Extracurricular Activities in Basic Education

Basic education obviously goes beyond what occurs inside a classroom. Part of growing up, both social and intellectual, involves activities outside academics. College admissions take into account not only how a student performs in tests.  The grades a student has on his or her transcript are often not the only thing colleges consider. Higher institutions of learning try to learn more about each applicant. Colleges like to see what a student thinks is worth spending his or her effort and time. Pooja Yesantharao and Ishan Puri write in the Huffington Post, "Admission to your dream college is not only contingent on academic success, but also your extracurricular work. College admission officers want to know you as more than just a number- they want to know what makes you tick - what are you passionate about, what drives you?"

Above copied from Huffington Post

Extracurricular activities do not just help in college admissions. In fact, extracurricular activities help a student succeed in academics. Research shows that participating in performance arts/clubs, for instance, in middle school is correlated with better grades in ninth grade. On the other hand, playing sports correlates with self-esteem and valuing education.

Effects of Extracurricular Participation During Middle School on Academic Motivation and Achievement at Grade 9

  1. Myung Hee Im
    1. American Institutes for Research
  2. Jan N. Hughes
  3. Qian Cao
  4. Oi-man Kwok
    1. Texas A&M University


We investigated the effect of participating in two domains of extracurricular activities (sports and performance arts/clubs) in Grades 7 and 8 on Grade 9 academic motivation and letter grades, above baseline performance. Participants were 483 students (55% male; 33% Euro-American, 25% African American, and 39% Latino). Propensity score weighting controlled for potential confounders in all analyses. Delayed (Grade 8 only) and continuous participation (Grades 7 and 8) in sports predicted competence beliefs and valuing education; delayed and continuous participation in performance arts/clubs predicted teacher-rated engagement and letter grades. Benefits of participation were similar across gender and ethnicity; however, Latino youth were least likely to participate in extracurricular activities. Implications for reducing ethnic and income disparities in educational attainment are discussed.

The above research takes into account "propensity scores to minimize selection effects in nonexperimental studies". Students who are equally likely to participate in an extracurricular activity are grouped together so that any correlation between extracurricular activities and academic performance is not due to another factor. This is important because participation in extracurricular activities, as expected, correlates with race and socio-economic status. As noted in the study, Hispanics are less likely to participate in extracurricular activities compared to Whites. On the other hand, African Americans are as likely to be engaged in sports as Whites but not in the performance arts. Taking these factors out allows for finding a relationship, if there is any, between extracurricular activities and academic performance. Not doing so only leads to the familiar academic gaps due to race and socioeconomic status.

With propensity scores, the correlation becomes cleaner. Extracurricular activities are indeed correlated with academics. And since minorities and poor children participate less in these activities, this simply becomes one more channel for wealthy children to have advantage over others. Thus, the study concludes that disadvantaged students should be provided ample opportunities for extracurricular activities. This is one way to increase engagement in school, reduce dropouts, and temper the effects of poverty on education.