Q&A: Does the ranking of your high school matter for college applications?


Q: Does the ranking of your high school matter to college admissions?

A: Yes, at least at the university I’ve worked at.

For each application evaluation, the high school the applicant attends (or attended in the past) is given a score on a numeric scale (from 1-10, for example) and that score is based on a number of factors including how rigorous the high school’s academics are compared to other high schools in the state (or nationally), the free/reduced lunch rate, and the number of different AP tests taken. As a file reader, I see that “high school score” and use it when conducting the overall assessment of the applicant’s profile, especially as I consider their GPA or the number of AP/IB classes on their transcript.

So, for at least some schools, a high school’s “ranking” does matter to admissions officers who assess the overall rigor of the environment and coursework at the high school of each applicant when considering the applicant’s overall GPA, curriculum, and academic profile compared to their peers across the nation.

Courtesy of College Board.

Courtesy of College Board.


You can see this type of holistic assessment of a student’s learning environment happening on a larger scale as The College Board, the non-profit that administers the SAT, introduces a new metric, called “The Overall Disadvantage Level,” which will appear alongside every test-takers overall SAT score when the score is sent to colleges. The adversity score will include a “High School Environment” section for each tester that provides data on their high school’s undermatching rate, the curricular rigor, the free and reduced lunch rate, and the number of AP opportunities.