The Real Benefits of Extracurriculars

When school districts face spending cuts, the first things on the chopping block tend to be extracurricular activities. Some schools now charge a pay-to-play fee for everything from sports to band, others outsource activities to outside organizations, and others still cut non-academic groups altogether.

While cutting extracurriculars might seem like a budgetary necessity, some evidence suggests that it hurts students beyond taking away their favorite afterschool activity. Students involved in extracurriculars do better academically, and while there’s a chicken-lays-an-egg element to that (do extracurriculars drive students to excel elsewhere or do naturally driven students happen to be interested in extracurriculars?), the numbers still provide a promising picture.

Studies show that students involved in non-academics are 97 percent more likely to go to college than their counterparts. These students are less likely to cut class and more often than not have a GPA of at least 3.0. They’re also more likely to finish college, as well as more likely to be civically engaged.

There’s always that valedictorian who led the debate team to victory at state and wowed audiences as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, but that’s not the case with all students. For some, extracurriculars are an incentive to stay engaged in school, either academically or socially. Many schools don’t let students participate in extracurriculars if they’re on academic probation, so students must keep their grades up. Beyond that, afterschool activities offer a chance to experience problem solving, time management and leadership in situations that resemble the real world more than the classroom ever could.

There’s also anecdotal evidence about not wanting to disappoint the adults who lead these clubs and teams, with students spending so much time around them that they become role models. As someone who was involved in drama club, the school’s improv troupe and the student literary magazine – among other organizations – I can attest to this and other reasons given above.

These days we hear so much about extracurriculars being the ticket to getting accepted to your college of choice. I’d argue that even more than that – and from personal experience – that non-academics are a way to build character, build friendships and develop passions that will last a lifetime.

Are extracurriculars in danger of being cut at your school? If you have students involved in extracurriculars, do they excel academically, or are they over taxed?

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