Peabody is the building, Jack is the dog, and I'm Dean J (she/her, btw).

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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

There's Something You're Overlooking in the UVA Rank Statistics

There are certain statistics that are commonly used when people talk about the strength of a group of students. They talk about average GPAs, testing, and rank. The data about those things is always interesting, but I like to caution people about leaning on those numbers too heavily. I've written about my reasons for this dozens of times over the 14 years that this blog has been around. Today, I'd like to revisit the discussion about rank.

First of all, I want to acknowledge that I have some personal baggage around rank. I went to high school at a time when reporting rank was the norm. Our exact rank was printed on our report cards back then and I remember my mother pulling out a calculator to figure out my rank percentage every time the report card arrived in the mail to figure out if I was doing well instead of looking at my grades. Ugh.

I now realize that rank provides some context to the grades on the transcript. I've written about this before and I trust that you'll click through on the "class rank" tag below and read past posts so I don't have to make this one any longer!

There is one detail about our rank statistics that people seem to be missing: the majority of our students attended high schools that don't report rank to colleges. We provide the percentage of students who were unranked right next to the ranking stats. Click on the third tab on that page to see the academic profile of the first-year class and scroll down to the bottom of the page.

You can toggle between looking at the entire class and a specific school/college at UVA. In every case except the School of Nursing, the majority of the students were unranked. There were 70 Nursing students in last year's entering class and 47% were unranked. Keep in mind that the vast majority of UVA students (3,000 of the 3,822 in the class) are in the College of Arts and Sciences.

If you asked me how strong our track team was an I said "well, I'll tell you about 43% of them," you wouldn't consider that information all that informative, right? Context matters when you're looking at statistics.