Colleges see trend of no class rank

Marianne Gillespie

While Illinois Valley Central District 321’s school board approved using class distinction over class rank, the effects of the decision for each student may depend on what college the student wants to attend.

“Every school does something different,” said Molly Arnold, director of admissions at Illinois State University. “We don’t even utilize rank.”

ISU officials have not used rank for the last two years, Arnold said, noting that rank is difficult to measure with smaller schools or competitive schools.

“There has been a trend over the past several years to get away from rank.”

Instead, ISU uses its own study to create a rank for a student based upon classroom performance of courses taken and their standardized test scores.

“For us, it’s no big deal whether you rank or not.”

That comes in direct conflict with those at the University of Illinois.

“Our opinion is high schools ought to rank,” said Gregg Perry, associate director of undergraduate admissions. “We’re losing that battle as more and more are not ranking.”

Some argue, he said, that universities cannot interpret correctly what class rank means from school to school. He said he would argue that a 3.25 GPA is different from school to school as well, but high schools still submit that data on admissions forms.

“We just think the more information the better,” said Perry, noting that officials need context for the data.

Instead, he said, officials will estimate a class rank for students when none is available.

Some scholarships do depend on rank, Perry said, and officials usually will ask schools for the rank if available.

Perry also noted that U of I either receives rank for everyone from the school or no one.

Occasionally, a guidance counselor will call about a specific student’s reason for rejection, and want to give the rank at that time, which Perry said the university will not accept.

Perry also said the move could emphasize test scores more than in previous years.

“I think what it does is if people think there is too much emphasis on test scores, then by definition, you are putting more weight on test scores.”

For example, the school receives identical applications for three students who attend different schools, all of whom have 4.0 GPAs.

According to that information, Perry said, they are equal, since he does not have rank information.

If he could see a rank, one is a valedictorian, another is in the top 15 percent, and the other is in the bottom half of the class.

Officials would then look to the students’ test scores to see who should be admitted.

That scenario also brings up the question of students who are not good test takers, but do well in their classwork.

The bottom line is, Perry said, the high-end students will still get into U of I, the low-end students will not, but the students in the middle may be the ones with problems.

A few may be accepted that normally would not if class rank was available, but vice versa also may be true.

Of the 26,000 applications the university receives, only 7,000 spots are available for freshmen at U of I.

Perry estimated that currently, of that 26,000, about 30 to 40 percent of students do not have a class rank.

For Bradley University, officials look for students who will be a good fit for the university, as well as ones who will have great success there, Nickie Roberson, associate provost for enrollment management, said.

“We are interested in their grades,” said Roberson. “We pay close attention to specific classes kids have taken.”

Officials note the Advanced Placement and honors classes students choose, Roberson said, as well as their GPA and overall class average.

They also look for their strengths and weaknesses and help counsel them about their intended major.

Some scholarships may not be available to students who do not have a class rank, Roberson said, but the university also has other scholarships that are comparable.

“The trend is high schools are eliminating ranking,” said Roberson.

The critical issue, Roberson said, is that schools provide Bradley information to aid them in making good decisions about future students.

She estimated the trend growing for the last eight years, with many of schools located in the Chicago area.

Each year, a few more drop class rank, she said.

IVC District 321 superintendent Dr. Dave Kinney said a student’s rank will be provided if a college requests it, but to his understanding, the ranking will not appear on a student’s transcript.