Orchestra or Other Focus for Aspiring MD?

Question: Hi. I am a freshman in high school and I am currently taking orchestra. I am in the middle class orchestra at my school between the worst orchestra and the best orchestra. I was wondering what colleges want to see in a possible candidate for their school. I want to become a doctor. I kind of thought to myself that maybe something else for 4 years would be better looking than orchestra. I was thinking of doing AP Statistics in Sophomore year if I don’t do orchestra but other than that i am not sure. Thank you.

If you enjoy orchestra, you should stick with it and not worry that you’re not in the top group. But if you’re lukewarm, you can rest assured that dropping orchestra in favor of other academic or extracurricular pursuits will not hurt your college admission prospects and may, in fact, help them. College admission officials see a ton of “orchestra” listings on applications. While all the college folks would agree that playing in an orchestra or band is a worthwhile use of a teenager’s time, it’s very rare that student musicians stand out in the crowd when admission decisions are being made. There are simply too many of them. At the most selective colleges and universities, some applicants have amazing music credentials … even world class. So, the more selective the school, the harder it is for young musicians to set themselves apart from “competitor” candidates.

If you plan to be a doctor, your time in high school might be better spent by taking the most rigorous math and science classes that are offered, if you feel you can handle them. These would include not only AP Stats, which you’re eyeing for next year, but also AP Calculus, as well as AP Chem, Physics, and Biology. In addition, you should look for extracurricular activities that will give you a glimpse into the medical world. Hospital volunteering is the most obvious of these, and you probably live near a hospital that provides volunteer opportunities. As you get older, you might want to also consider less common medical-related undertakings such as doing research (either on your own, in conjunction with a teacher, or with a local college professor, etc.).  If it’s important for you to earn money after school,  there are usually paid part-time jobs for teens at hospitals and nursing homes. Commonly these are food services positions, so you won’t be making diagnoses or performing surgery. 😉 But, nonetheless, your duties will expose you to a health-care environment and you may even have some interaction with the patients.  Participating in a medical-related extracurricular endeavor will not only show admission officials that you are serious about your goals but, above all, will help you determine if this is what you truly want to do as a career.

So, only stick with the orchestra if you think you’ll really miss it if you don’t.  But also keep in mind that, just because you’re not in your school orchestra anymore, it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep on making music with your friends or by yourself. And, when it comes time to apply to colleges, admission officials will be interested in hearing about all of your favorite activities … not just the official ones that are sponsored by your school or an outside organization.

Hope that helps. Good luck to you as you make your plans.

(posted 2/9/2017)