Welcome to Liz’s Lemonade Stand, where the lemons of life are twisted into the sweetest lemonade.
We’ve recently had some fantastic articles (here and here) demystifying the monster that is the International Baccalaureate program, and as a former IB student, I’d just like to add my two cents to the discussion. At this time last year, I’d already contracted a terminal case of senioritis, and the summer reading assignment of Crime and Punishment was not helping buoy my attitude toward the next nine months. Junior year had been brutal and I felt extremely pessimistic about continuing with the IB program, but at the same time, I had already done half the work, so quitting didn’t seem like a reasonable option.
In retrospect, despite the fact that I whined and complained about IB every day, it has paid off. Because I’m going to a state school that accepts IB credit readily and I earned my IB diploma, I have over 30 credits, which basically puts me at sophomore standing. From this side of the argument, it’s harder for me to say, “NO DON’T DO IT, SAVE YOURSELF, RUN AWAY!!” But then again, in my memories, high school is synonymous with sleeplessness thanks to this lovely program.
The Lemon: The great mental debate looms–drop IB or stick it out to the bitter end?
The Lemonade: Like Lili Borland brought up in her article, a lot hinges on where you would like to attend college. While it looks great on your applications, not every school will actually accept the credit that you’ve worked your butt off for. At the same time, state schools tend to love IB and you can potentially get a full ride. I know many of my fellow IB students who applied to the University of Utah were offered a full ride and then some. However, these kids also kept up a great resume of clubs and service. Doing IB does not guarantee a scholarship; you still have to apply for them.
If you know your school doesn’t accept much IB credit or you want to learn the curriculum without all other extra outside work (see Sue Ahn’s “IB What?”), the certificate is an option. This means that you don’t sit for the full diploma but only test in a few areas. The kicker here is that then tests become much more expensive. Or, another alternative is to take IB classes but not take the exam at the end of the year. I know several people, one of them a close friend, who did this, and they’re all heading off to great schools. If you want the fast-paced learning and deeper curriculum and you’re not overly concerned about having a million credits before you get to college, this is a wonderful option.
Still on the fence? Consider what activities you want to do during high school. When I signed up for IB as a nerdy little sophomore, I didn’t know that I would want to focus on music as much as I eventually did. The course load of IB combined with two sports and a job left little time for me to focus on the activities I really loved (I don’t think I would do IB again if given the choice). One of my best friends wisely realized this sophomore year, and she actually enjoyed high school. She did a smattering of AP, really delved into her true loves of journalism and music, became senior class president, and is now headed to New York University with a scholarship. In the end, it’s more about what your priorities are. IB will prepare you for college level courses, but you can still get into a great school with a great scholarship without it.