The Horrors of Class Ranking


Lauren Grona, Staff

So, here’s the thing: as an American high schooler, school can be excruciating. There is an inevitable amount of social pressure that invites itself into everyone’s brain that doesn’t seem to go away, even for the most confident. Am I pretty enough? Am I liked by enough people? And the daunting question that seems to always shine through in transcripts whether you like to face the reality or not, “Am I smart enough?”

Yes, I know “your worth is not measured by your rank.” And it definitely is not. But let me tell you something: that does not stop highly-motivated people from beating themselves up about their placement in their class. It just doesn’t. 

When I was a freshman, I, like everyone else, was assigned to meet in the auditorium to pick up my transcript at a school assembly that could be anything from demeaning to uplifting. People were squealing because they were in the top ten percent, and others were hiding their papers from their friends, feeling less-than.

 I walked into that auditorium and was handed a paper that placed me as number two. I stopped walking. I think I even turned around, wanting to ask Mrs. Pyka if there was a mistake on my transcript. It was a paper with a lot of weight. I was now scored by the school for something that colleges drool over. Somehow, the instant that I saw that number, I felt nauseous. But why? That was supposed to be a good thing, so why did I feel like I was about to crawl out of my skin?

The pressure that comes with a number that scales you from “first to last” is intimidating, and in my case, breaks you. I used the pressure of my family and friends now knowing where I “placed” in my grade to fuel my fire for the next school year and felt my every move would be watched by my peers to see if I could maintain myself.  

So, needless to say, last year was a doozy. In the beginning, I was signed up for all sorts of advanced classes, tennis, and anatomy, all while trying to remain active in my friends’ lives, staying involved in clubs, and constantly reminding myself that I had something to prove to my family and myself. 

 I was crying almost every day, having panic attacks, and wasn’t able to function properly, which ended up with me starting to shut people out. About three weeks into the year, I realized that the route I was choosing was starting to deteriorate my health, my relationships with others, and my grades.

 After some long reflection, I had to make the decision to refrain myself from trying to succeed in everything, and just focus on some necessary components. The pressure of being under surveillance by my classmates, who are waiting for me to slip up for their better placement, got the best of me.

 This was difficult for me to accept because a common pattern in my life is once I commit to something and work hard, I typically achieve what I am striving to accomplish. I learned that finding my “breaking point” was great for my self-growth, for I was forced to take a step back and respect my own worth. 

There is something psychologically that can ruin a student when they have a strong desire to do well and only find self-validation in grades and school work. This is something I continue to combat throughout my school life. I noticed last year for the first time the emptiness I felt because I was starting to realize I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t know how to make myself happy other than a few relationships I had with others. 

When the year was finished, I was very proud of myself for choosing to find myself in the chaos that is high school. My GPA was hurt by my choices to retire in the insane number of classes I anticipated taking, but in the end, I don’t regret taking the time to give myself a much-needed breather. I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t want to be number one, but I would be telling you the truth if I told you that I think I am a better person because I am not.