Class rank on ivy apps

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Class rank on ivy apps
By 1moremom (1moremom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 04:18 pm: Edit

My son will be applying to two ivy league schools and MIT this fall. He has a strong academic record- straight As with a challenging course load, including thirteen APs (he's scored 5s on the eight tests he's taken so far) and honors classes when they were offered. He attends a competitive high school and there are quite a few other kids with similar credentials. However, he completed the high school math sequence two years ago and has been taking math at the local university. As a result, his GPA will be lower than classmates who took four years of weighted math classes at the school but otherwise have the same record. Knowing the importance of class rank on an application, should he explain this, or do the adcoms see it often enough that they will recognize the cause? (S also has a nice list of ECs and what we hope will be a compelling hook.)

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 04:56 pm: Edit

My suggestion is for your son to give the GC a nice cover letter thanking him in advance for his rec and bringing up a few points that could use some explaining like his taking math at the local university and how it affects his class rank. Also any other thing that would just sound better from the GC than from the applicant who can look like he is over anxious and nit picking if he caveats too many things on the application, yet there are things that do need a bit of explaining should go on that cover letter along with any outside stuff that the GC might not know or anything important he might not remember when he sits down to write that all important rec.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:17 pm: Edit


We're in the same boat. My S will be meeting soon with his GC to discuss the same issues. When he does, I'll let you know what the GC has to say and what he proposes to do.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:26 pm: Edit

coulda, shoulda, woulda. So who's better to an adcom - a kid ranked 5th, with 10 aps - 8 of them 5s and 2 of them 4s, or a kid ranked 9th, with 8 aps, all 5s, and two university courses?

Get real: the adcom isn't going to count the APs, isn't going to compare the grades on the APs, isn't going to bother with the class rank once she's determined it isn't a number 1 and is in the top 10%.

"Knowing the importance of class rank", neither you nor your son nor the GC should say anything at all about it - in 8 months this stuff is going to be absolutely meaningless - to everyone! If the 3 places in class rank is what is going to make him stand out as an aware, alive, exciting person to have in the classroom and on the campus, he's got real, real problems (and the Ivies know it - they reject kids like that a dime a dozen.)

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:29 pm: Edit

Thanks, Jamimom. I am leery of sounding like he's making excuses, though I think that's the only area of concern. (At our school the GCs stay with their kids the entire four years-- nice, in that they really get to know the kids. The downside is that she is dealing with 300 kids who are applying to colleges this fall!)

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:29 pm: Edit

deleted duplicate post

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:45 pm: Edit

Good lord, Mini. I am just an average mom trying to help my son put his best foot forward as he applies to some very selective schools. I only listed the stats because I wonder if they would make the class rank irrelevant.

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:45 pm: Edit

did it again. hmmm.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 05:56 pm: Edit


The problem is that we're not 8 months from now. We're now, and we have to deal with these issues. Your two Ds were in classes by themselves. Our Ss are not. As a matter of fact, I have no idea whether mine is ranked and how.
As we have seen from many posters, the computation of GPA and thus class rank can be extremely capricious. At least our Ss are not applying to colleges where being in the top 4% is a requirement for admission.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 06:07 pm: Edit

Agreed that class rank is capricious. I don't know of any college where being in the top 4% is listed as a requirement (maybe Berkeley?) But adcoms are bright people. I know some personally. They don't make those kinds of distinctions. They just don't.

And yes, I do really, truly believe that the distinctions being talked about are irrelevant. It doesn't make anyone number 1, and doesn't make anyone fall out of the top 10%. But you could seriously make them more relevant (and worse for your son) by having your GC or anyone else writing about it. You could actually do damage.

If this is a school with a significant number of applicants to a particular college (historically), the GC will receive a call from one of the adcoms to talk about each of the applicants. You will not be privy to it. The GC will not tell you about it. What goes on in that conversation could make a huge amount of difference. Imagine yourself a GC, and going blank about your son except that there was a push to "explain" his class rank (which was already very high.)

By Katwkittens (Katwkittens) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 06:16 pm: Edit

Marite and 1moremom- Is the problem the fact that the college courses when transferred back to the high school are not weighted? For example, college math classes are transferred back in on to high school transcript as a regular class bringing down the weighted GPA? Or the grades obtained in the college classes are less than an A, bringing down the average (unweighted)?

Oldest DS#1 and DS#2 had the same issue at their previous high schools (we have since moved), where their college courses transferred in as a regular (non-weighted) high school course. If, we had transferred them in. The if was the key. I had them withhold the transcripts from the colleges until we moved to and the new school THEN transferred them in as AP courses worth a full years worth of credit vs. 1 semester of regular high school class unweighted. Totally changed their GPA's and class rank.

I would think highlighting somewhere in their apps the fact that they took accelerated /advanced courses at the collegiate level would supercede a lower ranking. Seems like common sense to me, but again I would make sure it is mentioned somewhere other than just the high school transcript. But I think having a transcript from the college itself would also bring it to the adcoms attention. I know it did in my son's case. I know on my son's apps there were places which required the info of attending other colleges...he just put it there. Also negated some of the need for the AP exams since he already had college units to transfer in for most of the same APs.

Boys just read the rules ahead of time and figured what would work out best for them. And the difference wasn't a rank of 9th to 5th but a rank of 230 to 19. Again, a HUGE difference.

Good luck Marite and 1moremom!

Kat missing my one kitten very much!

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 06:22 pm: Edit

Some admissions are very much a by the number process, especially at big state schools.If you are in TX, being in the top 10% matters a lot.
I frankly don't care whether my S is ranked but I fully expect his GC to explain why my S has been taking so many courses at Harvard, as well as the hodgepodge of grades (some straighforward college prep courses, some APs, some college courses, some college courses audited for high school credit. My S has more interesting things to say in his essays than to explain why his transcript will look the way it will.

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 06:31 pm: Edit



As may be clear from my post, my S's situation is complicated by the fact that he audited some courses for high school credit and he took some for undergraduate credit. Ironically, those he audited are the higher level ones. It has to do with the scheduling of the classes rather than their level. Our school does not weight grades, so that is not a concern. But very possibly the grades for the audited classes will appear on the high school transcript and those my S took for undergraduate credit will appear on a separate transcript.

I hope your kitten is doing fine!

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 07:05 pm: Edit

Mini- "They don't make those kinds of distinctions. They just don't." Thanks for the insight. I have not been down this road, nor do I know any adcoms.

Kat- Thank you for the good wishes. Classes taken at the U do not appear on our HS transcripts.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 08:41 pm: Edit

Classes at the CC don't appear on HS transcript, at least here. Where your S took his classes should impress any adcom. Its obvious he pursued his interests with passion, rather than elect to take simpler classes at HS to obtain best class rank. I think he will be a shining star at any college. *

By Marite (Marite) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 08:56 pm: Edit


I think the mystery concerns the classes my S audited for high school credit. He had to audit them because he is not an enrolled undergraduate so could not take them for credit, but the classes are not available through the Extension School. He only audited one last year, but this fall, he will be auditing two and at most likely another two next spring. Well, he's going to talk to his GC and we'll know soon enough how the school proposes to list the audited courses (as far as Harvard is concerned, auditors do no exist, though his prof will be writing a rec).

By the way, S's GF is trapped in a hotel somewhere in FL. School started today, but she's hoping to get back some time next week. She'd spent the summer taking precalc at the Harvard summer school which ended only a couple of weeks ago. This was to be her vacation. Some vacation, huh?

By Dix (Dix) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 09:43 pm: Edit

My experience is different from Minis. At our HS it appeared class rank was a factor. Val and Sal were accepted at Princeton and Harvard. The Yale acceptee was in the top 5% of the class, a national merit finalist, and played football. Some of the top 20/485 students of the class were also admitted to the following universities Stanford, UC Berkley, Rice, Swarthmore, Wash U in St. Louis, and Carnegie Melon. The Val was not a national merit finalist, so that was not an admittance factor. By the way both val and sal got the extra weighted GPA points by getting credit for summer research internships.

By Mr_Sanguine (Mr_Sanguine) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 10:30 pm: Edit


Hi, I'm basically in the same boat as your S. I've been considering mentioning this, but just like in this thread I've been hearing alot of positives and negatives about doing so.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 10:51 pm: Edit

Having 300 kids per counselor has its negatives, but it can be a positive when your S gives the counselor a letter listing things he would like him to mention with a resume attached. Chances are very good that the GC will write the rec with his eyes glued to the sheets your S gives him. With so many recs to write, the well gets dry. You can mold your own recs that way, to some extent whereas in some of the smaller private schools, the recs are written over the summer, and you have no idea what could be in them.

There are just some things that look better when someone else brings them up, both positive and negative things. Family situations, mild disabilities, inconveniences, disadvantages. It is too easy to sound like you are complaining or whining when you bring them up yourself and unless they are central to your life, they are not worth writing an essay over them. That is when a word or two from someone else like a teacher or counselor can bring it up. Counselor recs are read carefully as everyone from the school has to go through this channel and you cannot pick and choose most of the time as you can a teacher. If a GC from a large school takes the time to mention something, it is certainly taken into account and packs a bigger wallop than if it is stuck somewhere in the app--trying to explain a class rank just is difficult to do for ones self in the context of a college app.

By Momof2inca (Momof2inca) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 12:08 am: Edit

We are in the same boat here. Our son has taken 9 CC classes, all of which appear on his high school transcript and only a few of which are unweighted, bringing his class rank as of last semester just out of the top 5%. I was thinking of having his counselor mention it, but now am not so sure. Mini makes a good point. The books I've read seem to say explain everything that might look like a negative.

I really don't want it to look like our son is making excuses. The bottom line is our son just loves to pursue knowledge no matter if it's good or bad for such things as gpa or rank. For example, he would rather take 9 classes a semester and get some B's than take 6 and get A's. I do realize he might be competing with kids who prefer to take 9 classes and get all A's.

By Kjofkw (Kjofkw) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 08:46 am: Edit

My daughter is another student who is anticipating being in the same boat for different reasons. She transferred Soph. year. She was in the honors track at her previous school, but not all the grades will transfer as weighted "honors" courses because they do not have the same courses. Her new school grades & weights differently. I was already wondering if that will need an explaination by her GC.

While she is only a sophomre, I'm already wondering about it because I've known older students at her new school whose rank was affected by the difference of only ONE honors vs. regular course. For one student in particular, it made a 3 or 4 rank difference. Having several non-weighted courses will make an even greater difference. Big deal I would normally say. BUT, our state colleges initially determine significant scholarships based ONLY on rank (and scores). If you have great scores, but are not in the top 5%, you will not be considered.

While we can truthfully say that it makes no difference "in the long run", it can make a significant difference in the short term! A 3-4 rank difference in a class of 100 can make or break a student from the top 5% or top 10% very quickly. Here, it can make a large financial difference for some students.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 09:06 am: Edit


I would say that if class rank makes a large financial difference for some students, in the long run, it makes a very significant difference!
That is why I am not discounting the importance of rank and GPA, though in our case, it truly does not matter.

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 10:05 am: Edit

Marite, perhaps that is the crux of my question. If a student has a compelling "package", does class rank matter? How do you know either way? (I sent you a note earlier.)

Kjojkw, we have the opposite situation at our school. A student has moved into the district from one that offers some advanced (weighted) science courses that we do not. We have some students who are ever mindful of their class rank (taking non weighted classes elsewhere when possible, taking both senior health and PE second semester, when it won't affect their rank...) and may be affected. I don't know how the school will handle it. There has been talk for years of doing away with class rank; I think it would be a fine idea.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 10:32 am: Edit


I've emailed you back. Personally, I think that if a student has a compelling "package", then at colleges where adcoms look at applications holistically, things like rank and GPA will not matter much. But there are universities, and very good ones at that, which go by the numbers: SATs, GPA, rank. They do not even ask for recs or essays. And, as another poster noted, some scholarships are strictly by rank and GPA. For students who must rely on scholarships to get them through college, this is not a trivial consideration.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 10:33 am: Edit

Imoremom, you point out one of the problems that I have with the class ranking system, especially when val and sal and top 10% here in Texas are at stake. The val at my son's school last year was a wonderful girl who only completed her last two or maybe three years at our school. It's just an apples and oranges thing. Especially if they come in from a school that is notorious for grade inflation or offers weighted courses above and beyond what your kids can take. It's because of these issues that val and sal are moot points for me, and it really bites when a kid worked hard for top 10% status and just got edged out along with their hopes for a flagship school by a transfer with an advantage. I think class rank should only be a part of the equation, and hopefully at most schools in the US, it is.

By Outwest5 (Outwest5) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 12:06 pm: Edit

All I have to suggest to the original poster is to apply to those three, but he better also apply to several more non Ivy schools. Admissions tend to be a crap shoot at the top schools and many a superior student ends up with NO admissions at all because they only applied to the top.

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Wednesday, September 08, 2004 - 12:45 pm: Edit

He has backups, a couple of which are quite appealing financially. It will be an interesting year.

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