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The College Admission Process: Making it a haven for IB students to show their common good

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 post was inspired from one of our Facebook group members in IB Counselors, Coordinators and University Relations who posted an article from the Harvard Graduate School of Education titled: Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern For Others And The Common Good Through College Admissions. It particularly peaked my interest for two reasons, I personally am at a place in my life where I am intentional about seeing the good. There is so much ugly in the world, it has become crucial to keep things in perspective. Secondly, I realized that there is an overlap in seeing common good as a theme that can be extremely valuable for students within the IB program in the college admissions process.

The overall message of the report suggests that college admissions evaluations should (to a larger extent) encourage high school students to focus on meaningful ethical and intellectual engagement. This in turn can reshape how students/families view their experiences, value and worth as a participant in this process. For IB students, this can be particularly powerful because these are already the themes that the program promotes. Let’s take a look at the IB Mission Statement again:

“The International Baccalaureate® aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.

These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”

Are you seeing the similar parallels between the restructuring of the college process and how IB students currently are being taught? As I read through the report, there were two recommendations that I saw as potential areas for an IB student experience to be considered.

Report Recommendation 1: Redefining achievement in ways that both level the playing field for economically diverse students and reduce excessive achievement pressure.

Let’s revisit the general structure of an IB course for a moment? For example, take look at an IB Language and Literature SL course:






Key Takeaway: What is relevant here are the variations in the way students are assessed. IB curriculum acknowledges that there are different ways that a student can show what they know. Education is not a one size fits all model and for students from different backgrounds and with different starting points, this allows them to not feel pressured into a box of traditional learning. When students are given room for creativity, they are able to demonstrate the diversity, depth and strong stewardship that universities are seeking. As insitutions evaluate students, this is a key point of pedagogy that must be kept in mind.



Report Recommendation 2: Assessing students’ ethical engagement and contributions to others in ways that reflect varying types of family and community contributions across race, culture and class.

Key Takeaway: Here at IB, we love to call the CORE (TOK, EE and CAS) the special sauce of the IB program. It is what makes IB truly unique from other programs. For this reason, specifically in relation to CAS, it allows students to really show their community contributions within the context of their own personal experiences. I can remember as an IB student, I thought that I had to be involved in a volunteer program in an exotic country, or had completed this wide scale service project with a reputable non-profit. Although both of those are great avenues for some students, for others, the service happens closer to home, sometimes even in their own families. It could be preparing a family budget, tutoring younger siblings or working an additional job. In terms of CAS, what matters are the learning outcomes and what was gained from the experience. Every student has a unique story and that should be used as a point for increasing access into college, not treated as a disadvantage.



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