Class Rankings Inhibit Learning
BY ARIEL SMILOWITZ
For many students that apply to college, grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, and several other criteria factor into the college admissions process. These, along with essays and recommendations, are a crucial part of almost every university’s decision. Until recently, one’s class rank played an important part in the admissions process as well; however nowadays, it seems as though more high schools have been eliminating class rankings altogether. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) over half of all high schools in the country fail to report student rankings. In fact, several high schools believe that the elimination has actually improved their students’ acceptance rates to top schools. If we as a nation eliminated class rankings, students would be free to learn without the constant competition and pressure to be number one, allowing them to truly flourish in their academic careers.
The institution of class rankings has never failed to create added pressure to students. The need to compete in order to impress colleges and universities is something that plagues every high-achieving student, creating the impression that only those ranked in the top of their class will be accepted into top colleges. Thus, for many, class rankings cause universities to overlook exceptional students, simply because they aren’t ranked in the top percentile of their class. Only so many people can be ranked in the top ten percent of their class; this problem is particularly evident in smaller high schools with graduating classes of fifty or a hundred seniors. There may be twenty or thirty exceptional students in the class, but several of them won’t even rank in the top twenty-fifth percentile.
The use of a class ranking system creates a negative and overly competitive atmosphere, something that is simply detrimental to students’ education. Rather than take advanced classes for the sake of learning, students take the classes in order to raise their GPA. In the end, school becomes a place where students have to constantly compete in order to succeed, where winning is more important than learning. This type of environment not only undermines the purpose of receiving a decent education, but is also extremely unhealthy for students, as they have to work under high-stress and anxiety-ridden conditions.
Furthermore, the ranking system fails to recognize those students who take alternative courses and go the extra mile to improve their education. For many who take summer courses and attend programs at regionally accredited universities all over the world, the class ranking system does not account for the extra classes they take. Thus, students who devote their spare time to enhance their education are not truly awarded for their efforts, while those who take classes at Broward College are. It’s hard to believe that students who take pointless and meaningless classes at Broward College just to raise their GPA get high school credit, rather than those who truly try to expand their education at an accredited university.
Although more high schools have been eliminating class rankings, some college admissions officers are extremely vexed by the schools’ decision to eradicate it. According to them, a class rank allows them to see whether students are truly among the best in their school, something that they can’t understand why students would want to hide. Currently, many high schools take different approaches to the ranking system; besides eliminating it altogether, some schools may just reveal percentiles to their students, or instead may hide the rankings from their students, promising only to reveal them to colleges and universities. These tactics provide the best of both worlds: placing restrictions on class rankings will allow students to flourish in a stress-free environment, as well as provide admissions officers with the information they need to make accurate decisions.
The college ranking system is an institution that hurts its students more than it helps them. Although it allows colleges to place a value on one’s grades, the negative impact that rankings have on students is much more important. Eliminating class rankings, or at least refusing to inform students, is the best solution for relieving stress and pressure to succeed. That way, students can learn at their own pace, in their own way, without having to worry about making the top ten in their class.