In school, teachers and parents put a lot of stress on academic success, and with good reason. Understanding school subjects is a sure way to raise your base of knowledge and do well in school and beyond. However, grades are not the only important thing to consider for students. Extracurricular activities can also be an essential part of the learning process.

Consider the variety of skills one can practice and learn in a high school setting. Sports can teach teamwork, the newspaper or yearbook can give students a basic understanding of publishing and getting a product made, and drama can allow students license to express themselves as human beings. All of these things are essential to learn before going out into the “real” world.

The benefits of extracurricular activities are real. Consider this somewhat old but still relevant article from Science Daily.

According to this article, high school students with good social skills and who participate in extracurricular activities do better 10 years out from school than classmates with similar test scores but fewer social skills and less participation in extracurriculars.

Part of this greater success comes because of a change in the economy. With the decline of manufacturing jobs, more service and information oriented skills are desired according to Christy Lleras, a professor of human and community development who is quoted in the article.

Unfortunately, a greater emphasis on testing in the wake of No Child Left Behind has decreased schools’ emphasis on extracurricular activities. Lleras is quoted in the article as saying the following:

“There’s this pervasive idea that if we just teach and test the basic skills, students are going to do much better in school and in life,” she said. “It would be great if we could just snap our fingers and tomorrow everyone could read, write and do math at grade-level. But an obsession with testing and routinized thinking doesn’t foster the non-cognitive soft skills that pay off as an adult.”

Parents, teachers and students have always known that there is more to life than just learning the facts. This is something we see played out every time a student tries to join extracurricular activities in an effort to boost his or her school resume for college applications. However, extracurricular activities are important not just for appearance but also for later success.

As parents and teachers, we have the opportunity to expose our children and students to more diverse activities so that they may become multifaceted human beings. Extracurricular activities are one avenue schools provide to do this.