Hi :) Current junior here. I have been playing flute for eight years and have been principal flutist of a very competitive youth orchestra for two years. Flute used to be the only thing I did outside of school up until about a year ago. My life essentially revolved around flute. Heck, even my username is flute-related.
Anyway, I want to quit. Honestly, quitting used to be something completely unthinkable a couple of months ago (like I would hate on myself for thinking about it). I’ve changed significantly as a person in the past year and now gravitate more towards different types of activities (especially more creative/idea-oriented things, like research and songwriting). I’ve started learning music composition and am super excited about it (although I’m also very bad at it right now). I don’t like practicing very much now and practice much less.
My parents want me to keep practicing enough to get me into my orchestra again because 1. It’s a competitive orchestra in something I’ve worked a lotttt in, 2. it’s important to demonstrate continuity, 3. I’ve been principal for 2 years, so it shouldn’t be too hard to maintain that. I feel like I don’t deserve to be there though since I’m not as passionate as I used to be. I feel really bad about that. Would the significance of my accomplishments be “devalued” if I don’t do my orchestra senior year? Would it look bad to quit?
Hi there! This is a complex question with a lot of factors at play. Before giving any advice, I want to encourage you to reflect on some of the thoughts you shared here.
First, what is it that has made you want to quit flute? It seems as though there has been a pretty fast change in just the past year away from something you've spent a lot of time and effort on. This isn't to say that you should just stick with flute because you always have, but I encourage you to think about the reasons you're considering quitting. You mention that you've changed in the past year -- what has driven that change, and have you changed in ways that are incompatible with continuing with the flute? Are the new activities that you're interested in incompatible with continuing the flute? It sounds, for example, like you're still interested in music and music-making, so perhaps you've just lost the joy of playing flute and looking at it from a new perspective, like composition and songwriting, will help you rediscover that joy (and perhaps it won't). If you're passionate about composition, there is nothing stopping you from playing the flute and writing music at the same time (or even writing music for the flute!).
In terms of whether this "looks bad" from a college admissions standpoint:
Colleges do tend to like to see commitment to something over time, especially when that commitment comes with leadership and distinction in the activity. However, they are also very keen on sniffing out when someone does something because they think it looks good as opposed to because they love it. This comes across especially in essays, where writing about something without any passion is evident and can often count against you. If you choose to discontinue flute, I would recommend keeping it as part of your life (especially via composition) to show some kind of continuity while also demonstrating your own agency -- that you, not the flute, are in the driver's seat. Keep in mind also that even if you choose not to do the orchestra next year, you will be listing the first 3 years of high school on the activities section as well.
One last note before I wrap up is not to think of things like this in terms of "deserve" -- you have worked tirelessly for years to earn and maintain your spot as principal, and you are not "stealing" that position from someone else.
All this to say: another year of playing the flute would look good on your applications, but it is not the only thing that looks good. If you leave the orchestra but pursue music through some other avenue, this can be a compelling narrative, especially if it makes you happy and you're passionate about it. If you do choose to discontinue flute, be sure to commit yourself to other activities and really immerse yourself in them to build a sense of connection to them; colleges will want to see that you're not just resting on your laurels senior year and riding on your past achievements. In short, quitting the orchestra does not look bad in and of itself; doing nothing with that extra time you'll free up will be a hurdle for your application. You can still feel free to write essays about the flute if you choose to quit, and you shouldn't feel obligated to explain your choice to quit as long as those essays convey a sense of passion. It is possible that you will be able to write compelling essays about your current musical endeavors that grew out of your years of flute playing. There are plenty of opportunities outside this orchestra; make use of them.
I would honestly recommend you do what you like, and if it is in this case flute you can if you want, since it won´'t be necessarily bad if you can make that up with another in interest. What I am trying to say is, if you mean "would it look bad for colleges", it won't since all they would want you to do in EC's is pursue your interest to show that you are really passionate about it, so if you don't like flute anymore, then you shouldn't try to do it. So, you should try to compensate that by trying your best n your new area of interest,
But honestly, you can still do flute if you have some interest in it, as well as your other new interests like song writing if you want to do it, since you been doing for eight years. I mean I play the flute and I still love it(but I could understand), since you put so much time in that interest only quit it if you truly don't want to do it anymore.
Coming to your second question, I don't think your significance will be "devalued", since it doesn't change the fact that you are a skilled flute player. It will only show that your interests changed, so I think it will be fine if you put good effort into song-writing. I think the colleges will understand, if you describe your reason well in your essays, and it may even look good to an extent that you are wanting to pursue what you truly like, and not just for the sake that it might look good for colleges.
Thank you, hope it helped! - but honestly, you don't fully have to quit flute in order to do song composition(they go hand-in-hand & having 2 EC's is good), so I would simply recommend to quit it only if you truly don't want to do it anymore. Also, I would recommend trying more than one EC's, though they don't have to be academic.
P.S. I am(or was) also a flutist...
There's a few things I want to say about this. First, don't let anyone or anything (even yourself) guilt you into thinking you don't deserve to be somewhere or do something. You have the talent and you put in the work; that qualifies you. What is important is that you put real effort into it even if it's not something you're totally passionate about anymore. Passion is nothing without the work that accompanies it, but it doesn't have to "validate" your work. Your work speaks for itself.
Second, that said, do what's best for yourself. If you begin to feel increasingly negative and actually averse to flute with time, it may be best to step away. You don't want it to damage your mental health if you don't need to. If you lose all desire to play flute, there's no point in forcing it. It will only make you more miserable and eventually hate the flute.
On the other hand, if you don't feel THAT strongly against playing flute, I'd suggest continuing for one more year. As you've said, you're already in a really good place regarding your career as a flutist. It's much easier to maintain than to start doing something, plus you only have one year left. If you quit all of a sudden, that's okay, but you'll need a really good reason to justify it to admissions officers. For example, you said you changed significantly as a person in the last year. What did that look like? How significant was the change? How did you feel during the process of change? Why did you change? What are your reflections on that change going forward? If you have solid, strong things to say about this, it could make for a very interesting, strong essay. But again, that depends on your answers to those questions and how significant you think they are in terms of illustrating who you are as a person.
Finally, I'd say unless you're going into music school, it's definitely advisable to get involved in other ECs. Preferably, actually, you would have gotten involved in more of a variety one or two years ago. The CommonApp activity list is 10 activities long; while they say it's not necessary to fill all 10 spots, many people do, and having only one thing to put on that form probably wouldn't look very good. That being said, you have some decisions to make. If flute is taking up so much of your time it's impossible to become more involved, I would consider dropping it (especially if it has no relation to what you want to do in the future). On the other hand, it's already kind of late to demonstrate any continuity with other ECs since you'll be starting college apps in a few months. You could definitely get involved over the summer if you like, but that's something to consider.
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