IB Survival Tips

Bianca Torres Hamlin

It’s March of senior year and if there’s one thing I’ve learned (other than how the Treaty of Versailles was the beginning of the end), it’s that you should never be afraid to ask for honest advice. As students, we feel like we know everything and we study our way through our lives so sure that we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to. But the truth is you probably have no idea what’s best for you when it comes to school. So I decided to make a little “guide” to the IB program.

  • Write your extended essay in the summer: I spent roughly 20 hours last summer glued to a chair in my room with my curtains drawn writing about the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and investigating the true origination of Dominicanidad. I talked my friends’ ears off at the beach about racism and the impending tribulations between Haitians and Dominicans… and they probably wanted to disown me. Come Aug. 28 (a little late, sorry Mrs. McGloine), I was done. I know people who still haven’t finished their essays. I have honestly forgotten half my essay at this point. It’s better that way. Prolonging the process of your extended essay will only hurt your brain and your grades. Senior year is tough enough as it is.


  • Read, read, read: How many times have you stayed up at night texting your friends, “Should I even read (insert name of random book here)? Like, is it even worth it?” The answer is yes, you should read. Come March of senior year, you’re going to be alone, in a dark, scary room (not really) with your English teacher. And she’s going to ask you a random question from a work you’ve “read” senior year and you’ll have roughly 10 seconds to prepare a 10 minute response. So get off your phone, read, and analyze the text. You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Discover your interests: A lot of high school is about doing what the curriculum asks of you. The cool thing about IB is that there are a few times where you can genuinely explore your personal interests… for a grade. For my history IA, I learned more about Fidel Castro and Che Guevara than I had ever known (which was roughly nothing… Bay of Pigs?). For my math IA, I investigated if gender truly had an effect on political ideology, while investigating immigration status and military affiliation (yes, gender has an effect on political ideology). For biology, I’m investigating activity and reaction time in efforts to explain why certain genders may be more likely to get into car accidents and to elaborate on the discussion of why texting and driving is NOT a good idea. Your extended essay is also a way to breach the seal of conformity by exploring a topic YOU want to know more about. When you’re passionate about your work, you tend to do a better job.
  • Choose your course load wisely: High school is about getting into college, and sometimes we do unnecessary things to get into our “dream school.”  At the end of the day, you’re the one who has to go through it, not the college. So give yourself a break. Sometimes you aren’t equipped for that third extra class, and that’s honestly okay. It won’t be the end of the world if you aren’t taking 10 classes every semester.


Now that high school is almost over for me, I can honestly say that a lot of my stress was preventable. Although college seems to be the only thing that matters, I have realized that I matter too. Your life doesn’t depend on if you go to an Ivy League. You probably won’t, so relax.