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Articles / Applying to College / Which Counts More-GPA or Class Rank?

Which Counts More-GPA or Class Rank?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | April 15, 2010

Question: I have a pretty high GPA (3.89 Unweighted; 4.35 Weighted), but a low class rank (96/300). How much does this affect my chances at an Ivy League school? Do they care more about GPA or class rank?

College admission officials care the most about your grades in the most challenging courses, especially in your junior and senior years. So both the overall GPA and the class rank will take a back seat to this.


For instance, if you have elected the most demanding classes offered and get all A's in them this year and next, but your rank was torpedoed by some lower grades in your freshman and sophomore years, admission officials will pay the closest heed to your good grades in the tough classes. Or if your rank was actually hurt because, in addition to AP or honors classes, you also took unweighted electives, then admission offcials will realize that even straight A's in subjects like drama or ceramics or shop can lower a GPA more than simply signing up for study hall. (This may sound counterintuitive, but it's true!)

So, overall, it's your grades and not your rank that count the most. But do keep in mind that, at the Ivies, your "competition" will include students who have straight A's in the hardest classes throughout high school. But also at the exalted Ivy level, grades, rank, and GPA alone rarely push a student into the "In" pile. If you don't have other talents or an atypical background, then you will have an uphill battle ahead of you, regardless of your transcript.

But, meanwhile, just keep focusing on your grades and other passions and don't worry as much about your rank.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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