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Stanford freshman addresses admissions professionals at education conference

Inlate September, IB Diploma graduate Andrew Beckman received a surprise email from his former college counselor at the French American International School, located in San Francisco, California. It asked if he would be willing to give a speech for the IB Higher Education Symposium, to be held at Stanford University, where he is currently an undergraduate freshman. The symposium took place in early October, bringing together nearly 100 admissions professionals.

Andrew3.close - CopyAndrew spoke to the crowd, providing a real-life look at how an IB education helps get students into top universities.

After his speech, we asked Andrew to share his thoughts on addressing the conference and if there were any parallels to draw between the IB and his life at Stanford. He told us that the opportunity also provided insight into understanding more about his
own journey.

This process of reflection was informative to me as it helped me to better understand myself. It caused me to take a step back and think deeply about the ways in which the IB program contributed to the person that I am today and how it factored into my acceptance to Stanford.

Andrew is fortunate to have gotten into what he calls the “school of his dreams,” but there is more to the story. Beyond the admissions process, the experience has benefited him well into his freshman year:

Much of what I learned as an IB student has carried over to my studies at Stanford and has given me an advantage…the kind of critical thinking the IB instills and the skills it helps develop (e.g. the skill of writing) are very much in line with—perhaps even above—what is expected of me so far in college.

These core skills, like writing and critical thinking, are only part of the story. Hinting at the broader objectives of the IB learner profile, Andrew pointed at how some of his courses at Stanford are aiming at bringing students towards the same understanding of their learning that is established throughout the IB.

One course at Stanford is titled “How To Become a Global Citizen: The German Tradition of Bildung” and it falls under the category of Education as Self-fashioning. Andrew helped us understand a little more about this course:

All the courses in this category pertain to the study of liberal education, and my particular course looks at the historical roots of liberal education through the lens of great German thinkers (e.g. Luther, Humboldt, etc.). What is a liberal education? Where does liberal education come from? Why do we seek liberal education as opposed to simply learning practical skills? These questions we ask in this class are ones drawn from the kind of critical thought I learned in the IB.”

If you are an IB graduate reading this, you will recognize the similarities between this material and the “ways of knowing” addressed in the Theory of Knowledge (TOK). How do we know what we know? And how do we become aware of ourselves as thinkers and more acquainted with the complexity of knowledge? In his speech Andrew admitted this was one of his favorite courses.

[TOK] is something unique to the IB and the discussions and assignments I had in that class were extremely formative, providing me with the freedom and knowledge to construct my own philosophical ideas and moral framework.

Stanford Higher Education Symposium October 2013In conclusion, Andrew offered some advice to admissions officers. He asked them to develop a “deep understanding of the different parts of the program and how exactly it all worked.” He believes that the different core requirements, like Theory of Knowledge, the Extended Essay, and Creativity, action, service, prepared him well for University.

Referring to the Extended Essay, he says:

“While writing a paper that long for the first time was surely a little bit painful at times, I’m so glad I did! Although I’m only in my third week here at Stanford, I can already tell that I have a much easier time writing papers when compared to a lot of my classmates. The skills required to master the [Extended Essay] are very much in line with what is expected of me here at Stanford.”

Andrew is an exceptional and talented student and we are thankful that he was willing to share his experience with the IB community! To learn more about IB recognition policy and higher education events please visit

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