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5 Ways That the International Baccalaureate Program Will Prepare You For College


Any college student who went through the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in high school is probably cringing at the very mention of the program’s name. After four years of formulating your entire life around the demands of IB, you will develop a strong sense of loathing for the organization—it's inevitable. Not only does IB place incredible demands on your mental state (thanks to its immense workload), but once CAS (creativity, action and service) hours are thrown into the mix, IB is able to grab hold of your physical, creative and personal well-being as well. 

Throughout the four years that IB students endure the program, they are more than likely to question why they do this to themselves. When you are still in high school, it is impossible to know whether all of your hard work will even be worth it. Every Saturday morning spent at Panera for a study group and every wild party missed because you have a 2,000-word paper to write are seen as damage to your social life in exchange for getting into a good college. 

So, even after getting into your dream school, is it really worth it? Coming from an IB veteran, the four years of torture were definitely worth it once I got to my university. If you don’t believe me, here are five reasons why IB was totally worth it.

1. You learn time-management

It’s no secret that IB manages to take over your life and leaves you in a lurch when it comes to personal time. By your junior year of high school, everything becomes centered around IB. When you aren’t studying for mock exams or drafting copies of your extended essay, you are racking up CAS hours by volunteering at the nursing home, going to art club meetings - despite your utter lack of artistic ability - or scrambling to make it to soccer practice on time. 

For Ariel Perry-Mills, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida, IB pushed her to be more organized. “It forces you to learn how to plan out your time, particularly when you have a great deal of material to learn in a short period of time,” she says.

Most students who join IB do so because they are already high-achieving students who strive for perfection. That being said, there is no scenario where coming up short for anything is acceptable. At first, the full schedule was probably a lot to handle for a majority of newcomers, but by the time you leave the program, you will have learned how to balance all of your responsibilities and excel in every area, simply due to the fact that you had no other options.

Emily Hartranft, a sophomore at Florida State University, says that knowing how to manage her time was a big advantage when she came to college. “IB really taught me how to manage my time,” she says. “I wasn't scrambling between trying to do well in school and trying to have a social life. I knew how to keep myself balanced.” Being able to show up to college and not having to waste time figuring out how to balance your responsibilities will give you a huge advantage over other students.

Time management is important to master during all of the stages of your life, but is crucial when coming to college. Without proficiency in time management, many freshmen will crack when they are faced with the high demands that college requires.

Related: 15 Things We Would Tell Our Former High School Selves

2. You learn how to study

IB takes a unique approach to teaching and testing that fosters a critical way of thinking and in turn, leads students to study in more effective ways. Nothing in IB is based on memorization, it is all based on understanding.

Ariel says that being in the IB program really changed the way she studied in high school. “[IB] drove me to learn material in such a way that I could remember it for an extended period of time, as opposed to just learning information for a test and then, immediately afterward, deleting it from my brain,” she says. Since she had already learned long-term study methods, she was fully prepared to the massive exams that we all face in college.

IB ends with a month-long period of exams, where students are tested on two years worth of material for each subject. With the time period that we needed to understand the information we were learning, a simple cram session was not an option. We were not able to memorize material and regurgitate it in a two-day period, we were forced to truly understand what we are learning and never forget it. The exams required us to explain WHY photosynthesis happened, rather than how. They had us explain the reasoning and importance behind each event in a novel, not simply provide a summary. IB took learning much further than simple regurgitation. 

IB students are trained to fully explain every little detail of an answer. In my experience, multiple choice questions were non-existent when it came to official IB exams and it was the same way in class. Four-page essays detailing the origins of the Cold War and full-page diagrams stipulating the processes of human digestion, are the only type of tests that exist in the IB world.

The study skills needed to pass these tests are far different and far more demanding than that of the typically high school test. By the time you reach college, you will have had four years of constant studying under your belts. You were able to toy around with various study techniques so by this point, you probably know which ones you best respond to. 

Entering college already well-versed in the art of studying will help you immensely. What your counterparts may spend a week studying for will take you two days and you will have the IBO to thank.

3. You are prepared for the academic rigor of college

Not only are the teaching and testing styles of IB uniquely challenging, but the content is also incredibly tough, as well. When I was in high school, we would go into every minuscule detail of every function of the body in biology, we would not only read novels, but study the authors’ life and the history of the genre in English class and when we finally got through understanding calculus in math class, we had to write a 2,000 word paper, putting the lessons into action.

Often times, IB students who got mediocre grades in high school, find themselves to be straight-A students once they reach college. “I was barely making B’s in most of my classes in IB, but now I have nearly a 4.0.” says Paige Nightly, a sophomore at the University of Florida. Going through the IB program prepares you for the rigor of any college that you will attend.

4. It prepares you for collegiate teaching styles

Not a second of class time was ever wasted in IB. Endless hours of lectures and presentations were abundant and free periods were scarce ––and frankly mythical. In college, no teacher is going to waste your time. You are paying thousands of dollars to learn something and the professors at your college will be devoted to making sure that you do.

Even though sitting through hours of in-class lectures and review sessions seemed like torture when going through it in IB, you will definitely be thankful that you learned how to get the most out of them. “[IB] prepares you for the lecture environment,” says Haley Richard, junior at SUNY Geneseo. Going into college already knowing how take notes while filtering out non-essential details and already having yourself trained to focus for such long periods of time on possibly boring topics, is a needed skill once you reach college.

Many incoming freshmen are alarmed when a three-hour lecture block ends up on their class schedule. They find themselves unsure if they can handle that lengthy amount of time, listening to a professor drone on and on about balancing chemical equations or the history of North America. 

Already being accustomed to this teaching style, IB students forgo any type of pre-class anxiety and arrive ready to listen, absorb and interact in all of their classes ––especially those shudder-worthy triple-block lectures.

5. It makes you more independent

The second your parents finish moving you into your freshman dorm room and wave goodbye to you, you will be entirely on your own. For most people, this is the first time that they have this sense of independence and vulnerability. Your mom won’t cook spaghetti whenever you want and your dad won’t be around to kill every bug that dares to cross your path, you have to learn to do all of that yourself.

This is also the first time that most students are on their own in the educational platform as well. In college, professors take a much more hands-off approach to teaching (and this is even more true at large colleges where you are in classes with hundreds of other students). Sometimes, your professor will not even know your name outside of seeing it pop up on their attendance sheet. 

This type of classroom setting can come as a shock to many students. “You’re really on your own for college,” Haley says. “IB prepares you to not have a teacher constantly holding your hand doing little things and doing big papers that I do similarly in college.” Luckily, already being accustomed to this does make the transition very smooth.

An independent learning style is one that is encouraged and performed throughout the IB program. Entering college already educationally independent, you are already one step ahead of your peers and have by-passed another mental and emotional transition. Although there are plenty of professors out there who are extremely caring and invested in the success of their students, it is good to be prepared for the professors who are not this way.

Even though you probably questioned your decision to join the IB program numerous times throughout high school, once you make it to college, you will be thankful that you didn’t give up. IB truly does prepare you for the next four years of your life and instills many skills in you that will be valuable for the rest of your life, long after your academic career has ended.

*Names have been changed

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