How to Improve Your Class Ranking

Three Parts:Positioning Yourself for a Higher Class RankingTaking the Right Classes for a Better Class RankingMaximizing Your Class Performance for Your Best Class Ranking

Many students often feel anxiety or concern over their class ranking. This number can carry a lot of weight with colleges as they evaluate the merits and intelligence of their applicants and it’s a smart idea to raise your class ranking in order to increase the likelihood of your college admission. Class rankings are also used to determine the valedictorian and salutatorian at most high schools.

Part 1
Positioning Yourself for a Higher Class Ranking

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    Understand what a “class ranking” means. The College Board explains that class ranking is a summary of a student’s academic record that is mathematically compared to those of other students in the graduating class.[1] Your class ranking compares you with other students in your graduating class; a ranking takes into account the grade you earn in a class and—in many cases—the difficulty of courses you take (including AP classes).
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    Talk to your academic counselor. This should be the first step of any academic endeavor; your counselor will be able to tailor academic advice to your personal situation, and will likely have helped many other students with questions similar to yours. Your counselor will be able to direct you into what courses you should take, advise you about selecting AP courses, and help you keep your GPA high.
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    Think about the type and level of colleges that you want to apply to. Different colleges have different requirements for incoming applicants; some schools may prioritize class ranking, while others may be more concerned with extracurricular activities or a strong writing sample. In general, private schools, Ivy-League universities, and nationally known public schools are more difficult to get into than smaller, less well-known colleges.[2] Ask yourself (and get input from your parents and college-bound friends):
    • Do you want to attend an in-state or out-of-state school?
    • Do you want to attend public or private university?
    • Do you need a certain amount of financial aid to attend a school? (Class ranking can influence the amount of financial aid a school will give you.)
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    Consider other benefits that a high class ranking can bring. Even outside of the college-application process, your class ranking has value: class ranking, combined with your GPA, is frequently used to determine the high school valedictorian and salutatorian.[3] These honors are often awarded based on students’ class rank percentile. If you are not planning to attend a college or university, think twice before you let your class ranking slide, especially if speaking at graduation or having valedictorian honors is an important personal goal.

Part 2
Taking the Right Classes for a Better Class Ranking

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    Find out how your specific high school calculates class ranking. Although the general definition of “class ranking” is provided above, different high schools can have slightly different policies.[4] Some schools do not “weight” classes (give higher class rankings to students who take more difficult courses and AP classes), and some schools do not rank elective courses.
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    Take Honors courses and AP courses. These higher-level courses will often be weighted and contribute more to your class ranking than would regular high-school level courses. However, be careful not to overload yourself with difficult AP work; if you receive poor grades in these high-level courses, their weighted status may work against you and lower your overall class ranking.[5] If you enjoy honors-level work and feel that you can excel in it, then take as many honors and AP courses as you can.
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    Take more difficult classes as you progress through high school. Students are often tempted to front-load their high school career with difficult courses, and to leave easier courses until their Junior and Senior years. However, university Admissions departments are often unimpressed by this; it can look like a student stopped caring about their academic success near the end of high school.[6] At the same time, be aware that course grades from every year will count equally. Many students do not start taking their class ranking seriously until they begin considering college. To determine which level of classes you should take each year, consider:
    • Take more difficult courses (including Honors and AP) in your Junior and Senior year. This will likely raise your class ranking overall, and will show colleges that you take your academic career seriously.
    • Try to do as well as you can academically, beginning in the first semester of your freshman year—these grades will stay on your permanent transcript and influence your final class ranking.
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    Ask your counselor about bringing up high-school-level classes from middle school. If you took any high-school-level courses in middle school, you may be able to add those course grades to your transcript and raise your GPA.[7] You should only do this if you earned “A”s in these courses you took in middle school; otherwise they may lower your GPA and harm your overall class ranking.

Part 3
Maximizing Your Class Performance for Your Best Class Ranking

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    Apply yourself to your studying. This is the single most useful piece of advice for succeeding in high school courses in general, and this success will be reflected in your class ranking. Even if you have planned out your courses well and have a good college-application plan, your work will be relatively useless if you don’t study well. When you read and write for courses:
    • Find a pattern that suits you personally; some students use flash cards, others need to write down material so they’ll remember it better.
    • Read for comprehension; don’t just try to memorize facts.
    • Don’t compare the level of your work to that of your peers. Instead, focus on finding what your strengths are and develop those.
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    Set aside time in each day to study. High school can be demanding; there are plenty of personal obligations and relationships, and many students have part-time jobs in addition to the difficulties of school coursework and homework itself. To improve your performance in your courses, don’t mix your studying time with social time. Set aside however much time you need each day (start with 3 or 4 hours) and spend that block of time focused only on your schoolwork—no video games, TV, etc.
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    Aim to earn an “A” in every course you take. Earning an “A” can be difficult, especially if the course is challenging, the teacher is tough, or the subject matter is unfamiliar to you. Nevertheless, it will dramatically improve your GPA and your class ranking if you try to earn an “A” in every course.[8] As a general rule, you should take the most difficult courses (e.g. AP or Honors) in which you can confidently earn an “A.” Plan ahead for success by working hard throughout the semester, and also talk to your teacher to see what advice they can give you to help you succeed in their class. Also consider:
    • Don’t stress over the specific percentage you earn in a class, as long as it is an “A” on the 4.0 scale (watch out for an “A-”; it will lower your GPA). For example, whether you earn a 93% or a 98% in a course, it will carry the same amount of weight on your transcript.
    • Study with a tutor—whether a peer tutor or a professional tutor who teaches you at home. This will help you learn material better and will help you learn from a more experienced person.
    • If your grade is suffering, ask your teacher if there are opportunities for extra credit.
    • Work after school with your teacher if you are struggling.[9] Often teachers will respect your initiative and will help you work on assignments and improve your grade.
    • If you’ve already done poorly in a course, talk with your counselor and your teacher to see if you can retake the course in a coming semester, or retake it in summer school.
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    Recognize that there is only so much you can do to influence your class ranking. While your own planning, foresight, and hard work will play a large role in determining your class ranking, the ranking number is not completely under your control. Since you are being compared with, and ranked against, every other individual in your graduating class, their performances will also influence your class ranking. Since you cannot control the academic activity and success of your peers, this part of your class-rank determination is out of your control.


  • Study with your friends to make it fun.
  • If you have an opportunity for extra credit in a class, take it!
  • Join a few extra-curricular organizations. It always helps to be well rounded.
  • Arrive in high school ready to take higher level foreign language. This will allow you to get to the Honors and AP level more quickly, which is especially valuable if your high school weights these courses more.
  • Don't put too much pressure on yourself; your high school class ranking can be important, but it’s not worth sacrificing your mental and emotional health over.

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Categories: Improving And Maintaining Grades