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Articles / Applying to College / Orchestra or Other Focus for Aspiring MD?

Feb. 9, 2017

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.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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