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Decisions, Decisions: Full Diploma or a few courses here and there?

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.

Seems like a loaded question right? At least from the perspective of those of us at the IB, we have a saying that “Any IB is better than no IB,” which is backed by research our organization and other external agencies have done. But when it comes down to guiding students to a specific pathway, there are a few practical considerations students and parents should be aware of. I would preface by saying that this post is for informational purposes, and to keep in mind that every student is different as are their needs and the needs of their families.

  1. Why is IB for them? This is the conversation that needs to happen with any student preparing to be a part of the program regardless of pathway choice. What are the intrinsic motivators/skills that will keep them going when things get challenging, that lovely GRIT factor the academic community has embraced. Ensuring that students understand the commitment of an IB course in itself is essential to making sure that students not only enroll, but thrive.
  1. Backwards Planning-Juggling passions and pursuits: This is a big one for many students. The band player taking orchestra classes after school while attending national concerts on the weekend, and many other students fear that taking the IB will limit their ability to pursue a Other students who are very driven to be the engineer, doctor or bio medical researcher worry that the IB curriculum will not support their future college course requirements. Thinking with the end in mind becomes extremely important when advising students in this area. As a counselor you should discuss with the student their college degree goals to ensure alignment during the high school years. The last thing that the student would want is to get to the end of senior year and realize they needed one more science or math course in order to apply to a particular degree program. Considering passions and pursuits is a good way to determine whether to go full diploma or course taker.
  1. School-Family Balance: As I spoke with students from low income or underserved backgrounds in our IB student workshops, one pervasive theme was, “well what about my family?” For many IB students they are leaders in their families. They are the glue that helps keep things running and thus, have many other responsibilities outside of school. So when considering the full Diploma this is something to definitely have open conversations about. However, it is an area that should not discourage or scare students. One thing I can say about this group of students is that they embrace challenge and lean into vulnerability. What I LOVE about the IB is its flexibility, its ability to allow students to be creative in meeting different requirements. Whether it be submitting a family budget as a part of CAS or tutoring a siblings while parents are at work. The IB is about lived experiences and the face of IB students never looks the same.

So, I know you were expecting me to give you a clear cut answer. But for those of you who have been in the IB world, nothing here is clear cut. Whether your students take one IB course or the full diploma, the value will always come back to effort put in by the student and their expectations/hopes of taking the course. It will change their life and be an experience they will never forget, trust me (and the word of my fellow alumni all over the world).  I am confident you will help your students make the best decision for them.

fork in the road

If they seek, they will find

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