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A well-rounded education: Getting your students to see how the IB fits into their bigger picture

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.

This week I was reading a 2013 article in the Huffington Post written by the President of Oregon State University Edward Ray titled, “The Value of a Liberal Arts education in Today’s Global Marketplace.” As I went through his discussion, I could not help but reminisce on my own undergraduate studies in trying to decide on a major. I went from letters and sciences (undeclared), to biology then finally finding a home in sociology. My trajectory was quite short in comparison to that of my peers and I am sure to even some of the students you as counselors encounter. However, most times a common theme resounds as students struggle with the paycheck over passion dilemma.

In an economy where for the first time since 2008 the unemployment rate has dropped below 6.1%, students still seriously grapple with the decision of choosing the right major to secure a stable future. For many students and parents, in order to achieve this, the intuitive choice would be a background the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Ray argues in his article, that these disciplines surely must not be ignored for its job prospect benefits. As a testimony to this, a former IB classmate of mine has now gone on to successfully pursue a Master’s degree in Cancer Biology. The IB gave her the comprehensive math and science foundation she needed while incorporating the analytical abilities to approach medical issues of today. As our world globalizes and skills such as critical thinking, cultural sensitivity and attunement social/political/economic perspectives become more marketable, a liberal arts background is also invaluable.

This is indeed the cornerstone of the IB Diploma program. Spanning across six disciplines in both depth and longevity allows students the opportunities to develop the skills that many employers and universities look for. From acquiring a second language outside of the student’s native tongue, to studying how knowledge is conceived across subject areas are aspects that cannot be disregarded.

In fact, at this year’s National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) conference many of the prestigious universities who were featured on an IB and College Admissions panel supported this.  They emphasized that the IB curriculum gives students a well-rounded liberal arts perspective which is highly sought after in the admissions process. Moreover, the results of a 2013 national survey also corroborated that employers desire critical thinkers, inquirers and doers! All of which are components of an IB learner.

So when a student comes into your office afraid of how the IB will “fit” into their futures. As they wrestle with paycheck over passion, remind them of these things. Coming from both the liberal arts and IB world, they will not regret it.


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