Long-term Benefits of SEL

This article is part of a 3-part series focused on how quality SEL programs benefit students in the short and long term, and how it improves school-wide climate and culture. Read about the short-term benefits of SEL here.

You may be wondering, “How long do the benefits of social and emotional learning (SEL) last?” 

Well, SEL not only helps students in the short-term, but it also has benefits that last beyond school and into adulthood. Students with strong social-emotional skills do better in college (or post-secondary education) and their careers. They also tend to have caring and genuine relationships, are more self-aware in understanding their potential, have the resiliency required to face inevitable challenges, and have overall improved lifetime outcomes.

As you consider the benefits of implementing a quality SEL program, be mindful of the positive long-term impacts your program will have on students. 

We’ve outlined the long-term benefits of quality SEL programs below.

Higher Graduation Rates

SEL programs have been linked to improved graduation rates. For example, one study found 6% more students succeeded in high school among the intervention group (students receiving SEL instruction) compared with the control group (students who did not participate in an SEL program). This same study showed 11% more students completed college among the intervention group compared with the control group.

Reduced Need for Special Education Services Long-Term

Studies show that SPED students who received quality SEL programming were 5% less likely to require services by fifth grade than the control group. Low-income students faired even better and were six percentage points less likely to require services. 

College- and Career-Readiness  

The number one skill employers look for in new hires is creative problem-solving, followed by critical thinking and teamwork. SEL programs prepare students for college and trade school and help them navigate the challenges, choices, and requirements they will face in the workplace.

Skills to Persevere Through Adversity

Research shows that strong social and emotional skills can serve as preventive and protective factors against emotional distress, behavior problems, and drug use. It is important to note that these results were consistent among students from different racial groups and socioeconomic statuses, meaning all students can benefit from SEL. 

Higher Sense of Well-Being

Enhanced SEL skills are linked with significant improvements in students’ well-being up to 18 years after intervention. Additionally, universal SEL interventions have shown to significantly improve students’ positive attitudes, resilience, and prosocial behaviors beyond school and into adulthood. 

Improved Lifetime Outcomes

Early social and emotional skills development has shown to reduce students’ likelihood of receiving public housing and public assistance. It also reduces their likelihood of having any involvement with police before adulthood and spending time in a detention facility. Some research shows that SEL can also help reduce poverty and improve economic mobility.  

Economic Benefits to Society

A metanalysis that looked at the cost benefits of well-implemented, evidence-based SEL programs found an average return on investment of 11 to 1, meaning that for every dollar spent on the program, the school or district saw an $11 return. Other studies found a return on investment of up to 34 to 1. Additionally, SEL contributes to economic benefits in reduced societal costs: individuals with strong social-emotional skills are more likely to be productive and find opportunities for employment. 

An impressive body of research shows the importance of helping students learn social-emotional skills that they will use throughout their lives. The quality of your SEL program and how well it is implemented matters and can impact the long-term benefits for your students. Want to learn more? Fill out the form below to reach our SEL experts.

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