Many schools still use a fairly straightforward methodology for determining rank, but there are schools where class rank has become a bit more complicated. There are schools where large groups of students are huddled at the same spot in the class. There are school that give the #1 spot in the class to anyone with a 4.0 GPA. Most of those schools are on weighted GPA scales where the highest GPA in the class is in the neighborhood of 4.50. There's a school where 114 students are holding the first spot in the class right now.
You're in good company, at some schools.
So why is rank interesting to us? When it is reported, it can help us understand how strong an applicant's work has been in the context of their class and their school. We're aren't ruled by rank, just as we aren't ruled by testing, GPA, or other statistics. The reported statistics contribute to review.
Some schools have stopped reporting rank. In those cases, we often get GPA and grade distribution charts (via the school profile...see the second half of those post for more about that) that provide context for us.
Here's an example of a GPA distribution chart:
Here's part of a (much longer) grade distribution chart:
We publish a chart that shows where students who were admitted ranked in their high school class (if they attended a high school that provides rank to colleges) in case you are curious. Just remember that your admission decision doesn't rest on one statistic. All of the information in your file is used to arrive at a decision.