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2014 NACAC Conference, Recap

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.

NACAC, PNACAC, OACAC… I think I am all ACACed out! If you attended the 2014 National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Conference like Marie and I did, then I am sure you know the feeling well. This past week (Wednesday-Saturday) Marie and I presented and exhibited at the conference in Indianapolis, Indiana with over 6000 other admissions and counseling professionals from around the world. It was a very exciting time for those working in the education world, and I can confidently say that after long days of affiliate meetings, educational sessions and learning lounges, it was well worth it. The knowledge that we will be bringing back to our schools, offices and most importantly, our students, is invaluable.

As a “First-Timer” at the Conference, it was a very unique experience for me. Being in an environment where I constantly felt the passion that many other educators had for helping students thrive in college was truly humbling. Not to mention that seeing Marie in her element, interacting with old colleagues and acquiring many new ones along the way, only heightened my time in Indianapolis. In addition, the NACAC staff were all so accommodating and helped me easily navigate the conference without feeling like a lost puppy on Marie’s coattail!

Marie and I held two sessions while at NACAC and we were overwhelmed with the response that each session yielded.

The first of these sessions was a Special Interest Group Meeting in which Marie and IB Diploma Coordinator David Quinn from Edmonds-Woodway High School, spoke about the IB, new initiatives that the University Relations team is launching and addressed any lingering questions from professionals on both sides of the desk. Some of the great takeaways from this meeting included:

  • It is important that we (the collective we) start to convey the importance of understanding the diploma as a whole through parent information sessions and meetings with students. It must be incorporated into the nuances of our daily work.
  • It is incumbent on all of us to be IB advocates. Institutions must also reach out to the IB about recognition if there are questions or concerns.
  • Counselors should stay involved with their regional IB World Schools Association.
  • The IB has often been viewed as a program for privileged students but we are creating access initiatives to support underserved students to include: materials, toolkits, workshops to equip secondary schools and universities. If you have ideas let us know!

NACAC Special Interest Session

 Marie and co-presenter David  at the IB Special Interest Meeting

Marie was then on a panel with Ray Marx from Colegio Americano de Quito, Phyllis Cindy Gould from the University of Michigan, Valerie Piehl from Fishers High School, Mollie Weinstein-Gould from the University of Pennsylvania and David Zutautas from the University of Toronto for a session entitled “The IB Diploma: International Education for the 21st Century.” The room was full of secondary school counselors and university admissions staff who were all eager to learn more about the IB Diploma and how universities view this credential. With many diverse perspectives, important points to note were:

  • Admissions counselors should provide faculty with IB curriculum guides and other materials to help them understand what exactly is covered so they can make appropriate credit determinations.
  • Counselors in the US should express why students have chosen not to take the full diploma so admissions staff can put it into perspective when considering applications.
  • The IB mirrors the heart of liberal arts and universities appreciate this.
  • If students are applying to schools outside of North America, they must take into consideration that there are regional course requirements. Therefore it is important to make selections early.
  • Many IB schools are public schools. So when students take IB courses a la carte, it could be the more viable option in that school.
  • When students begin the IB, they are strong in a few subjects. But over time they are pushed outside of their comfort zone which mirrors university studies. Frequently they develop a much stronger interest in these newer subjects.

NACAC Panel Session

Marie, Ray,Valerie, Molly, Cindy and David presenting at the panel styled IB session

 We would like to thank our secondary school and university colleagues who co-presented with us at both of these sessions. The expertise that they gave about college admissions and the IB truly made our discussions more insightful.

As we all settle back into our daily routines and come of off the conference high, I want to leave you with a poignant message from the keynote speaker Geoffrey Canada: “We have to wake America up about education… continue to have high expectations for students and work with the whole child.” Nothing more, nothing less.


An IB student volunteer brought youthful energy to our booth. Meeting students like this is the driving force behind our work!

Before I go, please take note of the upcoming IB events. On October 16-19, the IB African, Europe & Middle East Regional Conference will take place in Rome, Italy. During that time, on October 16-17 The IB Higher Education Symposium will also be taking place in Hong Kong.

That’s all for now!

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