Participation in extracurricular activities is often cited as an effective strategy for lowering school dropout rates.
However, very little is known about the real long-term effects of these activities on student retention and academic success. A longitudinal study initiated in 2001 involving 390 sixth-grade students assessed annually until 2011, 5 years after finishing high school, has shed new light on the benefits of extracurricular activities.
Schools and communities should offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities.
This study reveals that participation in extracurricular activities during high school is associated with a higher probability of attending university, but is not associated with obtaining a high school diploma before the age of 22, or with attending CEGEP. It appears that participation in different types of extracurricular activities is particularly crucial. Clearly, schools and communities should offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities, and youth should be encouraged to take part in them.
This study also examined extracurricular activity participation among CEGEP students. We found that far fewer CEGEP students take part in extracurricular activities, compared with their high school counterparts. Moreover, the benefits of these activities at the CEGEP level appear to be mixed. For students enrolled in technical programs, participation in extracurricular activities is associated with lower academic performance, although this does not jeopardize their chances of obtaining a college diploma. On the other hand, for those in pre-university CEGEP programs, extracurricular activities are associated with a greater level of civic engagement.
François Poulin, Université du Québec à Montréal
Deposit of the research report: October 2011