If you want to be valedictorian, then you must be very ambitious, having your sights on elite schools such as Harvard, Yale, Duke, or Amherst. But remember that when you apply to colleges such as these, valedictorians will be a dime a dozen. Being valedictorian will keep you in the running and will impress admissions officers, but you want to avoid looking like a cold grade-obsessed automaton and show that you have depth, several other interests, and that you're a good citizen of your community.
Even William R. Fitzsimmons, the dean of admissions at Harvard, recently said, “I think, it’s a bit of an anachronism. This has been a long tradition, but in the world of college admissions, it makes no real difference.” Being valedictorian in addition to showing strengths in sports, community service, or the arts will help you be an amazing candidate. But being ranked #10 in your class and doing these same things won't make you look much worse. Your SAT score will also have a major impact on your college acceptances. Many colleges place equal weight on your GPA and your SAT score -- that means your effort for four years of high school courses will amount to about as much as your efforts on a 3.5 hour exam! Sound fair? It isn't, but you've got to get used to it.