“It’ll Be Difficult, For Sure” – IB Diploma’s Effect on College Acceptance


Anna Wenzel

800s Hallway College Flags signify the colleges that each faculty member has attended.

Out of the school’s over two thousand students, only about sixty completed the IB diploma program last year, and many students are unsure if it is beneficial. The International Baccalaureate Diploma, or the IB Diploma, is an advanced program available to students here, as well as at other high schools globally.

According to the International Baccalaureate website, the program was created in Europe to “develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”

The program has a reputation for being rigorous and intimidating, with numerous hard classes that must be taken to achieve the final diploma alongside many extra diploma requirements, like the Theory of Knowledge course, creativity, action and service requirements, and the Extended Essay. Often, students hesitate to go into the diploma because they feel the amount of effort put into it won’t help them get into better, more competitive colleges.

According to Carol Diebel, the College & Career Center Volunteer Coordinator, the IB diploma certainly brings advantages to students when they apply to college.

“It really does give a very strong statement to a college that a student is willing to do more than go to class and get good grades. Because the people that are looking at admissions materials and applications, they’re looking for indicators of a student’s willingness to be invested in their product, which is education,” said Diebel. “And a degree at a college involves more than just going to class. It’s commitment to the school and other activities and other things that are required for the program, so the diploma can be early evidence that a student is willing to invest that kind of energy to a whole degree.”

But, at the same time, she admitted that it wasn’t an automatic entrance to whatever Ivy League a student is aspiring to.

“It gives the student an elevated and proved image that the college can depend on, but it’s not an automatic ticket for admission,” said Diebel. “I think most people are asking ‘can it get you into the most competitive colleges — the colleges that have an under 10% acceptance rate?’ Yeah, for those colleges it’s not a ticket, but it is a strong extra statement of character and work ethic and intellectual curiosity.”

Chris Weber, the IB/AP Coordinator, said that there is no good answer to whether or not the diploma helps with college admissions.

“Well, as you probably have gathered, there’s no great answer for how to help people get into any particular college. There’s so many variables,” said Weber. “Every school is unique, and every year that students apply to colleges those colleges have desires and needs that change, so they’re not looking for the same students every year.”

Weber did say that colleges have communicated to the school their interest in IB students.

“There are some colleges that communicate to Fairview and say ‘we really love IB diploma candidates, we love that they’re doing high level research and doing a long paper […] we love that there is a service component built in, we love the fact that the diploma requires 6 different disciplines, so it shows a well-rounded student,’” he said. “That is very appealing to some schools and some colleges communicate with Fairview and they say ‘please tell your diploma candidates to apply here, we love to have them in our university.’”

Diebel said similar things.

“[What] we hear back from colleges is ‘we love your IB students because they have an extra exercised ability for critical thinking,’” Diebel said. “Because so much of the IB program is geared towards not just the what happened or when did it happen but the why and how.”

Mia Torrence, a senior who is a diploma candidate, is a leader in the IB mentor project. The IB mentor project “was created by IB diploma students in order to help younger students understand and navigate the IB program,” she said.

Torrence explained why she wanted to do the IB diploma program.

“I chose to do IB because I was going to be taking all the classes anyway, and then it seemed like the most rigorous path at Fairview,” she said.

Torrence added that time management was essential for a prospective diploma student.

“It’s hard to have good time management so you can do both college applications and the IB diploma, which is why it’s better to be organized if you want to do it,” she said. “I think if you cannot organize your time it’ll be difficult for sure.”

Diebel mentioned the issue of IB test credit, as many colleges don’t offer credit for SL and even HL tests.

“As the IB program grows, it feels like colleges are getting a new idea about how to recognize the classes, both [Standard Level] and [Higher Level], and slowly, slowly,” said Diebel. “It’s taking time for them to realize that our SL classes are the same difficulty level as the one year AP classes. I think that has taken a while, just because the SL is called Standard Level. So, I think that’s slowly happening, that colleges are giving more credit than they used to.”

In addition to that, the school has combined many IB and AP curriculums so students can take both tests if they truly want the credit.

IB is a program that’s about more than test credit, though. It’s about creating thoughtful, well-rounded, interesting individuals. Both Diebel and Weber agreed that students here close their options too early in their high school career, and it might be more interesting to keep them open. Even if a student is hesitating on taking IB or not, it’s worthy to consider.

“In my opinion, I think if there’s one area where we could do better as a school, and especially with younger students, is to not limit the choices,” Weber said. “If they’re at all curious about the diploma or if they’re just curious about their AP and IB testing options, then they [should] come and visit the [IB] office and we can help them look at what their plans are.”