Why Doesn’t PDS Have GPA, Valedictorian, or Class Rankings?

Hallie Hoffman , Staff Writer for Spokesman

Unlike most high schools, Princeton Day School does not calculate GPA, issue class rankings, or select a valedictorian. This may seem unconventional, but by not following these practices, PDS is able to promote equality and limit competitive thinking. In addition to being beneficial to the PDS community, this is also a strategic move when it comes to college admissions.

PDS does not release any GPAs to colleges, but instead answers this question with “not applicable.” Not releasing this information forces colleges to calculate a student’s GPA themselves, meaning that they will have to look more carefully at the student as a whole rather than simply using the number given by the high school. This way, colleges see what classes a student has taken and are able to analyze the student more carefully.

Assigning class rankings and GPA’s actually works against our institutional goal of ensuring that college admissions committees give all of our students an individualized, holistic, three- dimensional evaluation,” explained Head of Upper School Jason Robinson. “We don’t want kids to be reduced to a number, be it a GPA or class ranking, and so we’ve learned that by not assigning a GPA or class ranking, we can force college committees to do what we want them to do, which is to get to know our kids as individuals.”

Director of College Counseling Sarah Graham explained that GPA’s are a shortcut, and that not sending them to colleges has only helped students. It has never hindered their acceptance in any way. “Of those schools that PDS students apply to, we spend a lot of time in conversation with them making sure that our policies are helpful to students, and across the board we hear that they are,” said Ms. Graham. “I’m happy to be in a place where we really can take the time to fully explain each student to a college admissions office.”

Not assigning students a numerical value to their school performance helps them to continue to grow and evolve as students and people. Senior Caroline Lippman agreed and said, “Being number one might mean you have the highest test average in all your classes, but I don’t know if that necessarily reflects who you are as a person or the things you do outside of school.” Furthermore, intelligence should not be measured by a single number, and PDS wants students to be recognized for who they are and what they have done, not what they have scored. Without constantly checking their GPA and class ranking, students can see themselves in this more well-rounded and accurate way.

“When kids graduate, the hope is that what they learn and what they’ve come to embody is deeper and more fundamental and profound than just their GPA,” remarked Mr. Robinson. “Trying to express a student’s time with us in the form of that number trivializes it, reduces it, tries to quantify something that’s really not quantifiable,” he concluded.