Relevance of an Indian Classical Instrument in Highly Selective BS Admissions

I understand boarding schools value inclination towards musical instruments but have so far not come across any apart from Western Classical Instruments - mainly ones used either in the orchestra, or marching bands, etc.

I have been playing the Tabla for 5 years and have passed my examinations with distinction.

Even though I will be able to continue learning the Tabla (most BS offer private tuition for it), I most probably won’t be able to participate in the Classical orchestra or marching band.

Will the top-7 BS value still value it, and will it increase my chances of acceptance?

Thank you.

They are unlikely to value it in the sense that you are bringing to the school something it needs, like a soccer goalie or a trombone for the orchestra. But it can make your application stand out and for schools that have a global/diversity emphasis, this could be appealing.

In the end, it will be what this reflects about you. Not that you do it.


Many top colleges are valuing diversity of all kinds and getting away from the absolute focus on Western Music. I don’t know if this has trickled down to boarding schools. If you are applying to larger schools, it is possible there will be others who can play in an ensemble with you. Or student composers who can write for you. You may actually be able to play along with some Western instruments. I would think that talent with the tabla would be highly valued and hope to hear it is.

Your commitment and hard work also say quite a bit about your character and work ethic.

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I don’t think it is relevant in the way you are hoping, it is not going to be such a strong hook as to get you admitted. However, it might be interesting enough to make your application stand out and if you are applying to larger BSs that don’t need you to fill a bucket, being interesting may be enough if the rest of your application is excellent.

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I understand. Thank you :slight_smile:

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And @mukberty , at the school DS attended (George), you would have a number of forums for this talent to be appreciated. So definitely highlight it if it’s important to you!

I disagree slightly with @gardenstatelegal but agree that in an environment that values diversity your music is a plus. Most top schools value diversity these days. And I would not assume there is noone else on campus who can play with you, or write for you, or whatever.

@compmom , I am not saying that there won’t be opportunities to play and collaborate with others. Nor am I saying that schools don’t value the kind of rich diversity such a student can offer.

But the OP was asking if this would be a hook. In that regard, no. As in no coach, development officer, etc is asking for this. But it’s a way to stand out in a very competitive pool. BS admissions can be really brutal, in part because even the biggest BS are quite small. So this is the OP’s “thing”, and you are right that it helps to have a thing!

OP will be in that group of “wow” kids who have won rubiks cube competitions, are top archers, fencers, rock climbers, JO gymnasts, and ranked table tennis players as well as those who have film and Broadway credits, etc. (Just doing a quick think on some of the accomplishments to my kid’s classmates.) Super achievements, all, and great to have in your student body, but none filling one of those “buckets” AOs are mandated to fill. But I would guess those achievements propelled them ahead of other unhooked kids!


Most of the indian parents would have steered their kids towards tabla or other indian instruments. So it won’t be that uncommon.

The teachers will have difficulty understanding how good of a tabla player you are. For classical western instruments, the music faculty typically have a good understanding. So thats where your difficulty is going to lie. For an instrument to count as a hook, you have to be REALLY good at it. So they will probably take notice. But they won’t fall over themselves.

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