High school students who had good social skills and work habits and took part in extracurricular activities made more money and completed higher levels of education than their classmates.
Christy Lleras, professor of human and community development, University of Illinois, said that "soft skills" like sociability, punctuality, conscientiousness, along with participation in extracurricular activities, are better predictors of earnings and higher educational achievement later in life than having good grades and high standardised test scores.
"That's not to say that academic achievement in high school doesn't matter - it does," Lleras said. "But if we only look at standardised test scores, we're only considering part of the equation for success as an adult in a global marketplace," he said.
"Academic achievement is part of the story, but it's not the whole story. You've got to have the social skills and work habits to back those achievements up."
With the generational shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a service - and information-based one, employers value workers who can not only boast about their scores, but are also able to get along well with the public and co-workers, Lleras said.
"I think we've known this intuitively for a long time that employers are looking for something beyond cognitive skills," Lleras said. "Leadership now is not an individual thing, it's how well you get along in a team and get people organised," he added, according to an Illinois release.
Consequently, low-achieving schools are put in a bind: Measure up, or lose funding. Either way, it's a zero-sum game for students, Lleras said.