You may have asked yourself: how many valedictorians are there in the U.S.? There are around 26,000 high schools in the United States, both public and private. They have different mascots, traditions, numbers of students, and academic records. Not all will have valedictorians; not all schools rank students in this way. Most will, however, which gives us something to ponder.
My high school had a valedictorian, though I can’t remember who it was, or where they went to college, though I’m sure it was a good school. I was not valedictorian, nor were any of the friends I made once I arrived at college. Indeed, some of my classmates likely were valedictorians at their school, but it never came up. There was always something more interesting, or amusing, to discuss.
This is not to say that being a valedictorian is a useless achievement, indeed, it is quite an impressive feat, and one which is properly lauded. That said, being a valedictorian is also not as important as some students or parents think it is.
Achieving the rank of valedictorian means that you rank first in your graduating class, in terms of grade point average. Ties are possible, though not usual. If the Ivy League wanted, they could fill their halls with nothing but valedictorians, taking the highest graded student from each high school. They don’t do this however, taking an alternate route to select the students they believe will fit best at their institutions.
Being a valedictorian does count for something, but is not a magic “get into college free” card. There are 26,000 valedictorians each year, and each will get into a good college. Not all of them will get into the Ivy League, or attend the best possible schools, or even get into their first choice college. But the skills and abilities that led them to being valedictorian in high school will continue to serve them well, in college and beyond.
You should strive for high grades in high school, not because it’s what colleges want to see, but because it will set you up well for future success in life. Most of the activities which colleges like to see should not be pursued because you think they will look good, but for the enjoyment of the activity itself, or for your own enrichment. In the same way, pursuing being valedictorian will not guarantee your admission into college, but is instead a noble accomplishment in its own right, one worth pursuing on its own.