From the first day I begin writing my own personal blog, I have had an idea for this exact post. I have wanted to curate a well-rounded review of the International Baccalaureate Program for the past four years, and it became more deeply rooted each time I saw another one of my peers leave for seemingly easier, more “worth it” programs.
To begin, let me first define the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program for those who are not familiar with it. According to the American School of Paris, “Designed in Switzerland in the 1960s, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) is an academically challenging program of study, designed to prepare students aged 16 to 19 for success at university and life beyond. Its purpose is to give students around the world a chance to earn a rigorous, internationally recognized diploma, which can be used for entry into top universities”. My experience with the program holds true to this, but it also holds much more when weighed against what I invested versus what I received back.
I applied for my zoned IB Program as my top choice going into my freshman year of high school (2019). Mainly, I chose it for its reputation and the familiarity I had with the program. Not only did my brother complete it, but so too did many of my closest mentors. For my friends and I, IB seemed like the natural option. Although I also applied and gained admission to other programs and private schools, I felt that IB presented a needed challenge and a chance to be part of a tight-knit group of kids whom I would share four years worth of experiences with. Looking back, many of my expectations of the program did not fully transpire. However, whether I can place that on the program itself or the circumstances under which I experienced it is hard to say.
Academically, I was challenged. Particularly in my science and math classes, I had the opportunity to develop my areas of weakness into ones of strength. Additionally, I had the option to showcase my strong points with the choice of three HL (higher level) courses (English, History, and Spanish) and three SL (standard level) courses (Math, Biology, and Dance). The IB program gave me tasks and assignments I never would have taken upon myself, such as a 4000-word research paper on a topic of my choice (the EE) or consistently involving myself in activities in all three strands of creativity, action, and service (CAS). I learned how to truly reflect on my own progress and find areas for improvement. I also learned how to work independently, organizing community service projects, and communicating with those in higher positions than I was. IB actually taught me a lot, but more than anything, it taught me about work ethic and balance.
I entered high school with a work ethic of steel. Terrified of failure and accustomed to the competitive environment of the Indian community, I knew the only ways to succeed were to be inherently smart… or to work like you were. In freshman year, I used this to my advantage and never found the workload of IB to be especially crushing. However, I am grateful to have been in a program that tested this work ethic. It gave me a correct perception of the real world and reinforced my idea that good things come to those who work for them. At the end of the day, I am not sure if my two-hundred-term Quizlets were worth it or if waking up at 5 AM to re-read the English chapters helped me. But, what I now do know, is that I have it in me. IB showed me that I can get where I want to go in life, so long as I continue putting in the necessary effort to get there.
Externally, IB is a great program — so then, what is the debate?
Just as there is praise I can bestow upon the program, there are also many flaws to discuss. IB is an internationally-recognized organization, meaning it exists everywhere from Switzerland, to Vietnam, to the USA. In each place, it operates very differently. In fact, each school holds completely different experiences. Therefore, I can only speak from my own personal experience.
I understand why over four years, over fifty students dropped out of my IB class. Other programs, whether it be the Excel program or Early College programs seemed more appealing as they were less time and effort for virtually the same benefit. I stayed because I saw no reason to leave. As long as it was not severely hindering my grades or mental health, I wanted to complete the program I started through the end. What I will say though, is that IB did not benefit me in any specific, tangible way. In the fall, I will attend the University of Florida along with students from various national programs and even no program at all. I will take the same classes and, depending on what credits are accepted, will likely be in the same position they are. I do not credit IB with any of my success, I truly believe it is the time and effort a student applies that leads them to success.
Socially, I realized that IB did not hold any secret club membership either. Being part of a small group did not mean that everyone was best friends, nor did it mean that we all formed a life-long bond that will last forever. Still, I would like to think that being part of such a small class had its benefits. Although I may not have spoken with all my peers on a daily basis, I was able to get to know most of them on a personal level and, if it came to it, I do believe we would be there for one another in times of need. It is unlikely we will again have such a group of people who have shared the experiences and memories we have.
Overall, my verdict is this: the IB program is “worth it” in a holistic sort of way. No matter how many times I try to convince myself otherwise, I do not regret doing it and would choose it again if given the opportunity. Nonetheless, I do not believe that it is for everyone. If managing a considerable workload will hinder your ability to maintain a strong GPA or study for more important standardized exams like the SAT or ACT, then I would not recommend it. All the same, if you are someone who is able to prioritize and organize (or willing to learn to), I would say IB could be of benefit to you. It is really about the desire one has to complete the program. Most people can do IB, the question is whether, for each individual, it is “worth it” to do so.
My experience with the International Baccalaureate Program has been affected by various external factors. My entire sophomore year was spent online, I had a different science teacher each year when other schools had only one, and likewise, I saw a never-ending revolving door of administrators coming and going. It was all part of the experience though. Each class will have its own journey with the program. I hope as the years progress, that the IB program can continue building stronger so that more kids feel comfortable joining and staying in it. IB is a program that prepared me for college and the world beyond. But, as previously stated, I know that it was the support of my teachers, the smiling faces of my friends, and my own determination that pushed me through the program and made IB honestly “worth it”.
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy — I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it” -Art Williams
PS: For any incoming or current IB students — please feel free to reach out with questions about the program, to ask for advice, or if you just need someone to talk to. You’ve got this!
3 thoughts on “WAS IB WORTH IT?”
Thanks for sharing. I think you have laid out the pros and cons well, and I hope other students thinking of the program will find it helpful.
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Thanks for a well balanced and honest summary. it was very informative and “worth it”
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Thank you for the feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed it 😊