Teenagers that spend time with high-achieving peers are more likely to become smarter and go to college, a new study finds.
The study was conducted by researchers from Brigham Young University. It included 90,000 high school students and up to 10 of their friends. Since friends often join a team or club together, the model used in the study subtracts the positive influence of friends who are also teammates. That isolates the impact of teammates who aren't otherwise in a student's social circle.
They found that joining an extra-curricular team or club with members that get good grades can double a high school student's odds of going to college.
"Tell your parents, whatever they ground you from, it shouldn't be from practice or a club activity," Lance Erickson, co author of the study, said in a press statement. "If they ground you from a school club, you are more likely to end up living at their house because you won't be going to college."
Researchers were also surprised to find that the size of the team or club didn't matter. All that mattered was being around high-achieving peers.
"Typically you think the benefits of participating come from the type of club or the intensity of the skills you learned there," said Ben Gibbs, the lead study author. "I think we're the first to show that who you are hanging out with in those activities really matters."
The researchers also confirmed that simply participating in any extracurricular activity increased a student's chances of college enrollment regardless of that team's average GPA. In addition, the odds of college enrollment double for a student if they join a group with an average GPA that is one full point higher.
"I would encourage middle schools and junior high schools to devote resources to those kinds of things so that as they transition to high school, they are prepared to join a team," co-author Mikaela Dufur added.
The study was published online in the journal Social Science Research.