School Band vs. Higher Class Rank

Question: My daughter is finishing her freshman year in High School. She is active in her high school marching band. In order to participate in the band you must be enrolled in “band” as a class. This class is classified as a general study and doesn’t have an AP or Honors level. We decided she could participate as a freshman and revisit the scenario for her sophomore year schedule because all the students are required to take a general study art class for graduation. The reason this class now becomes an issue is that it will affect her weighted GPA as a senior essentially eliminating her from being valedictorian or perhaps even top 10 (she was valedictorian in 8th grade). On the admission side do they prefer a top 5 (class of ~550) or a top 20 with the marching band activity? I should note that although she excels in music – it is not something she wishes to pursue. At this time she is set on engineering.

College admission officials will usually tell you that a student should pursue interests outside of academics and that it’s fine for an applicant to stick with band, even though it’s not a “weighted” class and so this choice will probably have a negative impact on GPA and class rank.

BUT … I’ve found that these admission folks often speak with forked tongues and don’t always practice what they preach. In other words, they are likely to be more impressed by the candidate with the higher rank and grades than they are with the student who marched with her flute or clarinet at graduation. While every admission official on the planet will tell you that band is a very worthwhile activity, there is certainly nothing unique or “sexy” about it that will jump off the page at decision time. Sure, plenty of band students are admitted to “elite” colleges every year, but, in your daughter’s particular case, it sounds like band isn’t the right choice.

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