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

An Open Letter to the Juniors


Originally this was going to be titled “how to survive the I.B.”. Then I realized that I was in no way qualified to write that letter. I haven’t taken exams, I haven’t finished all my IA’s, and I haven’t gotten into college. So instead, I offer you my advice with a few supplements from my classmates.

It is actually impossible to emerge from the two years the same person you were when you started, something I can guarantee only halfway in. I think in theory this change is supposed to be increased intellectualism and maturity, but in reality it’s an increased capacity to absorb caffeine and a newfound talent for reflecting on projects that were probably completed at 3am the night before and yet you can’t be sure because you haven’t had your first cup of coffee yet and the world is still a little hazy. Believe me, I’ve heard all our teachers stories about alumni who rave about how the I.B. has prepared them for the world. And yet, clearly, I am not an alum yet. So while you wait for the gratitude to kick in (probably around 2030 when you’ve finally repaid your sleep debt) here are a few ways to make the next two years bearable.

First and foremost, appreciate your teachers. This sounds cheesy, I know. But I promise you, they are not assigning you work because they have fun grading it. And they know that we are insanely busy people. There are people running around who are juggling classes like Physics HL and somehow have time to play soccer and binge watch Netflix. Believe me, incorporating Netflix binges into your I.B. schedule may seem impossible, but you would be surprised (but more on this later). And your teachers know this. I promise they want you to do well, no matter how cruel that essay seems right now. I get it, though. Being able to appreciate what your teachers are trying to do and actually doing it are entirely different things. So let’s start with a rundown of some of the many classes.

Bio: Always trust the syllabus. Use your teachers if you don’t understand things, but this is one class where you could miss class for an entire unit and if you had studied the textbook cover to cover you’d be fine. No tricks, no particular way a teacher wants things written. You’re performing to a mark scheme and your teacher is there to make sure you know what you need to learn and that you know what questions they’re asking you.

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English: If you’re in HL and the type that cries in class, read ahead. So far not one of our protagonists has made it through the novel in one, breathing piece and yet every time we pick a new book we find a way to hope for the best. I try not to read too much into this metaphor and I recommend you do the same: I promise the IB will provide you with plenty of stress inducing distractions. But seriously, despite the major spoiler above, read. The books are good (no Scarlet Letter or Catcher in the Rye) and are great talking points later on. And if you do nothing else, at the very least take down what’s said in class. I promise it’ll come in handy when you sit down twelve hours before an essay is due with no idea what to write.

ESS: “Use your textbook Junior year! Unit test questions come straight out of it.” (Matteo Schlitz, a current ESS student).

Economics: Again, the textbook should be front and center on your desk (or, preferably, in your brain). Everything you need to know is there and, if you take the time to read the textbook, the essays become more or less a copy paste of different sections. This is a must if you want to do well in HL. However, unlike Bio, much of what we’re learning is intuitive. It’s a social science based on human behavior and psychology. If you’re really, really stuck you can always look at it from a logical perspective: if you had no money would you be happy or sad?
PRO TIP: If you’re in HL, read up on some international economic issues to impress Mr. Martin.

History: Rohan Subramanian, a senior and a current History HL student recommends “focusing on analyzing passages and sources and less on memorization”. Even in the actual IB, when it comes down to it, you don’t have to remember every single unit you learned. This class is ultimately about showing an ability to make connections between cause and consequence: less “logical” than Econ, but still a social science. People are generally rational, or at least motivated by something or another.

Math Studies: According to various sources you should not take this class as a joke; you still need to study.

Physics: It’s really important in this class to focus on understanding concepts instead of just memorizing formulas: if you don’t know how to apply them, they won’t help you much, now will they? It’s also a great idea to go see your teachers before a test, even if you don’t have any burning questions. Going through old assignments and watching them draw things out for you can be an incredibly useful tool and makes you seem extra engaged (which is always a plus).

Geography: This tends to be one of people’s favorite classes. While it’s often a lot of work, the work you’re doing is engaging and ridiculously relevant to the real world. One piece of advice is to give yourself at least one day between when you start writing your papers and the day they’re due. Apparently it’s almost impossible to get all the information from a case study into your assignment with just one night, especially if the report is dense.

Math HL: Do your homework, ask lots of questions, bond with your class, and hope for the best.

I didn’t cover the languages here, because the advice was so individualized to the teachers. So I do recommend you go find someone who knows him/ her to get the best advice.

So, above I’ve gone through some of the best advice we seniors have for keeping your grades afloat. However, despite the administration’s best interests, these two years can be incredibly stressful and hard. While this is normal, we are in high school. Life is supposed to be fun. And it can be. Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Make time to see your friends. They understand what you’re going through and WIS has a pretty spectacular subset of people. An hour of sleep lost to spending time with someone is always worth it.
  2. Scream into pillows as much as you want. Also, take up kickboxing.
  3. Join extracurriculars. I know it seems counterintuitive, but your life should not ever be all about school. That’s depressing and obsessive and just sounds all around terrible. Get involved in other things; sometimes the busier you are, the more you can get done. Check out the list of clubs and things to get involved in featured in the Dateline this issue.
  4. Sleep in on the weekends.
  5. Plan fun things for Sunday nights. Sunday homework nights may be one of the most depressing phenomena high school has to offer.
  6. Get to know your teachers; as I said before they will work with you and this only becomes more true as they get to know you.

And finally, as Alex Imbot states, “Don’t give too many [tups] because college isn’t the end of the world. Ivy’s suck anyways”.

Hope that was some help and honestly, we really do wish you all the best. Junior year can be really rough and second semester sometimes feels endless. Breathe, get outside, realize that it actually will end, and find a friend. And if you need to, take a nap every once in awhile. Although, in my own experience, a red eye does the trick just fine.

By Sonia Pearson


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