Every ambitious or engaged high schooler knows the pain of trying to juggle academic, extracurricular, and social (especially social) commitments, while at the same time prepping for the big tests and working on college applications. Teens tempted to relent in any one area realize that competitive colleges care about more than just grades and test scores; those extracurricular activities matter.
The good news from ACT, Inc. suggests that maybe you can have it all. According to ACT’s report on The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2019, involvement in high school activities is often associated with higher ACT Composite scores.
ACT researchers cross-referenced average ACT Composite Score and number of activities for graduates of the high school class of 2019, distributing students by GPA. Based on the data, involvement in several high school activities is often associated with higher ACT Composite scores, no matter what a student’s GPA is. However, you can easily overextend yourself if you aren’t careful: peak performance is associated with four to six activities, depending on a student’s GPA. Any more than that sees average ACT scores start to decline.
We can posit all kinds of rationalizations for why involvement in activities may support stronger test scores. But what matters more is the clear evidence that teens benefit from balance, from an even distribution of academic and extracurricular commitment, maybe with a little socializing thrown in for good measure. Even better, high schoolers who maintain this balance become better college applicants. So if you know a high school student who spends too much time studying, tell him or her to get in the game: students who get involved get higher scores!