At this point, if you are a Bedford High school student, then you are no stranger to the IB Diploma Program, as it is so heavily incorporated in our curriculum and culture. There is a great amount of emphasis on taking the path of the IB Diploma, but what does it mean to be in the IB Program? What are its benefits? In the words of our IB Coordinator, Mr. Cannon, "IB specifically focuses on critical thinking, writing, and inquiry... to better prepare students for college."
Our school's academics are built around the IB Program, and in many cases, higher level classes in Freshman and Sophomore year prepare us for taking IB classes. In a specific example, many colleges look for students to take Pre-Calculus during their 4 years here at high school, but students are only offered the choice between an IB level and Honors level Pre-Calculus. Students are faced with a difficult decision in whether continuing along the common path of IB math and IB math integrated courses, or only taking standard level electives, which may be undesirable by some.
Many students brush past the opportunities of the IB Program and the benefits that we as students have here at Bedford, as we are so lucky to have such a highly rigorous curriculum that prepares us so well for college, and causes us stand out among other high schools in our state, and even our country. As seniors are stressing over college applications, those enrolled in the IB Program are able to defend their knowledge to a college by proving that they are ready to take on the college-level academics, as they have extensive preparation within the classroom, as well as the commitment to remain with that college for the full four years. This is shown in the higher retention rates that IB boasts, as shown in the figure below, from IB's own research:
A common stigma that surrounds the Diploma describes it much like a binding contract of chaining yourself to the desk for the last 2 years of your high school experience, as the stress that most Juniors and Seniors have is amplified by test deadlines, CAS projects, and the most feared, Extended Essay. Some students drop out of the IB Program in order to fully experience their senior year. Very few can precisely balance all aspects of school and social events, but it has turned out extremely successful for some of our past Alumni. Some such IB Diploma students are currently enrolled in Ivy League colleges such as Princeton and Cornell. Despite the fact that it may seem unreachable, Mr. Cannon maintains that all students can be successful in an IB classroom, even if the full Diploma Program is overwhelming.
One major question that is constantly asked is how the AP classes compare to IB classes, where many colleges seem to value AP more that IB. Mr. Cannon, who stands at the position of being both IB and AP coordinator, makes it clear that the differences lie in the objective of the program and the organization who runs it. IB, he says, has a greater focus on critical thinking and problem solving, while AP was created to replicate the environment of a college freshman course. This usually makes an AP course one that is more focused on content knowledge. Both are valid methods of college preparation, but students must ask themselves what they hope to gain from the class before taking it, in order to make an informed decision. It is also worth mentioning that the AP program is run by the College Board, which has direct affiliations with most colleges and universities. Therefore, there is a greater pressure on colleges and universities to offer AP credit. It must be remembered that oftentimes where there is AP credit, there usually is also IB credit, it may just be slightly harder to find. Here is a comprehensive list, straight from IB's website that complies most of the American colleges and universities that offer IB credit.
As a student who is not currently in the IB Diploma program, but still enrolled in IB classes, I feel as though there is not a huge difference between taking the classes, and being an actual IB Diploma candidate. Many can argue with me on this view, but on the larger scale, we are all taking the same classes, we will be taught the same rigorous curriculum, and we will all walk down the same aisle at graduation, regardless of a medal or tassel.
I am currently an IB Diploma Candidate, and plan to earn the diploma at the end of senior year having completed all of the necessary components. Many of my friends don't understand why I'm putting this much pressure on myself, but I truly see this as the best path for me. I've always wanted to be fully challenged in high school, as I plan on pursuing an ambitious career, and I find it best that I'm part of a rigorous program that should prepare me well for the challenging path ahead. Mr. Cannon told me that while the benefits of IB may not be apparent right now while I am in the program, I will feel the difference while in higher education. I plan to hold him to that.