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CP or not CP…Helping career-oriented students choose the right path

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.

Back in the mid-nineties, when I was an IB newbie at Escuela Campo Alegre, my best student refused to do the IB Diploma Programme. He could have been our first perfect score! I was a little annoyed but, mostly, I was curious. I knew this guy always challenged himself, pursued the most rigorous courses, took on leadership positions in extra-curricular activities, thought critically, and acted creatively. He also demonstrated great integrity, individuality and thoughtfulness. Why not do the IB? His answer was multi-layered. He wanted to focus on the sciences and on writing. He wanted to be immersed in all three of the traditional sciences and also meander into programming and journalism. He demanded opportunities to specialize and to concentrate on his interests. How could I argue with that? Knowing this guy, it made perfect sense. Still, I had a nagging suspicion that he would miss out on the really cool aspects of the IB Diploma – not taking TOK, not completing an Extended Essay, not sharing the CAS experience – would it hurt his college prospects?

Today, I would point this guy firmly in the direction of the IB Career-related Programme (CP). The CP framework allows students to specialize in, a career-related pathway. CP students take at least two Diploma Programme courses, pursue their career-related studies and fulfill the distinctive CP core requirements. The CP core connects the dots through the study of a second language, a Personal and Professional Skills course, community service, and a culminating project which addresses an ethical issue in their chosen field.


I have been thinking a lot about what makes the CP such a compelling option. Would my guy have been well served by the requirements of the CP? Probably, but he is not the reason I think this is such an exciting study path. To demonstrate the strength, potential and momentum of the CP, I asked colleagues from the International School of Geneva and Watkins Mill High School to allow me to share the stories of some students for whom the CP was a transformative experience. Here are some of their comments:
“Student A was weak in math and writing. On the other hand, he was a competitive skateboarder and had spent some time filming skating-action sequences. For his last two years of high school he took IB Film and French with a CP specialization in art and design. He is now off to film school in London.”


“*** was dyslexic. He would get very stressed during exams and was glad to be offered more opportunities for showing his knowledge in the portfolio assessments and the more practical applications in his business courses. Within a month of joining the CP he became more active in school life and joined in classroom debates with a newly found confidence and enthusiasm. He is going to one of the top hotel schools in the world this fall.”

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“As I stroll down the lane, one of the first kids who comes to mind is ***. This little girl began her MCPS career in the ESOL program, coming here from Nepal with her family when she was 9 years old. She was from a hard working but economically disadvantaged family, and was on our FARMS list (Free and Reduced Meals). She was a student who would have “settled” for the DP had we not had the CP, but she was dead set on a medical profession and passionately wanted to undertake our Medical Careers Academy. The timing was perfect for her, as she was right in line to be a member of our first CP graduating cohort, and was able to experience her top choice here: Completing the Medical Academy while participating in a meaningful and exciting new IB Program: The CP. Her IB DP Courses over 11th and 12th grades, were HL English (Language A), HL Biology, and IB Physics. She took the full array of Medical Careers coursework, which also included challenging science courses as well as the Medical Internship, and graduated with a Maryland state Diploma, certification as a CNA (certified Nurse’s assistant), a certification in CPR, and a Career-related Program Certificate, She earned a 3.76 straight GPA and a 4.34 weighted GPA, having worked so hard throughout the program. Her SAT scores were stronger in Math and were slightly weak in Language, again remembering that she’d only been speaking English for about 7 -8 years by the time she took it. As a result of her industriousness and her challenging program, *** earned an amazing and prestigious scholarship to college: The Posse Scholarship, 4 years, full tuition, at Grinnell College. She is well on her way to achieving her goal of becoming a medical doctor”

Skills based learning, academic rigor, reflection and engagement – whether you’re in Geneva or Gaithersburg, the CP might be the perfect choice for your students.

To learn more about the CP or the entire IB Continuum, visit

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