SSI affiliates publish new research on high school sport participation and college attendance

May 10, 2023

SSI affiliates publish new research on high school sport participation and college attendance

James Tompsett

New research by OSU Sociology PhD Candidate James Tompsett and SSI Research Chair and Sociology professor Chris Knoester, published with open access in PLoS ONE, analyzes connections between social class and college attendance among a large cohort of high school students.

The study considers how family social class leads to different likelihoods of attending college and attending a more selective college.

Social class is thought to link to the provision of a host of material resources and varying levels of stress, comfort, and support; different school and neighborhood environments; college expectations; academic development; and extracurricular activities and enhanced direction and support for participating in them—all of which are anticipated to affect the likelihoods of going to college and going to a more selective college.

Consistent with these expectations, the research found that family and school-level measures of social class, college expectations, academic development, and participation in extracurricular activities were each positively associated with students going to college and attending a more selective school.

As part of the investigation, the study also considered how participating in both high school sports and non-sport extracurricular activities predicted college attendance.

The authors discovered that participating in a high school sport and an other type of extracurricular activity (e.g., music, drama, school government, student paper) each seemed to independently increase the odds of going to college—and going to a more selective school. However, participating in multiple sports or other types of extracurricular activities did not seem to have added benefits for college-going patterns.

This suggests that extracurricular activity participation, including high school sports participation, may be beneficial for college admissions—but that there is a lack of evidence that trying to participate in every potential activity during high school is useful.

Tompsett’s work on the project was partially supported by a 2019 OSU Sports and Society Initiative Graduate Student Research Grant.

Read more about the research on OSU News.

NewsNation also interviewed the authors and summarized their work. In addition, the comedy website Cracked made light of the cultures of overinvesting in extracurricular activities, and being anxious about not doing enough, in the wake of the findings.