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Why the IB Diploma Programme is Ideal Preparation for University

By Sarah Harkin, Upper School Counselor at SCIS Pudong 

The first International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) cohort of students sat the inaugural IB World exams in 1971. Then, there were 681 students across seven schools. Fast-forward to 2023. 179,922 students (this includes the SCIS class of 2023) sat the IB World Exams at 3,189 schools in 149 countries. The impact the IB DP has had on academic achievement and career outcomes has been well-known over the past 40 years.  

The benefits of the Diploma Programme are far-reaching. During students’ two-year journey, DP students develop holistic and deep subject knowledge, strong executive functioning skills, and excellent self-guided research ability. Moreover, the emphasis on analytical writing across all six subject groups (including math!) ensures DP students are well-prepared for undergraduate coursework. The DP journey is not easy but experienced Diploma Programme teachers have seen gritty Grade 11 students transform into Grade 12 scholars who understand how knowledge is attained, construct valid arguments using reliable resources, and lead community initiatives on and off campus. 

The DP is a global diploma. The IB DP is formally recognized by over 1,800 universities globally. Moreover, many countries authorize the IB DP as a pre-university preparation school leaver’s diploma and DP graduates. Many countries give IB DP graduates similar privileges to their national high school certificate, and national governments have formal Memorandum of Understandings with the International Baccalaureate Organization (e.g., Netherlands, Australia, South Korea, etc).  

Admissions officers at top universities around the world understand the unique and holistic skillset that DP graduates possess. Across elite universities on all five continents, DP students are significantly more likely to be admitted to selective institutions than students with other kinds of high school qualifications with similar test scores and grades. Students who plan to apply to selective universities in different countries will benefit most from a DP qualification.  

After completing the IB Diploma Programme requirements, students are well-prepared (and at times over-prepared) for first-year university coursework. Many young SCIS alums who completed the Diploma Programme cite that their DP coursework provided so much content knowledge for their first-year subjects (e.g., economics, psychology, biology, etc.) that they felt familiar with the topics in their new courses. Moreover, these students shared that the DP requirements helped them research topics, organize arguments, and write essays in university.  

Choosing a high school pathway is a difficult decision. There are benefits to both the SCIS Diploma and the ID DP. For students who are interested in university-level coursework, independent research, and a holistic approach to understanding the world around them, the DP is a fantastic choice. At SCIS, students who do not take the full DP are still encouraged to consider sitting the IB World exams for a single subject. If your student is in Grade 9 or 10 and is thinking about which pathway to take, please encourage them to chat with their DP coordinator or counselor. 


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