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Colleges praise IB program


Carmen K. Sisson



When it comes to college admissions, the International Baccalaureate diploma may not make much of a difference, but admissions counselors from the local level to the Ivy League were unanimous in their praise for the program.  


Unlike some institutions, Mississippi University for Women doesn't offer college credit based upon IB performance, but that may change in the future, said Dr. Jennifer Miles, vice president for student affairs.  


The IB experience encourages students to think independently, broadens their understanding of the world and teaches teamwork, contributing to "a positive college experience," she said.  


Mississippi State University offers both college credit and a scholarship program to IB students. While an IB diploma would not tip the admissions scales in a student's favor, completion of the program is "very favorably looked upon" at MSU, said Dr. Philip Bonfanti, executive director of enrollment. 


Enthusiasm for the program varied among administrators at three of the nation's Ivy League colleges, though all spoke positively about it.  


At Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., an IB diploma is one of hundreds of factors considered in a student's admission application, said Lisa Lapin, assistant vice president of university communications. Completion of the IB program is considered a "measurement of overall rigor." 


Likewise, at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., completion of the IB program is seen as "a very promising sign," but the program is not favored over Advanced Placement classes or other advanced courses, said university spokesman Martin Mbugua. 


"We understand that not all secondary schools offer the same range of advanced courses, but our strongest candidates have taken full advantage of the academic opportunities available to them in their high schools," Mbugua said.  


But at Harvard University in Boston, administrators are "big admirers of the program," said Marilyn McGrath, director of admissions.  


When looking at the applications of two otherwise equal students, admissions counselors wouldn't make their choice based solely upon participation in IB, but it's "a nice credential to have," she said, adding that a student who has performed well in the demanding IB curriculum shows promise of performing well in college. 


Whereas AP courses are "a comprehensive sign to the college that a student has stretched himself or herself to the highest level the school offers," McGrath said, "IB is more like an a la carte menu." 


As a result, IB students receive an integrated curricular experience that's increasingly rare in high schools, she said.  


She has seen "very good candidates" who either didn't receive the IB diploma or didn't try for it, so she doesn't place too much weight on whether a student has the IB sheepskin.  


It's a value question, she said. Harvard looks at a wide range of experience when analyzing enrollment candidates. Regardless, she said, completion of the program is "very fine preparation" for college.


Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.



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