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Benefits of Extracurricular Activities at Highland High School

Everyone knows that the core of education is within the academic curriculum, but extra-curricular activities are vital in teaching our teens the basics in not only surviving life but finding a life that's abundantly blessed. The key to a teen’s success later on in life has everything to do with a balanced high school experience, which includes those activities beyond math or biology class.
At a cost of only about 3 percent (or less in many cases) of an overall school’s budget, high school activity programs are one of the best bargains around.

Life Outside the Classroom

Sure, life in school is pretty interesting. You've got algebraic equations, Bunsen burners, sentence diagrams... but chances are, you've got commitments outside of school, too. Maybe you have a part time job, play in a band, are on a sports team, or do volunteer work.

Colleges Care

The good news is that colleges pay attention to your life both inside and outside the classroom. Yes, your academics probably come first, but your activities reveal a great deal about you, such as:

  • How you've made a meaningful contribution to something
  • What your non-academic interests are
  • Whether you can maintain a long-term commitment
  • Whether you can manage your time and priorities
  • What diversity you'd bring to the student body

Maintaining a Balance

Keep in mind, colleges are not interested in seeing you "do it all."
"We're looking for a commitment to and a passion for an activity outside of the academic setting—we're looking for depth rather than breadth," explains Nanci Tessier, a college admissions director.
Colleges don't have a checklist of requirements when it comes to extra-curricular activities—they want to see your individuality—and your consistent commitment.

Haven't Gotten Involved Yet?

Lots of school, community, and religious organizations give you chances to explore your interests and talents. If you haven't felt drawn into something yet, there's no shortage of opportunities for you to explore.

Work Experience

Work experience—paid or volunteer, year-round or summer—can help you identify career interests and goals, gain work experience, and apply classroom learning to the real world. It's also a great way to earn money for college, of course. Consider arranging for an internship or to shadow someone at his or her job.

Community Service

You can also gain skills and experience through volunteer work, such as by tutoring elementary school kids or spending time at a local hospital. Some schools even offer academic credit for volunteer work.

School Activities

It's pretty easy to find out about activities available at Highland. Once you start exploring, sometimes the challenge is figuring out how much to do. Here are some quick tips:

  • Stop by the Activities Office and pick up a list of the clubs and organizations available at school.
  • Find one or two that really interest you and talk to the sponsor about joining. Ask the sponsor to give you the name(s) of kids in the group to talk to also.
  • Most importantly, when you find something you like to do, stick with it.
  • If you're interested and have extra time, try to excel in more than one area. For example, write for the paper and volunteer. But make sure you're giving your all to each activity, and, most importantly, to your school work.
  • Don't worry about being president, or captain. The key is whether you've done something significant, center stage or behind the scenes.

Participation in extra-curricular activities will foster creative, social and physical skills that are desirable qualities to colleges and future employers. Involvement can strengthen self-esteem, build lasting friendships and create a lifetime of memories. These activities help define you in a different way than academic study will. Academics require so much of a teen's attention that subjects become jobs. Even a student who loves to read in spare time may find that assigned reading for an English class is work. Extra-curricular activities can provide a much-needed break from the academic grind.

Surprisingly, there is sufficient argument that students who are involved in extra-curricular activities earn better grades than students who are not. Parents may argue otherwise, and with good reasons. If a student's evenings are spent playing a sport or rehearsing a play, when will he or she have time to complete homework and study for tests?


However, students who have active lives learn very quickly how to manage their time. Procrastination is not an option for a student whose days are busy and structured. Students are much more likely to study during specified hours of down time than another student who "has the entire weekend, so right now I'll just play with my XBox."

Along those lines, students learn organizational skills from having to wisely budget their time. Calendars are necessary tools, not only for busy teens, but for busy adults, too! Learning how to use one properly is a fantastic skill to master, both in the classroom and after graduating. Parents can aid their teen in creating and maintaining the family calendar by allowing them to write practice schedules, due dates and study group meetings. It's fun, it keeps family members in-the-loop, and effectively maintains household sanity.

Better grades can also stem from the discipline that extra-curricular activities teach. Good coaches do not respond well to poor excuses for missing practices. Failing in a school subject generally hurts only the student. Failing at a group activity affects everyone. Involved students learn this truth quickly, and loyalty to themselves and teammates becomes an important priority.

Teamwork is another part of discipline and a very necessary skill. Understanding how to work well with others can guarantee a lifetime of positive relationships. In extra-curricular activities, students learn to encourage others, lift others' spirits, celebrate wins and learn from losses. Teamwork is well applied to studies. Group activities will be well monitored by the active students who already know how to share, delegate and carry their own weight!

The American College Testing Service compared the value of four factors in predicting success after high school. The one measurement that could be used to predict later success in life was achievement in school activities. Not useful as predictors were high grades in high school, high grades in college or high ACT scores.

The College Entrance Examination Board’s Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was examined in much the same way. It was found that having a high SAT score did not necessarily indicate success in a chosen career. The best predictor of later success, the study showed, was a person’s independent, self-sustained venture. Teens who were active in school activities were found to be most likely to succeed.

Besides higher grades, participation in activities helps students have a better attitude, according to a study conducted at the request of the Utah State Board of Education. In the study, students, parents, teachers and administrators agreed that being part of such activities serves not only as an incentive to do well in academic work, but it relieves tension and increases self-confidence.

Participation in high school activities is a valuable part of the overall high school experience.

  • Students who spend no time in extracurricular activities are 49% more likely to use drugs and 37% more likely to become teen parents than those who spend one to four hours per week in extracurricular activities (United States Department of Education. No Child Left Behind: The facts about 21st Century Learning. Washington, DC: 2002.)
  • In their 2006 report, Effects of Title IX and Sports Participation on Girls’ Physical Activity and Weight, Professors Kaestner and Xu of the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that the dramatic increase in sports participation among girls in the aftermath of the passage of Title IX was associated with an increase in physical activity and an improvement in weight and body mass among adolescent girls. They conclude that their results strongly suggest that Title IX and the increase in athletic opportunities among adolescent females it engendered had a beneficial effect on the health of adolescent girls.
  • A Harvard Educational Review article in 2002 found that participation in extracurricular activities in high school appears to be one of the few interventions that benefit low-status, disadvantaged students – those less well served by  traditional educational programs – as much or more than their more advantaged peers.
  • In telephone interviews of a national sample of teens in 2001, more than half (54%) said the wouldn’t watch so much TV or play video games if they had other things to do after school. The same survey found that more than half of teens wish there were more community or neighborhood-based programs available after school, and two- thirds of those surveyed said they would participate in such programs if they were available.
  • Bonnie Barber and her colleagues, contributors to the 2005 book, Organized Activities as Developmental Contexts for Children and Adolescents, concluded that making diverse clubs and activities available to a wide range of students is  important.

The opportunity to embed one’s identity in multiple extracurricular contexts and to experience multiple competencies facilitates attachment to school and adjustment. Activity participation is also linked to affiliation with peers who are academically focused. Adolescents can benefit from this synergistic system when they have opportunities to participate in diverse activities.

Students who compete in high school activity programs make higher grades and have better attendance.


  • According to the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, students who participate in the arts nine hours or more each week for at least a year are four times more likely to: be recognized for academic achievement, win a school attendance award, participate in a science and math fair and win an award for writing. They are also three times more likely to be elected to class office.
  • A survey of more than 300 schools conducted by the Minnesota State High School League showed the average student had a 2.44 GPA (4.0 scale), student-athletes had a 2.91 average and fine-arts students averaged 3.21. The average student was absent 10.5 days a year, athletes were absent 8.5 days and fine art’s participants were absent only 6.5 days a year. (Trevor Born. High Standard for GPA, in Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 14, 2007.)
  • A study published in the August 2007 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that students who took part in more vigorous sports like soccer or football or skateboarding, did approximately 10% better in math, science, English and social studies classes.

Participation in activity programs yields positive results after high school as well.


  • Participation in extra-curricular activities provides all students – including students from disadvantaged backgrounds, minorities and those with otherwise less than distinguished academic achievements in high school – a measurable and meaningful gain in their college admissions test scores according to researchers Howard T. Everson and Roger E. Millsap, writing for the College Entrance Examination Board in 2005.
  • In a 2006 research project published by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), it was found that 18-25 years old who participate in sports activities while in high school were more likely than nonparticipants to be engaged in volunteering, regular volunteering, registering to vote, voting in the 2000 election, feeling comfortable speaking in a public setting, and watching news (especially sport news) more closely than non-participants.
  • An extensive study commissioned by the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association  found, in that Canadian province in 2006, an average of 78.3% of Alberta’s top corporate CEOs and Members of the Legislative Assembly had participated in interschool sports. Nearly 80% indicated that being involved in school sports significantly, extensively or moderately complemented their career development and/or academic pursuits. This same study pointed out that normal participation rate of students in high school sports is around 30 to 35%.
  • The corporate and political leaders surveyed in Alberta (see above) cited the following benefits associated with their involvement in high school athletics: teamwork, discipline, goal setting, leadership, independence, self confidence,  stress relief, character development and personal growth, fair play, and acceptance of others.

From a cost standpoint, activity programs are an exceptional bargain when matched against the overall school district’s education budget.

  • Generally speaking, the NFHS has researched various school districts’ budget information across the country that activity programs make up only one to three percent of the overall education budget in a school. In the Midwest, South, and West that figure is even less.
  • In the 2007 school year, the city of Chicago’s Public School Board of Education’s overall budget was $4.6 billion dollars, and activity programs received only $36.2 million, a minuscule one-seventh of one percent (.00789).
  • In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area, their Board of Education proposed in their overall 2008 $1.2 billion dollars. Their activity programs received only $4.7 million dollars, one-third of one percent (.0038).
  • Finally, in the northwestern part of the country, in the Seattle Public School system, their Board of Education has a 2008 overall budget of $339.7 million dollars, while setting aside $3.2 million dollars for activity programs for a scant one-ninth of one percent (.00942).

Activity programs fulfill students’ basic needs, help in students’ attitudes toward self and school and minimize dropout and discipline problems.

  • Researcher Richard Learner, writing in Promoting Positive Youth Development through Community After-School Programs, found that informal educational and developmentally supportive experiences offered to young people in the context of after-school or community-based programs are a potent source of resources increasing the probability of positive development among youth.
  • In 2003, the Journal of Adolescent Research reported that extracurricular activity participation is linked to lower rates of dropping out of school, greater civic involvement and higher levels of academic achievement. Moreover, research tracking participation from eighth through twelfth grades and examining outcomes in the post-secondary years concluded that consistent participation has positive effects that last over a moderate length of time.
  • Extracurricular activities stand out from other aspects of adolescents’ lives at school because, according to the Winter 2005 issue of the Journal of Leisure Research, they provide opportunities to develop initiative and allow youth to learn emotional competencies and develop new social skills.
  • A study conducted by Boston University, and published in Adolescence, Winter 2001, reported on a survey of 1,115 Massachusetts high school students. Survey results indicated that athletes were significantly less likely to use cocaine and psychedelics, and less likely to smoke cigarettes.
  • Researchers writing in 2004 in the American Journal of Health Behavior conducted an examination of cross-sectional data from a nationally representative sample of high school students enrolled in public high schools in the U.S. They showed that students participating in organized sports were 25 percent less likely to be current cigarette smokers.
  • Stephanie Gerstenblith and her fellow researchers, writing in the 2005 book, Organized Activities as Developmental Contexts for Children and Adolescents state, “Just as schools with efficient procedures and structure have been found to have positive outcomes, our findings indicate that participants in after school programs with these qualities experience reductions in rebellious behavior and increases in intentions not to use drugs.”

Co-curricular activities teach lessons that lead to better citizens.

  • Nancy Darling, et al., writing in the 2005 Journal of Leisure Research notes that extracurricular activities allow youth to form new connections with peers and acquire social capital. They are one of the few contexts, outside of the classroom, where adolescents regularly come in contact with adults to whom they are not related.
  • Students who spend no time in extracurricular activities are 49% more likely to use drugs and 37% more likely to become teen parents than those who spend one to four hours per week in extracurricular activities (United States Department of Education. No Child Left Behind: The facts about 21st Century Learning. Washington, DC: 2002.)
  • On June 23, 2000, then President Bill Clinton issued an Executive Memorandum directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Education to work together to identify and report within 90 days on “strategies to promote better health for our nation’s youth through physical activity and fitness.” The resulting report entitled “Promoting Better Health for Young People Through Physical Activity and Sports was released in November 2000 and stated that “enhancing efforts to promote participation in physical activity and sports among young people is a critical national priority.”

To conclude, encourage your teen or any teen to get involved in extra-curricular activities. What they will learn is more valuable than it may appear to be. The time it takes away from studying and book learning will be replaced with a good self esteem that can achieve anything. With a determined will, success will follow.

Life needs to be balanced with activity which stimulates a child's inner spirit and mind. High school activities are the best way to accomplish that, so take advantage while you can. You'll never regret it, and the memories you'll take along will remain.

Involvement in extra-curricular activities does not have to be expensive, overly time consuming, or exhausting. It doesn't even have to be school related. Religious groups often offer activities for youths, generally requiring only a few hours per week worth of time. Get creative. If no school activities look interesting, try volunteering. Animal shelters, food banks, and hospitals are always in need of help with various duties.
The choice of extra-curricular activity matters little. What matters most is the student's enjoyment of it. Amazingly, the rest of the benefits simply fall into place!

The benefits of teens being involved in extra-curricular activities far outweigh the benefits if they were not involved at all. Whether it be an in-school activity or community involvement, it is an excellent decision to make. Keeping teens busy outside of their regular school hours is important.

When a teen has too much time on their hands and do not put their extra time to good use, it usually leads to activities of a not so good nature. It is a good idea to start them in activities in grade school and have them continue throughout their high school years. It will make a well-rounded student out of them.

With so many different sports such as baseball, softball, soccer and various clubs like the drama and school newspaper clubs just to name a few, there should not be time for them to become bored and possibly go astray. Plus, practice makes perfect and the longer they stay involved, the better they become at a certain activity and the more they will like it and look forward to participating. It will become a desire to them instead of them considering it just a chore. Volunteering at the local hospital and tutoring other students is also another activity they can become involved with. It also sets a good example for the underclassmen when they see their peers doing something good for themselves while helping out another at the same time.

There are also other benefits other than staying out of trouble when getting involved in extra-curricular activities. They will not realize it from the start, but when they become junior and seniors in high school and begin to think about attending college, most colleges and technical schools like to see what activities they participated in. It makes a good resume for them when it comes time for their exit interviews also. When they become really good at a certain sport, it can also lead to offers from different colleges for a full-paid scholarship.

If that is not incentive, I do not know what is.