How the IB prepared me for university
Sixth form feels like a lifetime ago. And yet, in retrospect, it was not that long ago, but so much has happened ever since. I spent my sixth form years in an idyllic village in the Lake District. Days were short, rain was plentiful, deer ran just outside my house. And in the meantime, the International Baccalaureate was happening. In a nutshell: it was hard work, I made some great friends, I had the funkiest history teacher you will ever meet, and I had a great time. But let’s face it: the IB is not easy, and it is surely nor meant to be. However, I couldn’t have asked for a better preparation for university. Here are some of the reasons why (plus some tips if you are a prospective Warwicker going through the IB)!
1. It mentally prepared me for essays.
Now, I can’t say it taught me how to write good essays at the time. Gees, I wrote some atrocious ones back then. But at least I did not come fully unprepared, especially since the level of understanding and formulation of arguments (I’m thinking about History HL in particular) required during the IB gave me a good basis in terms of techniques, some of which still work now.
This is also an ongoing process, but without the challenges posed by the IB, I would have had many more breakdowns once at uni. The IB requires you to do so many things, especially in Year 13, with most of the IAs that have yet to be done, ToK, sorting out CAS stuff that you definitely left until the very last minute, and obviously revising two years’ worth of content for six subjects! Not to count a few musicals I might have done here and there. That is stressful business, and if up until a year or so ago your parents helped you organise your work, now it is entirely up to you. It was certainly a shock, combined with the stress of living away from home. But it was a good transaction – uni didn’t seem as daunting in the end!
I have always had a great problem: I used to assume life is like those movies where people start off something and are super good from the very start, or after a two-minute montage with motivational music. And I was always relatively good in secondary school, without too much effort. When I started the IB, I simply assumed this was how things worked, and that getting 7s was going to be the norm from the beginning. It was obviously not the case: the structure and requirements were completely different from anything I’d known. I got frustrated and stressed at the beginning, but thanks to some amazing teachers and good boosts of motivation I kept going until the 7s really started to come. This lesson was very helpful for university. It doesn’t feel as nice when you don’t put any effort into things.
4. Everything is interesting!
This might be a personal thing. I loved the flexibility offered by the IB. Having to study a broad range of subjects meant that I covered so many aspects of life. And, albeit intense, the material was genuinely interesting. I had no favourite subject and I got to learn how to find interesting aspects in every topic. This certainly helped shaping my course preferences: I love the inherent interdisciplinarity of political science, and learning how to enjoy flexibility within all topics during the IB was fantastic for the years to come!
5. Rigour and structure
With its clear aims and rigorous learning framework, the IB is a really excellent experience for students to become well-rounded individuals with an ability to work well under pressure, think critically, and engage actively. I really felt like that has worked for me!
Some tips and words of wisdom:
– Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is intense. No, you are not going to die. IB students can get very dramatic. Get a grip, work hard. It will pay off.
– Take breaks! I had a firm rule during my long days of revision: a 45 or 60-minute walk every day, leaving all IB thoughts behind. I was lucky to be in the Lake District, because breaks ended up being very scenic. But the point is: breaks are absolutely essential. I felt much more relaxed and focused throughout the whole exam period.
– Don’t give up on things you love. Master the art of organising your time and leaving space for your passions. I managed to be part of two school musicals, and I thank myself for that.
– Start finding things and choosing topics for coursework that bring original thoughts to the table. Learn how to combine this with a good technique. Don’t be afraid to take risks!