We live in a society where we are constantly comparing ourselves to those around us. This is especially true in high school, where teens are especially vulnerable to insecurities. I feel like I am constantly asking myself: Am I smart enough? Am I talented enough?

It’s no wonder that students at my school were so anxious to find out their class ranks, to have a definitive number that told them where they stand among their peers.

When class ranks came out in my school this year, the reaction from the students was just as dramatic – if not more – than I thought it would be. Walking down the hallways, all you could hear was gossiping and various numbers being attached to names. Though this information was all supposed to be confidential, within a few days pretty much all of the student body could list the top people in our class.

I was hesitant to log into my online grade book and check my rank. In my opinion, nothing positive could come out of knowing. If the number was lower than what I expected, then I would beat myself up about it. If it was higher, I could see myself becoming prideful. I urged myself to not check, but my curiosity got the best of me.

My rank was just a bit lower than what I expected, but it was enough to send me into a deep spiral of disappointment. I began questioning my abilities and comparing myself to those who I knew had better ranks than me. I could picture a room full of people who were all supposedly smarter than me, and I kept asking myself, what were they doing that I wasn’t?

It took me a while to snap out of this funk, but when I did, it was because I gained some perspective on this issue. I was attaching too much significance to ranks. Forty percent of high schools in the United States have either stopped using ranks or refuse to share the number with colleges. People are starting to realize that ranks are not the best measure for academic achievement, and do more harm than good to students.

The differences between the GPAs of people in different ranks can be extremely small, down the hundredth of a point. For example, my school is so competitive that someone with a 90 GPA would only be in the 200s out of 600 people. Especially at the top of the class, the differences between the GPAs are so minute that it just isn’t worth it to become miserable about fractional differences in grades.

In most cases, ranks don’t necessarily award students based on merit, but the students who know how to play the game, namely, the GPA game. Students will take extreme measures to maintain a high GPA; they’ll resort to all kinds of cheating, or lose hours of sleep from studying. Even friendships are broken, as students begin seeing each other as competition.

Learning is no longer a positive experience of discovery and growth, instead, everything revolves around ranks. Some students will drop out of challenging classes and take easier ones because they know they can get better grades in certain classes. This is extremely detrimental, because students should be challenging themselves with high-level classes without the fear of hurting their average. In the long run, the knowledge you gain from a higher-level class is much more valuable than a couple of points. Students are also opting out of classes they are interested in, such as photography, music, or journalism, simply because it won’t boost their GPA, which prevents them from discovering a possible talent or passion.

Ranks may seem like the be all and end all of your intelligence right now. But ranks are an outdated practice that cannot measure who you are as a student. Focus on choosing challenging classes you are interested in, being involved in extracurricular activities, and making lasting friendships. Focus on your own personal journey of self-growth, only comparing yourself with who you were yesterday, not those around you.

Photo: Stanley Morales

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