The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Dear Future IB Students

The University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. (Eliana Aemro Selassie/International Dateline)

An intense workload. Trouble in your social life. A growing caffeine addiction. The IB is a very stressful experience that forces you to balance all of these things and more. As students who have been through the process, we have some advice that can help you get through it.

The transition from 10th grade to the IB can be challenging. For the class of 2023, having just come out of hybrid learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, this transition became even more difficult.

When transitioning into the IB, students often don’t know exactly what they’re getting into, so the increased workload is unexpected. There is a significant jump in difficulty in the amount of coursework between sophomore and junior year, and an additional increase in assignments throughout 11th grade as Internal Assessments (IAs) are added on.

Additionally, the transition from junior to senior year is overwhelming due to balancing school, IAs and college applications simultaneously in the fall of senior year.

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Completing some IAs going into senior year, as well as having all of our college applications done going into winter break of senior year, helped us manage our stress.

One of the hardest parts of the IB is balancing so many things at once, from the regular course load to IAs, EEs and Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS). Making free time to relax or hang out with friends starts to feel impossible with what feels like a million deadlines piling up.

Our advice is to figure out your priorities. There’s a significant difference between a worksheet and an essay or a test. Rather than putting all your energy into a short-term assignment, focus more on the long-term assignments that will require more time and effort and have more weight.

It also helps to prioritize your higher-level classes over standard-level ones. Not only do these classes have more weight overall, but they tend to be classes that students enjoy the most and hope to pursue in the future. We find it easier to spend large amounts of time on assignments from classes we are really interested in.

When it comes to important assignments like the EE and IAs, our biggest advice is to use your time wisely. Use the EE days and time in class for your IAs to work productively. That way, you can ask your teachers or your EE supervisor questions and make significant progress.

Outside of class, we highly recommend using your breaks from school to work on large assignments. This is especially helpful with the EE since you have summer break between junior and senior year to work on it. Finishing our EEs during the summer helped us avoid stressing over it during our first semester of senior year. Especially when dealing with college applications, IAs and regular schoolwork, the last thing you want to be worrying about is the EE.

With the stress of the IB, it is important to have a work-life balance. While getting specific grades is important, it is equally important to not overly stress about getting a bad grade.

Dedicating some time to yourself to do things you enjoy like watching Netflix, reading a book and going to the gym can make a big difference. Spending time with family and friends can also help take your mind off the stress of school.

While stress is sometimes unavoidable, we find some comfort in knowing that a large majority of our peers are facing the same issue. Moreover, talking to friends and peers about stress in a healthy way takes some pressure away.

Finally, applying to colleges has been the most stressful part of our senior year. There’s so much uncertainty and the looming threat of rejection is always there. It’s even harder when you’re interacting with classmates who may be applying to the same schools as you or are making comments that could stress you out.

Something that helped us through the process was tuning out what other people are doing. This means disregarding potentially harmful things your fellow classmates are saying and stopping yourself from watching college acceptance reaction videos. It’s important to remind yourself that this is an individual process and the actions of other people shouldn’t influence what decisions you make.

Furthermore, ignoring the prestige of certain universities makes it easier to figure out which schools you are genuinely interested in. Rather than looking at college rankings or the acclaim of certain schools, research each university you’re applying to, look into the programs you’re interested in and talk to current students and alumni of those institutions. A college may be incredibly prestigious, but that won’t ensure that it’s the right fit for you. Make sure the colleges you apply to have the things you’re looking for and are places you could see yourself attending.

It also helps to talk to someone about your anxiety. Your college counselors are always a source of advice and can address any questions or worries you might have. We also suggest talking to people who have gone through the college application process before, like recent high school graduates and older siblings. They will probably reassure you that you will end up at a college you love and that all your worrying is unproductive.

As cliché as it sounds, reminding yourself that everything will be okay is so important. Millions of high school students have graduated before you and gone to college; you won’t be an exception! Rather than stressing about the possibility of rejection, focus on the fact that you have a completely new experience ahead of you: three to four years of learning in a new environment with new people. College is meant to be fun. You should be getting excited about it, rather than constantly stressing yourself out.

While you may be reading this thinking about all of the stress and work you have on your plate, try to focus on the new experiences you’ll have in a few years. Many people have faced and overcome the IB. We know you will, too.

By Eliana Aemro Selassie and Lauren Brownell

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