What Are the Benefits of Co-Curricular Activities?

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A co-curricular activity takes place outside the typical classroom experience and allows students to develop specific skills or demonstrate their nonacademic abilities. Such activities may be compulsory, such as music or art classes that occur during the school day. Others may be voluntary, such as participating on a school sports team or with the student newspaper. In either case, participation can benefit students in ways that go far beyond the activity itself.

Develop Specialized Skills

Co-curricular activities can allow interested students to gain more practical skills and experience in their chosen field than they receive in the classroom. The Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, program at Purdue University, for example, has students respond to design needs of community partners, like schools or community centers. This co-curricular offering gives participants a way to translate their academic pursuits into real-world applications, giving them a greater understanding of where their studies may lead.

Improved Academic Performance

Research indicates that participation in co-curricular activities has a positive impact on classroom performance as well. A study conducted at Sacramento State University, for example, found that participants in a student leadership initiative had a 3.07 GPA in their first term, compared to a 2.76 GPA earned by a comparison group of students who entered college with similar credentials. Balancing co-curricular activities with academic pursuits can help students learn how to manage time effectively, and inspire a greater interest in school than might otherwise be the case.

Greater Opportunities

Some students may not have the time or resources to participate in extracurricular activities that take place outside the school environment, or may have difficulty replicating the experience that a well-run co-curricular program can offer. Particularly at higher academic levels, schools may foster the relationships and partnerships with outside experts for co-curricular activities that are tough for outside organizations to replicate. A business school, for example, can offer students opportunities to participate in an entrepreneurship co-curricular program that provides mentoring from local business leaders and the resources needed to develop ideas for new businesses.

Exposure to New Activities

Co-curricular activities taking place alongside the academic environment offer students exposure to a field they're largely unfamiliar with, helping them to become well-rounded and perhaps discover previously hidden talents. Students required to participate in a sport as a co-curricular activity, for example, may find a hidden affinity for cross-country running. People who avoid art, music or athletics because they don't think they have talents in those areas may find they've underestimated their abilities and interests.

Leadership Development

Co-curricular activities offer students the opportunity to both learn from older mentors and take on leadership roles themselves. They give students a chance to demonstrate ability to manage groups and provide direction to others in a tangible way that’s difficult to do in the classroom. A student not confident enough to raise her hand in the classroom might find that an athletic program brings out her confidence and allows her to grow into a captaincy role.