Should Asian Student Take Drama at the Expense of GPA and Rank?

Question: I am currently a high school freshman, and I am in a scheduling dilemma. I am an Asian male and am very involved in math competitions, science competitions, engineering competitions. However, I have a passion for theater.

I am currently taking Drama 1 this year. The enthusiasm of all the other kids for drama is quite low. I also am a very good proving points and arguing about subjects, and I am considering taking debate next year instead of drama.

I can, however, take AP classes and get a higher class rank if I do not take neither drama nor debate next year.

I would take drama all four years to show colleges that I have a commitment to something I love, but I’m not sure whether it is worth sacrificing the GPA, class rank, possible valedictorian, and the AP courses.

Can you help me to decide whether to take drama all four years, take debate the next three years, or take neither and take AP courses in place of them?

What if you could have your cake and eat it, too? Can you elect AP classes and pursue your academic interests during the school day and then indulge your theatrical passion outside of school hours?

That’s what my own son is doing. Well, right now he’s just in middle school and there are no drama classes at all. But he has been in an out-of-school improv troupe since third grade, and he also acts in independent films, public service announcements, and commercials. Next year, when he starts high school, he may not be able to fit drama classes into his schedule, and he definitely won’t be able to take part in school theater productions because he plays three sports (which will conflict with rehearsals). But he can still schedule his out-of-school acting endeavors around his other commitments.

Since you are Asian, you may already understand that your college applications are more likely to stand out in a hyper-competitive crowd if you offer interests and activities beyond the stereotypical math and science. Moreover, in many cases, out-of-school theater activities—especially those where teenagers are collaborating with others from different generations, not just with their peers—can carry more clout in admission offices than the usual high-school-drama-club résumé items. You can also look into summer acting classes and camps or try volunteering at a local community theater.

As for debate … well that’s up for debate. 😉 It doesn’t sound like you have the same enthusiasm for it that you do for drama. Thus, if it fits in your schedule without torpedoing your GPA or taking time away from other stronger interests, then include it. Otherwise, let it go.

So if you are excited about math, science, and drama, there’s no reason why you have to sacrifice anything … including your GPA and class rank … to do what you love.

(posted 1/25/2011)