With students feeling mounting pressure to crack the top 10 percent of their class rankings for college admissions, the principal of Eden Prairie High School wants to join other high-achieving schools in the region in eliminating class rank from students' transcripts.

Principal Conn McCartan has submitted the proposal to the Eden Prairie school board, arguing that by eliminating rankings, students would feel less pressure and ultimately could take more "rigorous courses" without the fear of slipping in class rank, which many consider all-important in college admissions.

Many colleges use class rank to determine whether an applicant should be considered for admission. Because Eden Prairie has such a competitive student body, ranking in the top 10 percent of the current senior class requires a 3.89 grade point average or higher on a 4.0 scale. Eden Prairie High does not weight grades for Advanced Placement and other honors courses as some schools do.

The high school previously considered removing class rankings from transcripts in 2004, but McCartan said the proposal did not win approval from the school board. He is more confident that it will pass this time around because other area schools have set the precedent.

Wayzata, Edina and Minnetonka high schools already have stopped listing class rankings on their student transcripts. And Hopkins and Delano high schools also are considering dropping class ranks from transcripts.

Though class rank is rarely given as the definitive reason why an applicant is not accepted to a college or university, McCartan said some students believe their class rank has hurt them. "I don't know if we can exactly say that that was the case," he said, "but some may feel that this is that way."

Boasting rights

Colleges and universities often boast of the percentage of their incoming students who ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class. At the University of Minnesota, class rank percentiles are listed by school, and the most selective, the Carlson School of Management, says 76 percent of this year's freshman class ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 59 percent of all freshmen this year ranked in the top 10 percent as high school seniors.

At Eden Prairie, the high school assembled a Class Rank Task Force in December to explore the issue. McCartan sent an e-mail to students and parents seeking volunteers for the committee. Of those who responded, McCartan chose four students, five parents and six staff members to serve on the panel.

Throughout January, the group met to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of removing rankings from transcripts.

Phil Kittock, an Eden Prairie sophomore, said that in a school as large as Eden Prairie, "there's a really big disconnect between having a good GPA and class rank." He said by dropping the class rankings, student will be considered for colleges based on factors that matter more, such as their overall GPA and the courses they took.

"It encourages colleges to look at all the other aspects, including coursework and GPA," he said.

The school board and superintendent will look at the proposal in the next few weeks, and it could take effect for the students in next year's senior class.

For McCartan, "The sooner the better."

Joy Petersen is a University of Minnesota journalism student on assignment for the Star Tribune.