Is the IB Diploma worth the work?

Vanessa Infanzon

Photo by Cliff Hollis, East Carolina University News Services

My son is a seventh grader in a Middle Years International Baccalaureate (IB) program. In just a few years, he will have to decide if he wants to continue to the IB Diploma Program, a rigorous curriculum with a focus on theory of knowledge, creativity, activity, service and the extended essay.

The IB Diploma Program is two years and begins in a student’s junior year of high school. Students take courses in six subject areas: language arts or literature, foreign language, social studies, lab science, math and arts. Students can take two of another area if they do not want to pursue arts.

Courses are spread out over two years with exams at the end of the senior year.

What are the benefits of an IB Diploma?

Students who graduate with an IB Diploma are well prepared for college both personally and academically, said Harriet Regen, IB coordinator at North Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte.

“The piece of the IB program that is the most valuable across the board is that it helps students adapt to the expectations of the college classroom,” Regen said. “No matter where they end up in college, they come back feeling a real sense of readiness.”

Regen found that students have developed the skills needed to succeed at college. They have confidence, written and oral communication skills, the ability to advocate for themselves and find resources when they need help.

How do admission officers view the IB Diploma?

A college’s admissions office has the job of determining what students will be the most successful at their school. David Meredith, director of undergraduate admissions at East Carolina University, said standardized test scores, such as the SAT and ACT, and high school transcripts are the best predictors of success.

If a student can succeed with the full IB course load, that may be a good indicator of their future college career. “It [high school transcripts] shows what you did for four years, day in, day out, week after week, month after month, year after year,” Meredith said. “The four-year high school experience closely mimics the four-year college experience.”

Meredith recommended students think about how the IB Diploma Program will prepare them for college, even more so than how it will help them get into a school.

“An IB Diploma will certainly prepare a student to have the tools to be successful,” Meredith said. “An IB Diploma program teaches you the skills: teaches how to think, how to prepare and study and work hard. Those are skills that carry over very nicely to the college setting.”

What are the downsides of pursuing the IB Diploma?

The IB Diploma curriculum is not easy. Students take courses in all areas of study, some of which may not be their strongest subjects. It takes discipline, organization and support from families. Some parents have reported late nights of studying and a heavy work load.

How do I know what credits are accepted for IB courses?

Most school’s admission websites will have detailed information about what IB exam scores equate to college credit. For example, a score of five or better on an IB Biology exam could equate to credit for Biology 101.


Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. In her former life, she worked in Student Life at Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @morethanVMI

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