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The transition from high school to university: It’s okay not to know

We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. This is the second article in a series by Kristin Waites, one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors.

By Kristin Waites

In high school we’re given knowledge—facts and theorems we memorize so that we can be tested on what we know—and the Diploma Programme even teaches us how to go about finding that knowledge.

But in college, and in life, it starts to become obvious that there are a lot of things we just don’t know. It can be hard to adjust to the change, but in my experience it was important to remember that there is beauty to be found in that uncertainty.

Kristen Waites

Kristin Waites is a graduate of Baylor University and the IB Program at Garland High School

I left high school thinking that I knew everything. I had a major, a school, and a future career all picked out, and if someone had asked me where I would be in five years, I could have whipped out my planner to show them. I knew who I was, who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to do with my life. But I was wrong. And it only took me one semester to realize that it didn’t matter how much I “knew” what I wanted to do with my life. Life has its own plans, and they often look nothing like our own.

Part of learning is becoming comfortable with not knowing. It’s hard, especially in a society where we have so much information at the tips of our fingers.

In many ways, college is about learning just like high school was, but suddenly there are more things to learn; not just school things like biology and literature, but life things like choosing a career and buying groceries and trying not to hate your horrible roommate. These are things you can’t just learn from a book or a class. (Though your parents are a good option—call them, they’ll appreciate it.)

Part of learning is becoming comfortable with not knowing. It’s hard, especially in a society where we have so much information at the tips of our fingers. It makes us feel invincible sometimes, and that’s great. But it’s also great to say that you don’t know something, or that you’re still learning and want to know more. There is wisdom in admitting you don’t know everything, because saying “I don’t know” just means acknowledging that you are open to the chance to learn something new.


Kristin Waites is a recent graduate of Baylor University with a BA in Professional Writing. She graduated from the IB Diploma Programme at Garland High School, US, in 2012. Kristin is using her degree to pursue a career in publishing and hopes her writing will help other IB graduates pursue their passions as well

  • Pathe

    Thank you, great post