Ranking first or second in your high school class isn't as powerful as it used to be.

Recent media reports note Vineland's school district is considering the elimination of class rankings. There'd be no more valedictorian, for example. So several students won't have to compete for that top spot, just to put an impressive note on their college application.

But this proposed move is not a new idea. In fact, it's been brewing for so long that plenty of colleges and universities in the Garden State have dropped class-rank way down the list of priorities when evaluating prospective students.

National surveys of college admissions officers have proven the decreased significance of students' class rankings. With so many schools either doing away with rankings, or not reporting a student's rank on their transcript, it'd be hard for higher-education institutions to fairly compare one applicant to the next.

"Now the majority of schools are not reporting class rank on the transcript any longer," said Jeff Indiveri-Gant, director of undergraduate admissions at Montclair State University. "It used to be a much more important data point in the admissions process than it is now."

Rutgers University-New Brunswick has not required class rank from applicants for several years now, due to the growing number of high schools that have scrapped ranking altogether.

"We consider individual grades in each academic course and overall cumulative grade point average for each student," a Rutgers spokesman said. "We also seek to understand the degree to which students challenge themselves in the context of the high school's curriculum through available offerings at the honors, accelerated, advanced or AP levels."

In most cases, honors and advanced courses are weighted more heavily than typical or elective courses. Janet Bamford, manager of communications and publications for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said many schools have cited class rankings as a reason students may opt not to take courses they'd enjoy, such as an art or music class.

"They feel like they can't because it might affect your class rank," Bamford said.

Schools, meanwhile, claim class-rank creates an unnecessary competition among several high-achieving students.

"We've heard of schools having to calculate grade point averages out to the thousandth of a point," she said. "If you have 20 students that are all within a very little distance of one another, it doesn't seem to make much sense to rank one 5th and one 7th."

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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