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The work does not end here: Tips for a smooth college transition

Rachelle Bernadel is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA. She is also an IB graduate of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland.

With practically one month of summer left, many IB graduates are trying to soak up these last few weeks of vacations, late nights, and relaxation before gearing up to begin their first semesters of college. As a recent University of Maryland College Park graduate, I vividly remember that feeling. The anxiety of submitting extended essays, internal assessments, and group projects did at times take a toll. Summer has always been a way to recuperate and refocus before the next year. Although the formalities of the admissions process may be over, much of the heavy lifting is now really beginning. Part of the IB mission statement is to encourage students to be “lifelong learners,” sometimes easier said than done. But living up to this does not have to be so daunting.  During the summer before freshman year, it is important for students to think about ways to be self advocates. How can they best showcase that the IB program has molded them into this type of learner? Here are a few tips that former IB students can take with them into their first year of college:

  • Build Relationships: This can be something as simple as emailing a prospective professor with a virtual introduction. When students were completing their extended essays, many were assigned an advisor to guide them in formulating their paper. The same idea applies here. There is something powerful about connections, and once you start them, prove to be very useful. However, when these types of relationships are not forged, many students may consider not going on with college altogether. This is because they lack the support resources to guide them through the many processes that occur after admission (financial aid, class registration, enrollment paper work). Admissions professionals call this the “summer melt” which in turn can have disheartening effects for those students who worked so hard to get into college initially. One way the IB works to freeze the melt is by cultivating relationships is through the IB Alumni Network. You never know, a former classmate can be a future colleague or mentor!
  • Get Involved: Many university websites often display their extra-curricular groups and organizations for prospective students to see. You remember those Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) hours? Now is a prime time to brainstorm groups you may be interested in joining or even starting! IB teaches students to be innovators and doers. Check out my last post about our IB Higher Education Access Summit a few weeks ago to learn about the student speaker Lynda Lopez who founded her own group called the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance. Seek out these types of opportunities early.
  • Read:  Ever heard the phrase, “use it before you lose it?” This is especially applicable once the summer hits. After students finish their IB exams, most just want to decompress. However, the summer before college is a crucial time to keep your mind fresh and acute. A book that I am currently reading called, “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation” by Parker Palmer could be a great place to start. Entering college can be very overwhelming, and oftentimes students are pressured to make split-second choices while still trying to find their own niche. This book provides insight on developing your emotional self and letting your inner voice guide decision making. As the IB develops holistic students, reading is a good way to build on this foundation for collegiate studies.

So counselors, parents, admissions officers I urge you to share some of these tips along with your own insights with students. Helping them get into college is one thing, but making sure they thrive is another. Do you have ideas that have been especially helpful? Please share them below and let’s create a knowledge bank for student success!


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