The IB and the International Student: Part I

Student, Brown University

Jul   2013



The International Baccalaureate diploma program is quickly becoming a staple to international education. But if any high school sophomore were to come up to an IB student and ask if they should take the IB diploma program, there's a high likelihood that the answer they'll hear is no. Why? While the IB (as we like to call it) may arguably be the best college preparatory program out there today, it's difficult. As an international student, should you choose to take the IB if American colleges don't even factor IB scores into your admission decision? As an international student admitted to an American university and recently graduated from the IB program, here are a few of my personal reasons.

You're special; the IB will make you even more special

As an international student, you already have something very unique to offer American universities: an awareness of different cultures and genuine experiences with global citizens. The IB will help you become even more remarkable by showing you how to use this strength and make it a true asset.

The IB loves to integrate a sense of global awareness in its teachings. It will constantly ask you to apply theories you've learned in class to the setting you're living in. For instance, in psychology class, we were asked to compare the manifestation of depression in different Asian nations and to investigate the likenesses between depression and culture-bound syndromes such as Hikikomori in Japan.

The IB curriculum simply leaves a lot of room for instructed material to be contextualized in very world around you. It actually demands of students to be aware of real-life manifestations of theory in the current affairs and issues of your nation. This kind of instruction urges students to recognize the relevance of classroom material to their own lives, inspiring critical thinking as it encourages the evaluation of theory, the assessment of its application, and the analysis of its implications. In my opinion, this better prepares international students for study in American colleges and universities as they not only develop global awareness but also an understanding and a sense of responsibility towards the global community.

The IB is hard in a very good way

I highly doubt that any person has gone through the IB and eluded a single urge of quitting. In many, many ways, the IB is challenging. First, you get complete freedom in constructing your program. And though that sounds great in theory, it’s actually a lot of responsibility. I remember having to choose my social science component and having the option of Asian History, European History, Economics, Psychology, Business & Management, and Environmental Systems and Societies. Out of all those subjects, I had only ever had experience with history. Then, whatever you choose, you're stuck with it for two years. The six classes you end up selecting will then proceed to hand you countless written assignments and internal assessments. At the end of two years, you then face the final exam that, on average, will account for 70% of your final grade in the class.

But the greatest lessons I took away from the IB were from facing those challenges and not from the actual difficulty of the academic material. For example, the IB has made me a better writer—there are simply too many essays and lab reports to be written not improve at writing. But most importantly, the IB taught me how to fail. From my two years in the program, I can no longer recount the number of times I've felt disappointed in myself, but I can tell you how many times I've let that disappointment pressure me into giving up: zero.

Before the IB, school was never particularly difficult and so it was extremely frustrating at first when teachers would say outright, "This isn't good," or "You're not doing this correctly," or, the worst, "You're not trying hard enough." But, looking back, hearing negative but honest comments has taught me how to accept being wrong and how to use inadequacy to inspire improvement. I'm grateful to have learned that particular lesson during the IB because I've read articles that urge incoming undergraduate students to prepare for frustration. So, to the IB, I'd like to say: thanks, bud! Because of you I won't be crying in my dorm room when I get my first C in college.

If all this wasn’t enough, there’s more coming in two weeks! So come back for even more reasons to pursue—and love—the International Baccalaureate.

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