What if my high school doesn't rank?

View from La Montana at Macchu Picchu

View from La Montana at Macchu Picchu

Despite 97% of applicants coming from high schools that provide a rank (GPA compared against one's peers), there is a lot of confusion for the other 3% on how UT handles non-ranking high schools.

UT only considers your class rank. They do not look at your GPA whether it is weighted or unweighted. They also do not consider your performance on AP exams or the number of advanced courses taken. They also do not give credit for receiving an IB Diploma or graduating on the Distinguished Achievement Plan.

The state of Texas requires that any student who receives automatic admission must receive a letter from their high school. In practice, even non-ranking high schools send a "rank letter" to the Office of Admissions for those top students even if the student doesn't realize it.

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I understand why some high schools choose not to rank their students. It is popular at independent schools and is becoming an increasingly more common practice at public schools. Not providing a rank can help with a lot of most selective private universities that are more concerned with your overall GPA rather than how you compare to your peers.

At UT, however, nonranking schools can make the process more difficult.

Students don't have a clear idea what their admissions chances are, and UT must do their best to make an educated guess what a student's ranking would be if their school provided one.

Whether your high school provides a rank or not should not influence how you approach your application. You cannot control how UT assesses your transcript. Nonranking, out of state, and international students apply like anyone else.

UT does not review applicants against their classmates nor do they have informal quotas about the number of students they ill admit from a given high school. The only time a student's classmates come into the review process is when UT reviews the transcript and assigns a rank.

UT will "derive" a rank using a complicated algorithm. This algorithm accounts for the previous school profiles and applicants along with the current year's school profile. You cannot request or access your assigned ranking. Almost all non-ranking schools provide a GPA distribution showing the average GPA for the top 20%, 20-40%, and so on. 

Using the distributions from your school's counseling office, you can get a good idea of roughly where you would rank. According to this table, if your GPA is a 3.95, then you are ranking at the top of the first quintile.

The more information that UT-Austin has from previous applicants, the more accurate the derived ranking. For most students applying from nonranking Texas high schools that produce many applicants each year, the derived ranking will be accurate within a percentage point or two.

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For students who come from less common high schools outside of Texas, UT may only be able to roughly estimate your rank: the middle of the first quarter, in the top 5%, the top of the second quarter, etc. 

Your derived ranking along with your single best ACT/SAT testing date will compute your Academic Index. The Academic Index is half of the admissions review equation.

The derived ranking is an imperfect system, but there is no ideal way to assess a student's transcript or their performance relative to their classmates.

Regardless of whether your school provides a rank, you should put forward your best effort on factors you can control like your essays, resume, and recommendation letters.