By Stephanie Stan
Many people ask me if, knowing what I know today, I would repeat the Diploma Programme (DP) if given the opportunity. Every time, I reply that I would do it in a heartbeat. Without doubt, the IB diploma was the best decision that I made in high school! I signed up for IB because I wanted to challenge myself – to push my boundaries, grow past my comfort zone, and experience a new way of thinking that comprised of more than just memorization. In the process, I fell in love with the analytical aspects of my courses and the way that I can apply what I learn through different lenses. This love and passion for learning expanded as a result of my IB experiences and continues throughout my undergraduate studies.
I recently visited my high school to talk with future IB diploma candidates about my experiences in the programme and to reflect on my first year of college. The most common questions I received were centered around how I thought that the DP prepared me for my undergraduate studies, and the ways in which what I learned related to my college studies.
“How to eloquently speak and write, independently formulate and vocalize my own ideas and opinions, push myself past the pages of a textbook”
Coincidentally, these were questions that I continuously posed to myself throughout my first year of college during midterm preparation, while listening to lectures and reviewing notes for exams and talking to other students about coursework. There were countless times when I recognized how valuable my IB studies were and how fortunate I was to have completed the DP.
Completing the Diploma Programme tremendously prepared me for college, and not simply through the 21 credits it granted me going into my first year of undergrad. My experience and academic development consisted of the mindset and thought processes that I had developed as a high school Junior and Senior—skills involving how to eloquently speak and write, independently formulate and vocalize my own ideas and opinions, push myself past the pages of a textbook to tackle problems in class and in the real world and apply classroom knowledge and language proficiency to bilingual developmental psychology research I conducted on campus.
Above all, this preparation allowed me to continue to grow as a student and individual because of the profound academic head start that the programme provided me.
Looking back on my experience, my time in the DP brought forth unmeasurable amounts of academic and intellectual discovery, personal growth, diverse relationships and so much more. There are innumerable applications of curriculum I learned in the DP and characteristics I developed through my studies that carried over to my college experience. Nothing else amounts to the level of preparation that an IB student receives prior to beginning college, and the way this preparation helps us to further excel in our later studies and professions. Beyond connections in curriculum, DP pushes students to become stronger analysts, test takers, communicators and thinkers. DP students develop advanced speaking skills during in-class presentations and Individual Oral Commentary’s (IOC) that make us great at public speaking, a skill that has made part of my campus job with Kaplan, giving presentations to campus organizations, very comfortable.
“College is still very difficult, but the skills and thought processes IB students acquire in the DP set us apart from other university students and make it easier to balance and excel in a multitude of different activities.”
Likewise, DP students obtain analytical writing skills while composing our extended essay and Internal Assessments, and from countless exercises and assignments in HL English that make us comfortable analytically writing both short and long assignments. the profound interwoven material covered in DP courses prepares students for their university studies by providing an introduction into the topics covered at the university level. For instance, topics from my HL Biology class were covered again in each of my science classes (Anatomy, Psychology, Biology) last semester at the University of Michigan.
While some of my university peers stress and complain about having three exams in one month, I feel extremely prepared for my coursework and balancing difficult curriculum with many extracurricular activities. I do not feel overly stressed about college exams because by the end of my IB career, I took about 10 exams in two weeks during the DP exam period and have the experiences from internal exams, theory of knowledge (TOK), and the 4,000-word extended essay underneath my belt.
My studies in the Diploma Programme furthered the broadening of my world perspective beyond simply what textbooks tell us to believe. The skills it taught me have made me more confident and completely changed how I see myself, the world around me and how I approach my personal and professional life. College is still very difficult, but the skills and thought processes IB students acquire in the DP set us apart from other university students and make it easier to balance and excel in a multitude of different activities during our college years. Despite all of the hardships, stress, and sleepless nights during my studies in the programme, I loved the experience and I am so thankful for the extent to which my IB studies helped revolutionize how I think, speak and write, and prepared me for my undergraduate and future graduate studies.
Stephanie Stan is a graduate of Bloomfield Hills High School and a current pre-health student at the University of Michigan studying towards her B.S. in Biology, Health and Society.