Staff editorial: Class rank doesn’t define success

Despite many colleges relying less and less on class ranks for admissions, our student body continues to place unnecessary importance on rank.

Sophomores frantically share ranks after opening them for the first time, anxious to see where they rank among their friends. Juniors compete to get into the top percentages before college applications. The school halls are littered with groups of kids comparing transcripts, and the day they’re updated is pretty much a holiday.

But while class rank can foster healthy competition, plenty of people on campus act like the number on their transcript defines who they are. 

In reality, class ranks are not an accurate representation of how smart students are. Students’ grades are affected by not only intelligence but the amount of time they can dedicate to studying each day, and issues some may have adapting to the traditional learning system. Only a few kids have the time and focus needed to study as much as the top of the class does.

It’s natural to assess the abilities of those around us and gauge whether we’re “better” or “worse.” This leads to elaborate, complicated discussions about rank and academics, with everybody in a friend group usually knowing each other’s ranks. However, this can create a toxic environment where nobody feels good about themselves.

When students base their sense of importance on their rank, higher ranked kids feel like they are expected to keep up academic perfection, piling unnecessary pressure on themselves. And students who are ranked lower feel as though they aren’t smart.

However, so much more goes into being a good person and student than academics — implying otherwise invalidates the hard work of people who aren’t naturally good at school.

Some students who rank near the top can subconsciously look down on their peers who are lower, because they assume they didn’t work hard enough. And plenty treat students who are in a certain percentage as machines. Both assumptions are wrong to make and can do severe damage to other students’ mental health.

It’s common for students to overhear or even be part of the group of kids who gather in classrooms and hallways to discuss their grades, or bombard their friends with texts the night new rankings come out — and there’s excitement that comes with seeing where they lie.

But insecurity sets in when they realize that they aren’t as high as they thought they would be. Their hard work feels less meaningful, because even though they worked hard, other people worked harder. The conversation is not enriching, because they walk away from it feeling worse than they did before.

Between the early morning alarms and late night study sessions, students are trying their best at school. It’s up to them to not let a number determine if they’re satisfied with their hard work.