Do International Baccalaureate Programs Prepare Students For College?

Information for this blog post was provided by Kathryn Pfaff. Kathryn is a fourth year student at the University of California, Berkeley, double majoring in History and Spanish and minoring in Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies.

While at Cal, Kate has been a member of the Cal Dance Team, served as a volunteer coordinator for arts enrichment programs in Bay Area elementary schools, and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society as a junior.

In the Fall, Kate plans to pursue a Master’s in Education at either Harvard or Columbia. She credits the I.B. Program with diversifying her interests and more than preparing her for the courses she would take in college. Go Bears!

  • How Did You Learn About The I.B. Program?

In my community, the I.B. program is highly esteemed. I grew up in Modesto, California, a city which, at the time of my graduation, had one high school that offered I.B. coursework and four that offered A.P. classes. Modesto High School’s I.B. program was founded in August 1994 and currently offers “Pre-I.B.” courses for students with freshmen and sophomore standing and I.B. coursework for juniors and seniors.

The program has routinely received hundreds of applications from eighth grade students. The program focuses on not only providing its students with an outstanding education, but also on creating a community amongst students and staff members. Possibly for these reasons, the program’s annual I.B. exam pass rate is well above the national average.

  • Why Did You Apply For The I.B. Program?

Personally, I was drawn to the I.B. because of its commitment to providing its graduates with a comprehensive education. In the I.B. program, students are required to take six tests that measure one’s competency in mathematics, science, history, English, a social science, and a second language. I knew that the I.B. program would force me to be a “Renaissance” student: in order to receive any college credit, I would have to do well on all six tests, not just on the ones that would prepare me for my eventual career.

On top of the academic requirements of the I.B. program, candidates must complete one hundred and fifty hours of service in order to be eligible for a diploma.

Lastly, the program requires that its students complete an “extended essay.” The extended essay is essentially a 4,000 word research project in the students’ subject of choice. After completing all these requirements, I can honestly say that I walked away from the program as a well-balanced and service-minded individual.

  • How Do I.B. Courses Differ From A.P. Courses?

Since I.B. courses are not as common as A.P. courses, many students worry about receiving college credits for their I.B. exams. Although every university has a slightly different policy, in my experience at the University of California, Berkeley, I.B. and A.P. students were rewarded a similar number of credits.

While some students consider receiving college credits to be of the utmost importance, I would argue that receiving a well-rounded education is much more important than being waived from several lower division college courses. For this reason, I would not take the receipt of college credits into account when choosing a high school course load.

  • What Did You Gain From The I.B. Program?

In my opinion, International Baccalaureate is an outstanding program. I believe that its best quality is that it challenges students by only rewarding those with diverse academic interests. It pushes students to think outside of the constraints of the classroom, it rewards long-term research, and often provides students with unique learning opportunities.

For example, I began studying Spanish in high school and was able to travel abroad to two Spanish-speaking countries with Modesto High School’s I.B. program. These trips not only allowed me to improve my Spanish, but they also gave me the opportunity to interact very distinct cultures. We were given the opportunity to volunteer in Guatemalan villages and were encouraged to create lesson plans for children in urban after-school programs. For me, these trips symbolized everything that the I.B. program stands for: the importance of receiving firsthand experience, an emphasis on service, and international cooperation.

In short, although the International Baccalaureate program may not be as well known as Advanced Placement, it is an incredibly comprehensive and rewarding program, especially for students looking to be challenged and exposed to a diverse range of world views.

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Clara Ma

Clara Ma

Clara is a third year student attending the University of California, Berkeley currently pursuing a double major in Political Science and Media Studies. Her school activities include being a captain on the Cal Dance Team, being a Campus Ambassador, as well as being part of THRIVE Dance Company. She enjoys living vicariously through others on the Internet, keeping up with pop culture on Tumblr, and watching a copious number of television shows (namely Sherlock and How I Met Your Mother).