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Adjusting the clock

We invited IB Diploma Programme (DP) graduates to reflect on their lives and studies. Ocie Marie Grimsley received her diploma from Clarke County High School, Virginia, US. Visit the IB Alumni Network at

By Ocie Marie Grimsley

“You shouldn’t take the IB unless you don’t want a social life.” I was told this when I was a budding freshman in high school by a close friend of mine. He kept telling me things of that nature, all of them negative about the IB Diploma Programme (DP).

One of the highlights of his “warnings” involved the difficulty of the DP. From my experience, I won’t say that it is easy, because I would be lying. But, I can’t say that it’s necessarily hard either. The course load can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s nonetheless manageable with a strategy. It also isn’t for just the “top ten of the class” either; I’m a prime example for that one.

My graduating class of May 2015 with the IB Diploma was the size of 6 students. I had not only the lowest GPA, but also the lowest score average and the lowest class ranking. This is more important than what it seems. Our rankings, in order, were 1, 2, 5, 7, 23, and 69. These numbers were out of a high school class of 159 students. I only ranked in the top half of my class at the 43% mark. 43% of my high school was smarter than I was by GPA; and only 5 people of those 43% have the IB diploma other than myself.

To reply to my friend’s advice, I would always say that I didn’t have much of a social life to lose. This was always a joke because I took his statement as a challenge. I don’t back down from challenges of the mind. I signed up for the IB and kept a social life. Because it isn’t about whether a class or program is easy. What really matters is what you get out of it. For example: I am a procrastinator on a large scale; this is because I operate fairly well under pressure. That was part of how I handled juggling the IB diploma, an after-school job, and extracurricular activities like theatre and choir. And being open about my experience is only one result that I could have ever dreamed of doing after completing the academically rigorous program called the International Baccalaureate.

What I changed was my attitude and my outlook…I examined my own mind first, learning where my weaknesses were and what I could do to turn them into strengths.

I won’t sugar-coat it. It’s a messy balancing act at first, because nothing comes easy upon the first try. But, I learnt to adapt to my environment—and no, this doesn’t mean changing how I thought or approached things (see the procrastination example above); what I changed was my attitude and my outlook. I suffer from ADHD, so how I adapted was I examined my own mind first, learning where my weaknesses were and what I could do to turn them into strengths.

I managed my way through a program that was rumored to be a life-ruiner. I just didn’t allow it to ruin my life. I figured out, with a little help from my friends and family, how to manage the IB course load, a part-time job, and two extracurricular activities. My mom hounded me on my homework until it became a habit to double check my assignments three times a night. My boyfriend had conversations with me to help me stay on track. My extra-curricular activities worked with my work schedule and my work vice versa. But, I had to maintain the position of main communicator to everyone and take the initiative.

So, it isn’t about whether the IB is “hard,” it’s about whether the student can adapt. You don’t have to change your thinking, just how you adjust your clock.

Ocie Marie Grimsley graduated from Clarke County High School with the IB diploma in 2015. Currently pursuing a BA in English at George Mason University, she continues her passion for learning and hopes to encourage others to break the mold and redraw the boundaries by thinking outside the box.

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