This is because standardized tests do not measure all levels of skills. Furthermore, a student could potentially be having a bad day due to other stress caused outside of their academic life, causing them to do poorly on their test. This does not mean the student is any less smart, and a single bad day should not define their academic worth. Due to the belief that standardized tests and/or rank do more harm than good, neighboring schools, such as East Lyme High School, have disbanded ranking. 


WHS is also considering taking out rankings and both alumni and current students believe that this step will do more good than harm. They have already made progress by switching to a decile system where instead of a specific number rank, students will only know their percentile rank. This progress was made so that students would be less harsh on themselves and so that colleges do not disregard students based on their specific rank. Moreover, GPA and rank are solely based on grades. The only difference is that GPA is unweighted, meaning that the level of class is not taken into account, while rank is weighted, which means the class’ difficulty is taken into account. A student taking all advanced classes could have a higher GPA than an honors student, but their rank will be lower. This would be because a “B+” in an honors-level class is worth the same as an “A+” in an advanced class. 


Furthermore, colleges also take this into account when they look through a student’s transcript, which according to Mr. Adler, who was a former admissions officer at Connecticut College, is the most important part of the admissions process. Admissions officers rely upon one-third of their decision on the student’s grades. However, they are not all soulless. They look at the high school’s class offerings before determining if you are a student who challenges themselves or not. Thus, they do not punish you for not taking IB (International Baccalaureate) classes if your school doesn’t have them! The IB program is a high-level college preparatory program constructed for exceptional high school students. Students in this program have the option of pursuing either the full IB Diploma or Certificates in one or more areas of their selected study, making these classes even harder than AP classes. The other two-thirds of the application is spent on looking at activities and sports, as well as the type of student and community member they are. This is why volunteer hours and getting involved in the school are important, even if you do not gain a leadership position in them. Getting involved in extracurricular activities and organizations that you believe in/have an interest in helps show colleges your passion and to what extent you would go to showcase your passion in the community. 


As the high school years go on, students tend to put less effort into their performance. They start caring less about their grades and activities due to either personal problems or laziness, which makes their grades drop exponentially. Universities such as Stanford and Carnegie Mellon have reported that they usually see a drop in grades as the high school years go on. Moreover, there are many trends all throughout social media that highlight the fatigue of students in high school as the years go on. This trend is seen most in seniors. They start their year with a bang, but as applications start getting turned in and decisions start rolling out, somewhere in that process, their efforts are decreased. What students do not realize is that colleges can also withdraw their acceptance. Although this does not happen often if the student’s grades go from “A’s” and “B’s” to “D’s” and “F’s”, the college has the right to withdraw their acceptance. However, they understand if the student is going through a crisis as well and almost always are willing to provide any additional support to help the student in their time of need! 


Although college may seem daunting to many students, people who are at that point in their life will almost always tell you otherwise. Beating yourself up over grades, rank, and other factors in high school are not what is most important because there are many students, who now go to prestigious universities, who will tell you how the stress that they took in high school was not worth it at the end of it all.