Class Rank vs Grade Inflation

Ravens

Member
I wanted to hear some thoughts on this topic since there is always talk about the importance of class rank vs GPA and how class rank is rated very highly by the service academies. The below quote came from this article which was published in May 2017.

https://penn.phmschools.org/main-news/logan-mcguire-continues-familys-naval-academy-tradition

The quote states -

"and in late March of this year, was recognized as one of Penn’s 19 valedictorians, an incredible feat when it is taken into account that the 112th-ranked student in the class has a perfect 4.0. His GPA is a jaw-dropping 4.4286"

Since this is not the clearest sentence ever written, I am reading it as the student was the 19th Valedictorian in the schools history. (I never heard of 19 in one class, but I could be mistaken). However, the quote also states that the 112th ranked student had a perfect 4.0 GPA.

The difference between the 1st and 112th ranked student was .4286. I will leave grade inflation alone since I know nothing about this school, but this is why I have issues with class rank being so important. It appears that the 112th ranked student is not a dummy, but if they applied to a service academy their WCS would clearly suffer during the admissions review.

Therefore, to perspective candidates, don't let your class rank deter you.

I am just trying to shed some perspective on the issue and see what others thoughts are on this topic.
 
How many AP classes your school offers vs how many you take is a factor. Assuming with that GPA the top of the class took almost every AP class offered.

WCS will still win out, though. It seems like if the 4.0 also is an Eagle Scout, founded a club, and had his sports in order, he'd win out.
 

Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
No one really knows how Class Rank and/or GPA work into the Whole Person multiple (USNA does not publish its algorithm) , but my personal feeling is that Class Rank is more important than GPA. GPA is subject to grade inflation and gamesmanship -- taking easy courses, retaking classes etc. A school with 112 students with 4.0 would raise my eyebrows --are these kids really smart, or is someone afraid to challenge them academically ? Class Rank is an ordinal ranking, i.e. one person is ranked higher than the other. Of course, this is also subject to gaming , ie. is the person with straight A's in lower track classes really smarter and a better student than the kid who takes gut courses like AP Calculus , but gets lower grades.

Neither GPA or Class Rank work in a vacumn. Admissions looks at Course Load, school profile, identifying class statistics, AP Offerings, and the candidates transcript. In addition, BGO's are encouraged to include any information about special circumstances in their write up.
 

Ravens

Member
Old Navy BGO, that is good to hear that "neither GPA or Class Ranking work in a vacuum". I know many schools class rank via GPA and I agree that many students are ranked higher but with easier classes. However, it's discouraging when students correspond with an admissions counselor at a academy and they tell them to try and raise their class rank. We can all agree that it is very difficult for a student to raise their class rank in their senior year especially when they have been taking the harder courses over an extended period of time. Their ranking is pretty much set by the time they apply. Its good to hear that the board looks at all other factors such as course load, transcript, and school profile when making these decisions.

For potential candidates:
If you are a student who is seriously challenging yourself with the STEM courses like AP Calc, AP Chem, and Physics, ranks in the 20's out of 100, plays 3 varsity sports with several captainships, mid 1300 SAT, 3.75 GPA and attends a school with 100% matriculation of the senior class to 4 year colleges this would bode well for you.

If you are a student who is taking the approach that senior year is a cruise and have not challenged yourself, you are doing yourself a disservice. Although you may have a 4.5 GPA, 1400+ SAT , ranked top 5 out of 100 in your class but only 30% attend 4 year colleges, and you haven't taken the challenging STEM courses throughout your high school career, you very well may be passed over by admissions.

The Academies are looking for students that challenge themselves. Don't fall into the trap that a high GPA + high SAT + high class rank = Appointment.

It doesn't always work out this way!
 
My son is in the IB program at his HS- for the past several years they have graduated 20 plus Valedictorians, he is slated to be one of the Valedictorians for his graduating class as well- his HS bases their Valedictorians on 24 credited classes to graduate most graduate with well above the 24 credits allowing them to drop classes if they are not 5.0. weighted.The class cannot be dropped if it is a core class- like Algebra or Biology. Their class rank reflects all classes taken whether weighted or not -his class rank is slightly lower due to two classes weighted 4.0 and not 5.0- one was taken in middle school but was a HS credited class. He is currently ranked 4th out of 400 to graduate in the Spring of 2018.
 

falconchic88

10-Year Member
To answer one of your questions OP, yes, some high schools now have multiple Valedictorians! So I think that article meant she was one of 19 Valedictorians from her graduating class!
 

DKTKT

Member
Our DS's BGO advised that the admissions people are pretty savvy about high schools, and how educational context effects rank and GPA (e.g., difficulty of courses, whether grade points are weighted, etc). In fact, when I asked about the importance of submitting high school profile with transcript, BGO chuckled that admissions knows our school (one of the more competitive on our state). So kind of gives me hope.
 

Ravens

Member
To answer one of your questions OP, yes, some high schools now have multiple Valedictorians! So I think that article meant she was one of 19 Valedictorians from her graduating class!

Ok, maybe I am just too darn old. Back when I graduated high school, there was only 1 valedictorian per class. There was no possible scenario where 19 ties occurred so they gave it to all of them. I guess this new generation does things differently. Kind of reminds me of the "everybody gets a trophy" mentality.
 

shock-n-awe

Member
To answer one of your questions OP, yes, some high schools now have multiple Valedictorians! So I think that article meant she was one of 19 Valedictorians from her graduating class!

Ok, maybe I am just too darn old. Back when I graduated high school, there was only 1 valedictorian per class. There was no possible scenario where 19 ties occurred so they gave it to all of them. I guess this new generation does things differently. Kind of reminds me of the "everybody gets a trophy" mentality.
I agree 100%!
GPA is the first factor in becoming a Valedictorian, but the school needs to have a set of standards to break any and all ties. A 4.0 GPA earned by taking basic classes should not equal a 4.0 earned by taking mostly AP type classes. How about standardized test scores being brought into the mix? Any type of a standard that can be used to break a tie.
I can see there possibly being Co-Valedictorians, but anything more than that cheapens the title.
I think that if everyone gets a trophy, then the trophy means nothing....period.
Our HS had over 5 Valedictorians (less than 19 though!!) last year based solely on 4.0 GPA. While they are all bright students and good kids, not impressed.
 

MidwestDad

Member
Many HS no longer rank; SAs have adapted to this by profiling historical data from each HS to compare GPA / SAT / etc.
Even schools that don't rank usually provide colleges with historical data [last year's class] on class rank percentile vs GPA and SAT etc.

GPA alone is almost irrelevant nowadays with rampant grade inflation everywhere plus the grade weighting systems for honors and AP classes.
I knew parents who actively discouraged their kids from taking honors / AP course since it was harder to get an 'A' that way.

On a related note some competitive colleges now give only pass/fail grades freshmen year; I heard one top tier law school say they treat a 'pass' grade as a 'C' for law school admission purposes. Its a big disadvantage to go the PC route - eventually it catches up to the students.
 

5Day

Member
"and in late March of this year, was recognized as one of Penn’s 19 valedictorians, an incredible feat when it is taken into account that the 112th-ranked student in the class has a perfect 4.0. His GPA is a jaw-dropping 4.4286"
I interpreted the quote is that referenced admitted class to the University of Pennsylvania had 19 valedictorians. USMA had 92.
 

VelveteenR

Just gathering dust in the nursery...
5-Year Member
At our son's high school, the valedictorian is the person delivering the valedictory address, not the person with the highest GPA. Only one person gives the speech, so there is only one valedictorian. He went to a very rigorous HS, graduated with around a 3.7 which did not put him in the tippy top of his formally unranked class, but his single-sitting test scores said it all. IMO, those 4.0s mean nothing when kids have to take standardized tests multiple times to beat averages and become competitive. If test scores don't easily corroborate the GPA/class rank, that speaks volumes. The academies also look at the school profile and understand those grades and rankings in the context of the school's performance in the national pool of high schools. No one is fooled by a school that produces gaggles of vals. The val from one of our local high schools is in our son's class at USMA and is still struggling academically as a junior (OK, "cow"). He was an academic star in high school but totally unprepared for college work, but he was counted in that "impressive" list of incoming vals. Our son was astonished and disappointed by how common this was and still is. But, this is the USNA forum. I'm sure the Navy mids are much better prepared for academy work than the Army cadets. ;)

My opinion is that both GPA and class rank mean nothing outside the context of the particular high school and with standardized test scores to give a leveling point of reference.
 

time2

10-Year Member
^^ I agree. You might attend a h.s. with just mediocre academics and still be a top student or valedictorian. That is why SA's look at SAT/ACT scores to compare across the entire country. Vary high class rank and LOW SAT/ACT scores could be one of those indicators. If the OP is asking how SHOULD they do this, there isn't much point in discussing something we can't change and none of us work in admissions.
 

Ravens

Member
One problem with schools that have multiple valedictorians is that it places other candidates who are competing for the same slot at a disadvantage. It is no secret that the service academies value Class Rank heavily in their formula. For example, 2 students attend different schools with 100 students in their class size. If student A is the 19th valedictorian in their class, their class rank is 1. Student B at the second school who is ranked 19th out of 100 is not going to receive the same WCS value in the formula because their HSR is significantly lower. Since we don't know the exact method for determining WCS, we also don't know if service academies give extra points for school valedictorian or not. If they do, this would be a double blow against student B and place them at a servere disadvantage. (I know there is other criteria, but for this conversation, I am pretending that the students have equal SAT scores, EC's, GPA's, transcripts, school profiles. Etc.....).
 

THParent

Member
Class rank means nothing, unless you happen to be #1 or #2 in the graduating class!
My DS has never gotten anything below an "A", ever. I'm talking from Kindergarten through his senior year of High School.
He earned that #1 rank in a class of over 600 students, and he worked hard to get there.
Nevertheless - by 2020 - the schools in our area are going to abolish class ranking as well.
 

usna1985

10-Year Member
Class rank means nothing, unless you happen to be #1 or #2 in the graduating class!
Not sure I agree with this. That said, even w/o class rank, SAs can get a pretty good sense of where a student stands. They know how many AP/IB/honors classes the school offers, so the first question is whether the candidate is taking those "harder" classes. Second, is the student taking a full course load with primarily "core" courses, such as math, English, history, science, language or "padding" the schedule with things like sociology or personal finance (unless, of course, those courses are mandated by the school which they sometimes are). Third, is the student taking the highest level of a course that the school offers (e.g., Calc BC vs. pre-calc). Fourth, how competitive is the h.s. -- for example, what percentage of each class is taking and doing well on AP tests? (Of course, this is something the student generally cannot control). Finally, what grades is the student earning?

You throw all of the above into the mix and -- with experience with that h.s. -- USNA has a pretty good idea where a student stands in his/her class even if the school doesn't rank. If someone is getting straight As in all AP core classes . . . well, that speaks for itself, doesn't it? Compare that to a student who's not taking the most advanced classes and has a couple of Bs or Cs. It's not that USNA cares whether you are #23 of 300 or #25 of 300. And, if the school does it correctly, if there are 19 #1s, then the next person is #20 (not #2). It does matter whether you're in the top 10% or the middle of the pack. And, of course, being #1 never hurts.:D
 

AF6872

10-Year Member
Even with schools that don't rank (or will not report rank) Admissions does a pretty good job figuring it out for each school. They know the drill and have been doing this for quite some time.
 
My DD was at an “application only” public high school which only admitted high level students, the best in the county. At her “neighborhood school,” she would likely have been Val. Attending the more challenging school, she graduated top 30%. Trust me, USNA knows the schools and the caliber of students from them. My DD’s HS currently has 9 mids at USNA (my daughter is a youngster).
Being valedictorian is not everything. Challenging yourself, academically and physically, is important.
 

SeaLegs

Member
My DS was admitted into USNA, class of 2021. He was ranked about the 75% with a 3.95 weighted GPA (3.80 unweighted). However, above 90% of his class were planning to go to a 4 year college. His ACT scores were 32 average with 34 Math. What seems to matter is NOT class standing, so much. Rather, a student’s test scores and the student population attending a 4 year college. When we got to the academy, we discovered that many Plebes were not “brainiacs,” as we anticipated. They were just very well rounded — smart AND social. There are a few photographic memory type students, but most are just high achieving and well-rounded students of high character. May God bless you in this time of preparation and waiting.
 
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