Two months into my junior year of high school, my phone (finally) began to automatically capitalize “IB.” For a lazy high school student, this came as a relief. But, if you happen to know any of these hardworking students, you know that IB students are anything but lazy. Research essays, literary discussions, math papers (“What high school student has to write math papers?” my father would ask) and chemistry experiments upgrade the workload of a normal high school student to that of a college freshman. While the daunting 4,000 word essay often made me want to pull my hair out, I couldn’t be more thankful for the strenuous workload that I embraced while I was still in high school once I was a real college freshman.
The mathematical benefits that are everyone’s focus definitely came to fruition for me. That is, I received college credit for the work I completed in high school. How great of a deal is that? When I was trying to choose the college that was right for me, I would always ask about the credit the university granted for IB classes. Not only did the University of Tulsa hand me a brochure informing me which scores I needed to attain in order to receive credit, but they set up a meeting for me to discuss that credit with a professor who supported and encouraged IB program benefits within the school. I could tell right then that this was a university who took my IB studies as seriously as I did.
When I entered TU as a freshman, I already had 35 credit hours to my name. I was able to take a light load of classes my first semester to ease me into the college lifestyle. This was a great relief for me after all the work I had put in my previous two years. When it was time to pick my classes for second semester, I was already classified credit-wise as a sophomore. Thus, I got to pick my classes earlier than the other first year students who needed those same classes. I avoided any and all wait lists and, in turn, I avoided a lot of extra stress from being placed on my shoulders worrying about it.
Furthermore, as a mechanical engineering major (ME) I am required to obtain 130 hours of credit. This leaves very little time to pursue studies in depth that are outside of my major. However, those 35 credits that I received upon entering TU fulfilled all but one of my block courses. Suddenly, I had a lot more options. I could chose to take fewer classes each semester than many of my ME peers or I could adopt a minor/double major. I chose the latter. My Spanish IB score placed me in junior level Spanish classes my first semester of college. Therefore, I was immediately earning credit towards a Spanish degree two years earlier than normal. Without my incoming IB credit, I would not have been able to pursue both degrees and still graduate within 4 years. Another door that opened up due to my ability to study Spanish was to study Spanish abroad, and I took advantage of that by spending this past summer in Spain.
While the credit hours that the IB program helps college freshman obtain are impressive, my experience with IB had many less tangible effects as well. Coming into college, I already knew how to balance extra circular activities, a social life and college level courses. I already knew how to buckle down and study hard for an extensive exam or how to tap out a 5 page research paper. I knew how to talk to professors for help and I knew what it was like to receive a B that I worked hard for rather than an A for simply showing up to class. Many of these things are new experiences for incoming college freshmen, and it is these new experiences that make college difficult for so many of them. IB students are ahead of this curve. It lifts loads of stress from their shoulders that would otherwise remain there for a semester or two.
Overall, I’d say there is one overarching benefit that IB offers: stress relief. Whether it is in the form of credits that you receive or the skills that it teaches you, IB ensures that you are prepared to enter college and it continues to assist you throughout your college journey. As a college sophomore, I’m still not exactly sure how to spell “International Baccalaureate,” but I do know that the University of Tulsa made the time that I spent in the program worthwhile.