Overheard in Committee — Estimating Class Rank

We Admit It!  Committee is a long, drawn-out, painstaking process.  But it’s also an exciting, fun, rewarding process.  It’s what helps us round out the incoming class and reminds us why we do what we do.  This week we press on.  Each day we dig deeper into applications and we learn about new students.  So without further ado, here’s what was overheard in committee today.

“Does the school give us any indication of where the student falls in the class?”

You can hear this question in committee multiple times each day.  It’s part and parcel of that all-important school context we’ve talked about numerous times in our Overheard in Committee blog series (as well as numerous other blogs about our process).  Fewer than 40% of the students who apply to W&M report a specific class rank.  And that’s fine.  We understand why schools choose not to rank, and we don’t disadvantage students who don’t have a specific rank.  But when we can estimate rank it’s helpful to us in assessing the student’s academic record.

Many schools will provide us some contextual information based on your GPA.  For example, the Common Application’s Secondary School Report allows counselors to indicate a decile (the student is in the first decile/top 10% or second decile/top 20%) or an estimated rank (approximately top 15%).  It also allows them to provide the high GPA for your class.  Or counselors may in their recommendations say this student “is near the top of her class.”  Or school profiles may provide a GPA distribution via quartile or quartile ranges or they might plot GPAs on a graph.

We’re not beholden to an exact number or even an estimated rank.  Again, it just provides context to your transcript so that we can get a sense of how well you are performing within your school environment.  A 4.2 GPA doesn’t mean much without that context.  If the high GPA for the class is a 4.3 that tells us the student is at the top of their class.  Or if on the secondary school report, the counselor estimates that rank to be about the top 25% of the class, well that gives us context also.  And this context doesn’t exist within a vacuum.  We then consider that information within the greater context of your schools (its courses/programs, competitiveness, grading scale, etc.).

As we review applications we try to collect all of the information we can glean from what’s submitted on a student’s behalf before making a decision.  Knowledge is power right?  The more we know the more informed our decision on your application can be.

And with that, we press on.

Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Associate Dean of Admission

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