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How the DP prepared me for university

We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Alumna Haley Clasen is one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors.

By Haley Clasen

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Haley Clasen received her IB Diploma from Fishers High School, US.

For all its ups and downs, participating in the IB Diploma Programme (DP) was unquestionably the most formative part of my academic experience. I completed my exams in the May 2015 examination session, and began classes at university in August 2015. During the time I was in the program, I knew I was growing and being challenged academically and personally. I’d seen research demonstrating high numbers of highly-prepared IB graduates in university, and explaining a high level of preparedness, but after completing my first semester of university, I’m beginning to understand how IB prepared me in a unique way. Because I was pushed to grow as a whole person, I am better able to deal with the challenges of university, both academic and extracurricular.

Academically, the DP did a phenomenal job preparing me for university. It’s no secret that IB values creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills, which many students hope to develop in college. However, I had a firm foundation coming in. With most written exams being essay-based, plus oral presentations in both Language A and B (as well as other disciplines such as Theatre and even Chemistry), DP students learn to develop and defend their unique ideas, sharing them for debate and conversation with others. In university seminar classes, this is especially significant. Whereas many of my peers hope the professor will not call on them or nurse a fear of speaking in front of the class, I willingly participate and feel comfortable expressing my ideas. I noticed this most in my history class, where debates and upper-level analysis came easily to me whereas my peers were beginning to develop these skills. Because of how the DP required me to communicate my arguments, I find myself more comfortable than my peers with engaging in class, and even conversation outside of class.

Earlier this year, I attended a dinner with a group of Honors students from my school. All were exceptional students in high school, had at least one major and minor, and chatted excitedly about all the new clubs they were a part of. As the conversation progressed, many acknowledged they were overwhelmed by the amount of work required by their classes, especially when they spent so much time outside of class in extracurricular activities. They weren’t getting nearly enough sleep; some admitted to as few as four hours a night! Hearing them talk, I began to realize how the DP prepared me to deal with the challenges a university has to offer. Through the DP, rigorous coursework wasn’t the only thing required – Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) hours asked me to participate in, lead, and develop myself outside of the classroom.

The DP put a lot on my plate, but I learned how to succeed and thrive in a rigorous environment. I learned to write to-do lists to make sure I cover everything, and to plan my calendar even weeks in advance, helping me organize my time around what I need to do. When I receive a large assignment short-notice, or an extracurricular demands more than I expected, I do not have to sacrifice mental and social health like my peers do, because I have planned extra time into my schedule. The IB Learner Profile describes IB students as “balanced,” and this is just one characteristic of my whole-person development that IB facilitated.

Overall, I consistently trace my preparedness for university to specific skills I built through the IB Diploma Programme. From balancing academic and personal growth to contributing my ideas, I have been able to thrive in university whereas even my honors peers sometimes fight to survive. The DP prepared me for university in ways I didn’t even expect. As much as I grew in the program itself, it has a lasting impact that affects not only how I will study for the next four years, but how I manage myself and who I become.


Contributing author Haley Clasen is passionate about learning! She writes about what the pursuit of knowledge looks like to her, and how it can ameliorate global society. She currently attends Messiah College and received her IB Diploma at Fishers High School, US.

Are you an IB graduate? Join the IB Alumni Network by visiting www.ibo.org/alumni.