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The Positive Effects of Participation in Extracurricular Activities

Black (2002) acknowledged that extracurricular participation and academic achievement are directly linked. Participating in extracurricular activities promotes commitment from the student and that same commitment carries over to their role as a student.

What are extracurricular activities? What are the different types of extracurricular activities students participate in at school?

The definition of Extra-curricular activities (ECAs) was broad and included all the activities beyond ‘the classroom’ (Stuart, 2011). Extra-curricular activities are activities not part of the regular school curricular program, and they are structured in the way of not just socializing, but working towards some prosocial mission or goal (Holland and Andre, 1987). ECAs in schools refer to classes and programs that are not considered to be part of the core curriculum. Eccles & Barber (1999) and Mahoney & Cairns (1997) perceived ECAs as peripheral programs of education. The core curriculum traditionally includes such class programs as reading, writing, language instruction, social studies, general science, various types of mathematics (general, algebra, geometry, calculus, etc.), civics, history, and so on, while extra-curricular programs include, but are not limited to, art and craft courses, athletics, music and drama, scholastically oriented clubs, recreational sports, outdoor trips and excursions, and various types of other out-of-classroom activities.

Due to the very wide and diverse range of activities classified as ECAs, clustering was necessary for analysis purposes (Lipsey and Wilson, 2001). In this case, the ECAs were clustered into eight groups, as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 Description of ECA clusters (Shulruf, 2010)

What are the different positive effects of extracurricular activities?

Researchers have examined a number of ways in which ECAs benefit students. Kaufman and Gabler (2004) found that activities such as music and dance, public service, interscholastic team sports, and student government all improved students’ likelihood of getting into college. These activities provided hands-on skills and training, alongside opportunities to increase one’s self-esteem and investment in school life. The effects of participation in extra-curricular activities can be classified in many different ways, but it will always have a connection to a student’s education. Massoni (2011) described six positive effects extracurricular activities have on students of all kinds ranging from the above-average student to the students that are on the brink of dropping out of school.

The first effect that ECAs have on education is behavior. Students that participate in ECAs have reduced behavior problems. In sports, they show discipline in drills, practices, and routines. When students perform things correctly, they are rewarded for their good behavior, and they take pride in their accomplishments. Because of the pride, they achieve, they gain better self-respect, self-esteem, and self-confidence.

Higher grades and positive attitudes towards school is the second effect that ECAs have on students. Self-esteem can be a predictor of academic performance. Students that don’t like school won’t do as well as the students that do like school because they are not motivated to succeed. If students don’t like school, it is usually because they do not feel as though they are succeeding or that they can succeed.

The third effect that ECAs have on students is school completion. The average dropout rate in the United States is about 10% (Casinger, 2011). Students who participate in ECAs are less likely to drop out and more likely to have higher academic achievement. Those students that are at risk of failure appear to benefit even more from participation in ECAs than those who are normal achievers.

Sports are one of the biggest ECAs to have effects on students. The athletic programs reduce the dropout rate by 40% (Hollaway, 2002). There are also laws that are for kids in sports. One of the most known laws is the No Pass No Play act. Many states use this law. This law states that a student that is participating in sports has to have a certain grade point average and they cannot flunk more than two classes, or they won’t be able to participate in the sport. This encourages many students to keep up on their grades, which prevents them from failing or dropping out.

The fifth way that ECAs have effects on students is because they have positive aspects that students need to become productive students and adults. By participating in ECAs, students learn lessons in leadership, teamwork, organization, analytical thinking, problem-solving, time management, and multi-tasking. It also allows them to discover their talents through their participation in many different activities.

The final effect that ECAs have on students is the social aspect. Students that are involved in ECAs meet many new people. Each club or sport is different, so students meet different people in all different groups. By joining different ones, they meet people with the same backgrounds they have and people they share interests with. Most times the people that students meet are students that they would never talk to or become friends with on a normal basis. In different ECAs, students learn about group work, and sometimes they end up having less conformity to gender stereotypes.

Black, S. (2002). The well-rounded student. American School Board Journal, 16, 33-35.

Casinger, J. (n.d.). College extracurricular activities: the history of activities. Retrieved from:

Eccles, J.S. & Barber, B.L. (1999). Student council, volunteering, basketball, or marching band: What kind of extracurricular involvement matters?. Journal of Adolescent Research 14(1): 10-43.

Holland, A. & Andre, T (1987). Participation in extracurricular activities in secondary school: What is known, what needs to be known? Review of Educational Research, 57, 447-466.

Holloway, J. H. (2002). Extracurricular activities and student motivation. Retrieved from:

Kaufman, J., and Gabler, J. (2004). Cultural capital and the extracurricular activities of girls and boys in the college attainment process. Poetics 32(2): 145–68.

Lipsey, M. W. & Wilson, D. B. (2001). Practical meta-analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Mahoney, J.L. & Cairns, R.B. (1997). Do extracurricular activities protect against early school dropout?. Developmental Psychology 33(2): 241-253.

Massoni, Erin (2011). Positive effects of extra curricular activities on students. ESSAI: Vol. 9, Article 27. Retrieved from

Shulruf, B. (2010). Do extra-curricular activities in schools improve educational outcomes? A critical review and meta-analysis of the literature. International Review of Education: Vol 56, 5/6, 591-612.

Stuart, M. et al. (2011). The impact of engagement with extracurricular activities on the student experience and graduate outcomes for widening participation populations. Active Learning in Higher Education: Vol 12, 3, 203-215.

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