Extracurricular participation and academic outcomes: testing the over-scheduling hypothesis

J Youth Adolesc. 2012 Mar;41(3):295-306. doi: 10.1007/s10964-011-9704-0. Epub 2011 Aug 4.


There is a growing concern that some youth are overscheduled in extracurricular activities, and that this increasing involvement has negative consequences for youth functioning. This article used data from the Educational Longitudinal Study (ELS: 2002), a nationally representative and ethnically diverse longitudinal sample of American high school students, to evaluate this hypothesis (N = 13,130; 50.4% female). On average, 10th graders participated in between 2 and 3 extracurricular activities, for an average of 5 h per week. Only a small percentage of 10th graders reported participating in extracurricular activities at high levels. Moreover, a large percentage of the sample reported no involvement in school-based extracurricular contexts in the after-school hours. Controlling for some demographic factors, prior achievement, and school size, the breadth (i.e., number of extracurricular activities) and the intensity (i.e., time in extracurricular activities) of participation at 10th grade were positively associated with math achievement test scores, grades, and educational expectations at 12th grade. Breadth and intensity of participation at 10th grade also predicted educational status at 2 years post high school. In addition, the non-linear function was significant. At higher breadth and intensity, the academic adjustment of youth declined. Implications of the findings for the over-scheduling hypothesis are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Child
  • Curriculum / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Status*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Sports / statistics & numerical data*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • United States