There are two types of people in this world:
- The ones that wisely turn away when warning and danger signs surround them in all directions
- Those that pay little heed to these fore-warnings of doom and potentially end up falling into a rabbit hole, lion’s den, pit to hell – whatever you may call it; how you end up emerging is up to you
Yeah, I’m part of the latter.
Despite the warnings, precautions, and rumors of an introductory blood ritual, I decided to undertake the infamous International Baccalaureate program at my school by becoming a candidate for the diploma.
The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, IBDP for short, is a 2-year rigorous, internationally-accredited educational program that provides higher-education courses with potential credit for certain classes. It is similar to College Board’s AP Capstone program.
You can more about IBO and College Board here:
*See Disclaimer for more information*
I agree that while it’s not entirely fair to call this program a “pit to hell”, it was very challenging, and I fell short of my own expectations, especially the first year. Certain dreams of an ambitious sophomore come junior may have burned away amidst the rigor, but looking back, I can definitely say that being in the program taught me a lot, and I do not regret partaking in it. Granted, it was part of the process of growing up and not the IB diploma program, itself, but I still learned quite a lot.
*Note** I can speak only based off of my participation in the IB Diploma Program in my school in America. My school offered an IB Career Pathway, and other schools do variations of programs with the courses IBO offers. For this post, I will be referring to mainly my experiences with this particular program, but will answer other questions and discuss certain exceptions in future posts.*
Without further ado, the 5 reasons you should do IBDP if your school offers it are:
1.) You’re already ambitious and want a challenge.
IBDP is NOT for students that want a fairly relaxing high school lifestyle, especially in their junior and senior years of high school. You will question everything and everything after committing to this program – literally, the Theory of Knowledge class will make you – in a transcendent-like experience as you function on 4 hours of sleep.
When placed with some of the smartest kids in school, you may end up as mediocre among other IB students at most, unless you forgo most of your social life and acquire amazing time management skills and capabilities of dealing with constant burnout (but let’s be real). Jokes aside, you’ll probably discover more of the subjects you really do enjoy rather than those you only like to a certain extent and can choose to focus more on these. IB also forces you to develop a growth mindset even in subjects you may not enjoy as much.
2.) You get an insight into college life.
The IBO, the International Baccalaureate Organization, mandates a lot of presentations, commentaries, and college-level research projects such as Internal Assessments for various classes and the Extended Essay on a topic of your choosing. The Theory of Knowledge class that it requires is also similar to an epistemology course in college. These internal assessments and essays prepare you for research projects and essays that you may be doing with or for professors.
The structure of IB classes is especially similar to liberal arts colleges or honors programs of larger universities. The requirements and basis of IB classes for the full diploma also helps prepare you to be a more well-rounded student in academics despite your stronger suits. This is not to say individual IB classes or classes that you may prefer to select are not valuable in and of themselves and may be a better depending on your goals. However, if your goals involve figuring out your strengths and weaknesses (sorry- ahem – “lesser strengths”) in higher level education, IB still may be for you. Then you may be able to stop the denial that you love all subject-groups equally because you are just that great of a student.
3.) College Credits – Duh!
While the credits you receive in college vary upon the score you received on your IB exam, the level of your classes (standards vs. higher), and the college or university you attend, most will accept your IB credits, both internationally and nationally. However, be sure to double check to see if your dream school does accept these.
(*Differences between AP and IB coming soon)
4.) You discover yourself more.
With part of your identity tied to being an academic because of your upbringing, environment, or personal goals (if you deny this, I have no idea why you would want to partake in the IB program), it may be somewhat difficult to come to terms that, even still, you enjoy certain subjects or subject-groups more than others. If you already have this part figured out, good for you. However, if you think you may be in denial despite your grades and course schedule, certain IB classes may turn out to be a hard reality check for you.
For me anyway, I have always felt a sort of underlying pressure to have a greater interest in math and science-related subjects because of my Indian background. While I am decent in these subjects and can bring myself to receive high grades in these classes, I naturally find humanities-based courses easier and more interesting. Of course, there are still people who excel in both but prefer either STEM or humanities-based courses. After agonizing through IB Chemistry and IB Math SL, I realized that perhaps I did not like these subjects as much as I thought and did not see myself pursuing these in the future.
Through IB, I also learned the right amount of stress that I am able to handle and how to balance my work in a way that I am not overwhelmed or nihilistic but actually interested in the content I am learning. In terms of extracurricular activities, I learned how I could maintain a peace of mind through the balance of academics and creative pursuits and a social life as constant ambition and the distortion of personal priorities and values wasn’t faring well for me. While simple in theory and intellect, these concepts took me a while to register and continually implement. Of course, I am still not perfect but avoiding comparison and staying true to my values of balance, purpose, and hard work really helped me through this program even if I may not have perfect rankings.
The IB program also helped me perceive that I enjoy the ability to express myself through music, dance, acting, writing, or even presenting especially through the versatility we were given in projects (of course some more than others). This ranged from creating skits and dances for Spanish to writing songs for TOK. Would other high school classes have offered me a similar level of expression? Perhaps, but the environment was also a factor of inspiration and autonomy. I loved the intimate and a relaxed environment I shared with most of my teachers with classrooms that inspired this sort of creativity with dim lighting, couches, and pre-Renaissance to post-modernistic artwork plastered throughout the walls. However, while I really liked making close friends, as an extrovert I would have preferred seeing new peers in my different classes to avoid complacency. On a different note, while my dreams of attending an Ivy-league university shattered against hard reality, I also realized that that’s not what I wanted at the moment, and I still wanted room to figure myself out, have fun, and make mistakes rather than following the academic route without a clear goal at the end.
A lot of self-realization came through age, experience, and experience and while I can’t give the IB program at my school all the credit, it helped me perceive what I did and didn’t want from higher education and life.
5.) You develop more of an international-mindedness
The sheer diversity and the intentional discussions of different cultures or ways of perceiving in the program helped me to become more open-minded toward the similarities and differences between different cultures, religions, and viewpoints. This is different than reading about these in a book or an article because you personally know and hear the ideas and justifications of your peers in a respectful environment however uncomfortable you may feel at first. Most of us read more of topics and ideas and hang around those who feed into our own beliefs but being compelled to genuinely listen to others’ outlooks changes your own or at least allows you to respect the others’ perspectives.
Other high school classes such as literature offer similar discussions over controversial issues but never in depth or as structured as in a class like Theory of Knowledge that also covers a broader range of issues and fallacies relating to our modern world. The constant exposure to this diversity and the different viewpoints on these topics also helps you become more open-minded.
In classes like Spanish or history, the international-mindedness develops through learning about the impact of current conflicts or the effects of the previous conflicts on our modern world. Because IB is an international program, there is a greater emphasis on these topics and potential solutions or at least awareness from all sides of the problem.
5.) You make close friends.
This is somewhat given. If you’re going to be spending almost all of your classes with the same or similar people, the mere exposure theory or the propinquity effect would propel you to create friendships with these people around you. Obviously, you can make close friends from anywhere, but the shared struggle of these classes for 2 years in addition to familiarity and similar interests greatly increases the chances of creating close bonds with some of the most talented and hardworking upperclassmen in the school.
The high school I went to really tried to emphasize or bring forth a sort of “familial” aspect to the overall program between juniors and seniors as well as diploma vs. career pathway students with retreats, picnics, parties, and mentor-mentee bonding, but even if you do not emerge with a “kumbaya-feeling” about all the people in the program, you are at least likely to have made at least a couple of close friends and other connections.
These are just a couple of benefits of doing the IB Diploma Program.
But don’t worry – we’ll discuss drawbacks as well.
Stay tuned for my next post!