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How can we get more U.S. colleges and universities to grant credit for SL classes? Is it hopeless?

Marie Vivas is the IB Americas University Relations Manager. She has overall responsibility for university recognition in the Americas region, working closely with admissions professionals counseling university bound students.

This post is in response to a question from our IB Counselors, Coordinators and University Relations group on Facebook.

How can we get more U.S. colleges and universities to grant credit for SL classes? Is it hopeless?

This is an issue that requires a layered answer so please bear with me as I try to sort it out.

First and simplest answer is that many universities do give SL credit – Notable examples are UT Austin (within the context of the Diploma). Actually, this is true for the public institutions in Texas. The public institutions in Florida also give SL credits – no restrictions on Diploma vs. individual course. The University of Nebraska Lincoln and Omaha, Kent State in Ohio have SL friendly policies and then there are lots of great liberal arts colleges such as Drew University, Wittenberg University, Salve Regina University, Marist College, Hawaii Pacific University and Colorado College. And, in the State of Virginia, VCU, JMU and College of William and Mary all have SL credit for select courses. These are just some examples I can come up with spontaneously. I am sure there are many others out there. We do try to get the word out in our bi-monthly Good News Letter.

That said, it is true that many universities only grant credit or advanced standing for Higher Level courses. This is true for most highly selective institutions and many others as well. This can be unfair to our students who have achieved excellent results in very rigorous Standard Level courses and for that reason, here in the IB Americas Office, we have been working hard to educate our university partners on the content, rigor and depth of our SL courses. This work starts with individual visits to universities to train admissions officers and work with faculty and other staff on creating fair and attractive policies. We also present at professional conferences such as NACAC and regional ACAC’s, AACRAO and regional CRAO’s and other venues where we can reach our higher education colleagues.

NACAC Panel Session

Our Global Recognition team has developed a number of excellent resources for universities who are looking to enhance their policies and attract IB students. Many US colleges and universities approach us because they want to connect with more IB students. We work with them and we share the resources available on the IB recognition resources and document library.


There are also a variety of grassroots efforts by IB World School Associations to increase the number of SL friendly policies. They work closely with my office to organize recognition events and to lobby state legislatures to create laws designed to recognize the hard work of IB students in their public institutions. Additionally, there are very positive efforts to empower students to self-advocate on this issue. At last year’s mid-Atlantic Counselor Breakfast, here in the Bethesda Office, Dan Coast from Mount Vernon High School, gave a presentation entitled Empowering Students to Self-Advocate for College Credit Recognition.

Please keep in mind that in the United States, there is no central body that governs university admissions and credit policies. While that makes our jobs more complicated in terms of influencing policy, it is also the reason why the US higher education landscape offers such a rich and diverse array of options to students from all walks of life. That means that the work of university recognition is frequently done institution by institution, legislature by legislature. This is why we need a multi-faceted approach. Our team has made this a front burner issue, the IB World School Associations are working closely with us. Individual Coordinators and Counselors have always done their share, and now, they have us pushing with them. Finally, students have a strong voice on campuses and we want to empower them as well.

Ultimately, I do wonder about making college credit the centerpiece of why students should do the IB. Shouldn’t we focus instead on how well prepared students are to meet the demands of a rigorous academic program in college? There is considerable research on how much more successful IB students are because they have strong academic skills, higher engagement and a passion for learning. This research is available within the Programme Impact Studies on

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14 Responses to How can we get more U.S. colleges and universities to grant credit for SL classes? Is it hopeless?

  1. Lisa Renard January 16, 2015 at 16:09 #

    You are totally preaching to the choir RE: credit not being the centerpiece; however, my school division is not so much In the choir. They are considering cutting IB in favor of AP because VA colleges tend to reward AP more, at least in terms of SL courses.

    I wish this weren’t the case. But here we are, apparently.

  2. Nancy Laiver January 20, 2015 at 13:17 #

    While it is true that an IB education certainly prepares a student for college, and that should be the true motivation for seeking an IB diploma, it is also true that credits earned in high school can greatly reduce the cost of college, which is be increasingly becoming prohibitive. If the colleges can give credit to a one year AP course, then they should be able to give credit to a one year IB course. Both cover college appropriate material.

  3. Meri Kock January 21, 2015 at 19:01 #

    We have an IB Career-related Programme now, graduating our first seniors this year. When we were approved for DP in 2004 we had to spend a lot of time educating the universities in our area about the benefits of DP. We’re now finding we have to do the same thing for CP. In addition to working to get college credit for SL courses, who should we contact about assisting with the effort to educate admissions personnel regarding the value of the Career-related Program?

    • Rachelle Bernadel January 26, 2015 at 09:17 #

      Hi Meri,

      Thanks for your question send us a list of universities that your CP students are applying to and we will send you our CP Cover letter and brochure. Also, we have begun a CP campaign with specialized schools. My email is


  4. EW February 1, 2015 at 13:50 #

    In practice this means (at least when I was in school) that most IB students take both the IB and AP exams for all of their SL classes, in order to be reasonably assured of getting college credit. That’s a huge and unnecessary increase in test time, preparation, stress, and cost.

    As for how the IBO can help change this, I’d suggest emphasizing to colleges that the IB SL exam is designed to cover 1 full year of intensive study, just like the AP exam. (IB HL exams go even further because they cover 2 years.) AP exams are almost universally accepted for college credit, so I hope that will help convince colleges. And at least in my experience, the IB classes and exams were much harder/more rigorous than the corresponding AP exams.

    • Rachelle Bernadel February 2, 2015 at 08:51 #

      You are absolutely right. During our work with universities, we even give colleges a side by side comparison of HL and SL coursework to show that SL courses do not lack in rigor, just the amount of teaching hours. This has been extremely helpful in the battle to convince colleges to recognize SL. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Holly Garner February 7, 2015 at 01:48 #

    As a Mathematics teacher who has attended a couple of different higher ed institutions in the USA, I believe SL Mathematics should be given some college credit. Maybe even Studies…
    I was looking at medical school admissions requirements for a student the other day and the Bio and Chem were quite substantial, as would be expected, but the Mathematics was ‘college algebra’ or higher. Well, Standard Level Mathematics requires a good deal of Calculus and of course “College” Algebra, as well as Vectors,Trigonometry, and Probability & Statistics. Higher Level Mathematics includes Complex Numbers, Matrices and more Calculus and Statistics, most of which very, very few university graduates understand (or need) at all!
    I have seen people earn university credit for what I would consider to be a middle school curriculum of fractions and financial mathematics. SO why not give credit for a 4, 5, 6, 7 in Standard Level Mathematics, and even a 5, 6, 7 in Studies?

  6. Edwige C. B February 11, 2015 at 14:45 #

    Would you send me a copy of the “Empowering Students to Self-Advocate for College Credit Recognition” mentioned in the article? I would love to see it.

    Please email me at if you have it.

    Thank you.

  7. Rick Arrington February 11, 2015 at 16:17 #

    i’d like to add The University of Tulsa as one of the schools proudly giving credit for SL credi, diploma or not.

    • Rachelle Bernadel February 16, 2015 at 22:49 #

      Hi Rick,

      Wonderful 🙂

  8. Sean W February 23, 2015 at 15:26 #

    Great to see that I am not the only one who has been thinking about this! When looking at what my alma mater gives college credit for (a public 4 year university in Texas), I was dismayed to see that for many subjects, credit for SL exams is only given to students who have received the IB diploma.

    I believe that this practice is not fair to students who have taken a class at the same rigor as an equivalent AP class, and I hope that your efforts to decrease the bias against IB course credit in the United States are successful.

    It is very discouraging to hear my students talk about how they don’t want to take an IB class because “it will be very difficult and I might not even get college credit”. You could argue that the true value in an IB course is the academic skills you gain which will better prepare you for college but it might not be reasonable for high school students to value “better preparation for college”, which is an abstract concept, over “gaining college credit”, which is a more concrete concept.

  9. Joan O'Reilly March 19, 2015 at 17:57 #

    I would be interested in seeing a comprehensive list of American colleges and universities that offer IB SL college credit. As an SL teacher, I find it very difficult to substantiate my claim that SL classes are equal to AP classes, when AP is obviously preferred by the institutions in general. I do think the confusion stems from the SL/HL split, but I can’t imagine our school without that very thing. It certainly helps our students achieve, knowing that they are working at college level classes without the extra push of HL.

  10. DeJ April 12, 2015 at 23:48 #

    As a sophomore who has been accepted into the IB program and will start next fall, I too would like to see a list of schools that offer credit for IB. My cousin was in the IB program before me and was able to get a full ride from UAB and skip ahead to his sophomore year. He did take the AP exams alongside his IB program and made a 28 on his ACT, so I’m not sure how IB actually contributed to his scholarship, but I do know for a fact UAB does give something for IB students.

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