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Where students stand (academically) in the college's class and if/how that matters

ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80225 replies720 threads Senior Member
edited January 20 in Parents Forum
Where students stand (academically) in the college's class (or within their major or division at some colleges) can depend on admission and financial results, as well as other preferences.

A. Student is in the top few percent of the cohort. Example would be a student attending a college on a highly competitive top scholarship given only to the top few percent, or a top-end high school student attending a low-selectivity local public university or open admission community college for financial reasons.
B. Student is in the top quarter of the cohort. Example would be a student attending a likely or safety for admission college, possibly with a medium level scholarship.
C. Student is in the middle half of the cohort. Example would be a student attending a match college.
D. Student is in the bottom quarter of the cohort. Example would be a student attending a reach for admission college.
E. Student is in the bottom few percent of the cohort. Example would be a strongly hooked student who would not have considered the college even a realistic reach otherwise (based on academic credentials).

Obviously, students can over or under perform their high school records. But, at least initially, how can it matter (depending on the student or college)?

Some possibilities:

1. If the student is in GPA competition (e.g. pre-med or has to compete for entry to a desired major), then being in groups D or E may not be a good thing.
2. At a small college, groups A and E may be too small to be the target students for many courses (versus being numerous enough at a large college for courses aimed at those groups to be offered, like honors courses for group A).
edited January 20
26 replies
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Replies to: Where students stand (academically) in the college's class and if/how that matters

  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1585 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited January 20
    How well a student performs academically in college depends on her/his innate abilities, her/his degrees of interest in, and willingness to put efforts into, the subject matters (and probably in that order). Ideally, s/he should be with her/his academic peers so s/he could be constantly challenged. Mixing students with significantly different abilities by loosening academic standards is counterproductive for students at both ends of the ability spectrum.
    edited January 20
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 7243 replies70 threads Senior Member
    How long is initially? I think there can be a lot of mobility (both ways) between B and D, with maturity / maturing being a major factor.

    A true A is likely to stay an A, barring bad luck in the form of immaturity, broken hearts, health issues (esp mental health issues, several of which often surface at this age), etc. That can be true even if they are the very big fish in a too-small pond.

    Es might be more variable, depending on why they were otherwise underqualified. There are athletes whose grades wouldn't otherwise qualify them for admission b/c of their schedule who can move up sharply - and athletes who will drop out b/c they can't hack it.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80225 replies720 threads Senior Member
    1NJParent wrote: »
    Ideally, s/he should be with her/his academic peers so s/he could be constantly challenged.

    So you would say that group C is the best place to be?
    1NJParent wrote: »
    Mixing students with significantly different abilities by loosening academic standards is counterproductive for students at both ends of the ability spectrum.

    This is not so much about such policy choices by colleges (all colleges will have some mix of abilities among students), but about student choice of college. Not every student chooses a college where s/he will be in group C (many end up in group A or B due to following the scholarship money, while others end up in group D or E because they prefer the most selective / "prestigious" college that admitted them).
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 1863 replies18 threads Senior Member
    The holistic admissions system used at many (particularly top) colleges means that where a student will stand academically within their class is not strongly correlated with whether admission was a reach or not. So for example a student who is very talented academically but does no ECs is likely to be at the top of their class wherever they can feasibly be admitted.

    And I thought that schools with admit rates of <10% were supposed to be a reach for all, yet someone is going to be at the top of the class at Harvard.

    So while there are certainly A, B, C, D and E students within any college class, it’s far from clear to me that the rationalization given above of why they might be in this position is applicable to a large proportion of them.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 80225 replies720 threads Senior Member
    Re: #4

    The topic is not about super selective colleges where "almost everyone" is top end in typical high school academic credentials. At moderately and less selective colleges, academics tend to be the primary factor in admission, and there is often a considerable range of admits and students.
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  • sciencenerdsciencenerd 1589 replies236 threads Senior Member
    Are you asking pre-entering college or after say the first year of college?

    What's interesting is that everyone starts off on relatively the same foot, but then the separation happens based on abilities, previous coursework etc. But the first year can be the year to prove oneself. Just because you were a math super star in HS doesn't mean you will be one in college.

    Also, where you stand academically in the class can affect scholarships, getting into certain classes/programs/majors, opportunities, research etc.
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  • wis75wis75 14281 replies64 threads Senior Member
    I never heard of colleges having class rankings. All a college "class" consists of is the students who start as freshmen the same fall term. Unlike HS there will not be uniform classes taken- even in the same subject. Students may get credits for HS work (AP exams) and take more/less credits in any given semester. They will take vastly different courses in the pursuit of different majors, unlike the standard HS courses for graduation.

    Too many variables. It just doesn't matter. You don't want the A chemistry student trying to teach English or the top education major doing your engineering project.
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  • gwnorthgwnorth 413 replies8 threads Member
    @wis75 perhaps in this case "class" can be interpreted to mean "ranking within a specific class" (i.e. calculus, history etc.) and not "students who start as freshmen the same fall term."

    DS19 was offered a small conditional award for next year from one department based on his performance in the introductory first semester course. Students don't declare their majors until the end of the winter semester so the award offer acts as incentive for a promising student to declare that department as their major (luckily for him it is the department he was planning on declaring any way). All the students in the introductory course class were ranked by their performance to determine who they wanted to try "recruiting" by offering conditional awards.
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  • CupCakeMuffinsCupCakeMuffins 1055 replies100 threads Senior Member
    edited January 23
    Sharing a classroom with academically strong and challenging students can elevate the level of discussion for everyone including the professor.
    edited January 23
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  • SJ2727SJ2727 2276 replies8 threads Senior Member
    edited January 23
    I know a number of students who performed better at college than at high school, sometimes because of maturity and sometimes just because they found the college courses more interesting. I’ve also seen the occasional high school star student bomb out at college. Your “starting position” in the cohort doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
    edited January 23
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1944 replies31 threads Senior Member
    I was probably in the “bottom” of this list of cohorts, despite a 1500+ current equivalent SAT as I was barely top 20% of my HS class and pretty much everyone was top 10%. After a rough first age-17 semester, I was Dean’s List the last two years. Several of my val/sal/top HS student fraternity brothers struggled and some failed out.

    I don’t think this segmentation works at a lot of schools. Not everyone at MIT/Harvard/Stanford/etc. is going to be in the top 5% of their college class., unlike HS. And the students who just clawed their way into the last few admission slots are extremely capable and can probably end up anywhere in a “class rank”.
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  • wis75wis75 14281 replies64 threads Senior Member
    edited January 23
    That scholarship money reminds me of eons ago and maybe son's era. A top student in the regular version of a science and calculus- out of hundreds and all of the many sections got a money award wheras those in the honors versions were ineligible. Oh, well. It was something no one ever knew about and would not be gunning for- especially with so many students.

    You know, half of all students at any school can be considered to be in the bottom half of the class- but too many variables for comparisons. Hmm- is it better to be in the bottom half at Harvard or the top ten at a third tier school?
    edited January 23
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  • itsgettingreal21itsgettingreal21 232 replies5 threads Junior Member
    Extremely rarely is the decision Harvard v. Third Tier school.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 6310 replies10 threads Senior Member
    This is such an oversimplification. Kids with great preparation, perhaps those from excellent prep schools, may do better freshman year because they have been working with college expectations (including lots of writing) for some time. But smart kids with less prep will figure it out, especially if they take advantage of the resources available, and by the beginning of sophomore year, everyone should be more or less at the same place.

    I can think of kids who were capable but far from outstanding students who got into very competitive schools (by virtue of children of major donor status, for example) who did quite well in college by choosing a major that played to their strengths and avoiding classes that did not (and which were the ones that made them less than stellar high school students.) In this way, many students can do well, many will have profs who can write good recs, etc.

    I can also think of kids who found their intended major too challenging and who shifted their path accordingly. Especially kids who thought that something like electrical engineering was what interested them. It may not have been the challenge of the school as much as not having been exposed to material at that level period and just not having a mind for it.

    But this isn't high school. There will not be a class rank or val on graduation day. Latin or departmental honors, maybe. And yes, many students will find themselves a mere part of the galaxy rather than the brightest star. No harm in that. And there will likely be a few students who remain brilliant stand-outs. The world needs all of them, so don't get hung up on hierarchy.



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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1585 replies35 threads Senior Member
    edited January 24
    ucbalumnus wrote: »
    1NJParent wrote: »
    Ideally, s/he should be with her/his academic peers so s/he could be constantly challenged.

    So you would say that group C is the best place to be?

    Some students will be at the top of their class (group A) regardless of where they are. They should choose the most challenging schools if financially affordable, or even borderline affordable (they will likely have the earning power after they graduate). They'd be bored at lesser schools. Other students who are in group A at lesser schools for non-academic reasons may still receive the best those schools can offer, but they aren't going to be challenged by their true peers and may not reach their full potentials.

    Group B and C are both good places to be. Group B students may have chosen the school for a number of reasons including financial. The plurality of students are in group C and schools are good match for them.

    Group D students may do okay, especially if the distributions of student competency at their schools are relatively tight, but the schools aren't ideal for them. Some students have to be in the bottom quartile, unfortunately.

    If a student is in group E, her/his life might be miserable if s/he cares about academics.
    edited January 24
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  • jonrijonri 7352 replies135 threads Senior Member
    edited January 26
    I don't think that one's entering stats are that predictive of ending stats. High school and college are very different. I admit it's quite a while ago now, but my own kid probably graduated from high school and college ranked at about the same number. (Neither HS nor college officially ranked, but there's enough data to make an educated guess.) Thing is....college class was roughly six times larger.

    For my kid, college--and a top ranked one at that--was easier and more enjoyable than high school. Very, very few high schools offer classes in the subjects in which my kid excelled in college. When they do, it's usually ONE course.

    I also think there's something to be said AGAINST going to the college where you are seemingly quite high in terms of incoming stats because you assume that will enable you to do well and get into med school.

    I know 2 people who did this and didn't get into med school at all. They actually had very good college grades. They bombed the MCATs though. Both took a year off and studied for the MCAT and tried to improve their profiles. Neither got into med school. One is a podiatrist and one is a physician's assistant. I know another person who was able to get into med school after taking a year off and enrolling in a different college's post-bac pre-med program. The money her parents saved by her going to a less selective school so they could "help with med school cost" ended up going towards paying for the post-bac year.

    @wis75 says:
    There will not be a class rank or val on graduation day. Latin or departmental honors, maybe.

    It ain't necessarily so. H announces a valedictorian. I know that because one was my kid's high school classmates (at a NYC public magnet) was the valedictorian of his class at H. And, BTW, while he was a better high school student than my kid, he was not valedictorian and did not win a single senior award--meaning he was not one of the top 3 or so students in any subject. His college major isn't offered at public high schools.

    edited January 26
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  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1825 replies13 threads Senior Member
    Well for me being the top of my college class meant I got a letter asking me to apply for grad school gratis. So being at the top meant I saved about 80K. And others in different areas were also asked to apply. Like anything, you often get different opportunities if you are in the top 5% of anything ( including performance at work). When I went to grad school, it was pretty rare, but I'd imagine being a top scholar at a top school still opens doors.
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  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk 2636 replies5 threads Senior Member
    I don't think class rank determines much though right, it's your gpa for employment first screens or grad schools. Rank could be used with gpa for the latin honors as people have mentioned. The issue is not the academic standing for groups D and E, but the gpa which would be below a 3.0.


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  • calmomcalmom 20730 replies168 threads Senior Member
    I'm really confused about the premise of this thread. I think personality traits tied to conscientiousness and level of motivation have a lot more to do with college grades than high school experience or stats. The students who stay on top of all their reading, show up to class regularly, and take advantage of resources like profs' office hours are likely to do better than the students who prioritize their social life. There is probably some correlation between that sort of behavior in high school and in college, but the removal of parental supervision and prodding from the equation can make a pretty big difference.
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