To Rank or Not To Rank: The Flaws and Benefits of the Class Ranking System

Sophie Gebhardt, Journalist

One topic that always comes to mind during college admissions season is class rank. Class rank has been a frequent source of controversy for many years, and a major problem is its inconsistency between schools. All over the country, over half of high schools have abandoned the use of class rank. From the cum laude system to percentile ranking, every district has its own policy on ranking. As many seniors know far too well, St. Vrain has a traditional class ranking system. 


In addition to inconsistent policies, class rank has a host of other problems. It is often not reflective of a student’s success and effort in high school for a variety of reasons. Class rank is frequently a great challenge to transfer students who come from schools with different ranking policies. The class weighting and available weighted courses may have been different, placing them lower or higher than they would have been if they spent 4 years at one school. When we spoke to Jordyn Stewart, a Senior who transferred in the middle of her Sophomore year, she noted how this affected her: “Transferring pretty negatively affected my class rank. It was really frustrating being ranked lower simply because I wasn’t offered higher weighted classes at my old school.” 


This also leads to issues with elective courses. Class rank encourages students to take as many weighted classes as possible, discouraging them from taking normal level classes. This often leads students to avoid taking elective classes they may be interested in — like arts or forensics — all for a higher class rank. It is healthy to encourage students to take classes that pique their interest and help prepare them for their future course of study and career choices. 


Additionally class rank can create an uber competitive and cutthroat school environment that is harmful to students. By pitting students against each other and forcing them to compete an anxiety-ridden atmosphere is created, only adding to students’ stress. At a school like Niwot with so many high-achieving and academically driven students, class rank negatively affects many students when they are applying to college by encouraging unhealthy competition. It is also a frequent source of stress in students’ familial relationships, with many feeling added responsibility to meet their parents expectations of a high class rank. 


When we spoke to other Seniors here at Niwot, they echoed many of the problems mentioned earlier. Hailey Karas told us, “class rank has been a huge stressor for me as I apply to college, it has also had a negative effect on my mental health because of this added stress.” Nick Stade elaborated on Karas’ sentiment, stating, “I don’t see any upsides to ranking students out of their class. Class rank means nothing when compared to other schools and is only a source of stress for students who value it more than their actual education.”


Overall, it seems many Niwot students see fault with our class ranking system. Many students echoed these feelings, seeing the system as  unfair, inconsistent, and stressful. It will be interesting to see in future years whether or not the district continues to uphold their decades-old policy surrounding class rank, or do what many schools throughout the nation have done: forgo it entirely.