Making the transition from high school to higher education can be a daunting experience. It can involve leaving home and moving to a new town or city, or even a new country. Students experience all-sorts of “new”, from learning environments to teachers and teaching styles, to friends, to areas of study, to local cultures. Part of the IB’s mission is to prepare students for life beyond the IB and the transition to life after school.
We spoke to alumni of the IB Diploma Programme (DP) who are now studying at the University of Leeds in the UK. Here’s the first in a series of their responses – Bethany Bartley-Jeacock talks about her transition to university. Bethany is studying Arabic and politics and studied the IB Diploma Programme at Dartford Grammar School, Kent, England.
Describe the culture of learning at Leeds University – how does this align with your IB experience?
You have to be prepared to self-teach. Attending lectures gives you a great start but a lot of information covered in your modules you have to research yourself in the library or using other methods. This is similar to how I found the teaching method at an IB school; you’re given the fundamental facts and tools but developing your work is down to you.
Describe the synergies between your IB learner experience and the culture of learning at Leeds University.
There is a mix of learning tactics across all modules; you’ll engage in solo, paired and group work just like in the DP. The fact that you will pick discovery modules offers you the same freedom that the IB gave; you are able to explore a subject outside of your course and core modules. Students are encouraged to attend clubs and societies as part of their time at Leeds just as CAS was a necessity when studying the DP. Many students find their true passions through university societies and use this to help them progress in their course but also as a way to relax and unwind from the pressure of lecture and examinations.
What skills, attitudes and attributes did you most value in your transition from your IB studies to higher education studies at Leeds University?
I really value the extended essay. It’s undeniable that it gave me a head start in first year. I was used to completing extensive research and writing long essays, as well as knowing rules about plagiarism, referencing and conforming to word counts. As strange as it may seem, this set me aside from my A Level peers. Throughout the DP I was set essays so the frequency of work was not a shock.
CAS was also important. Completing 50 hours each for creativity, action and service/volunteering (CAS) during the DP taught me how to balance my studies and my extra activities. Unlike many of my peers, I did not struggle to complete assessed work on time because I was used to organising my time and understood the importance of both my studies and my leisure time.
What was the most challenging part of this transition?
For me, it was probably the change in relationship between students and lecturers. In comparison to higher level teachers in the DP, there can be very limited teacher-student interaction in university core modules. Depending on your subject you may well have three lectures a week but only one seminar. Although you can ask questions at the end of a lecture it is not the same as being in a classroom. Often specific questions or problems will need to be addressed outside of lecture hours during the lecturer’s office hours. This lack of one-on-one time can seem daunting, however I believe this applies to both A Level and DP students and so is more about the transition from sixth form to university than DP to university.