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Articles / Applying to College / IB Diploma or Beloved Extracurriculars?

IB Diploma or Beloved Extracurriculars?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 5, 2003

Question: I am a junior currently shooting for the full IB diploma. Our school recently switched from a block schedule with 8 classes to a regular schedule that only allows 7. I am involved in both band (I play the flute, and won best at site and superior ratings at State Solo/Ensemble Festival two consecutive years and have been accepted to the top All-State band) and choir (involved in Chambers Singers, heavily interested in barbershop and am currently starting and directing a barbershop quartet). However, there are only 7 class slots on my schedule, and the IB diploma takes up six. Is it better to sacrifice some extra-curricular involvement that I really care about or to forsake the IB diploma in favor of certificates? What would elite admission committees value most?

It sounds like you have many accomplishments under your belt and a tough choice to make ahead. It’s hard to give good, and even responsible advice without knowing a lot more about you, your school, your goals, etc. However, with this disclaimer firmly in place, this is what we’d recommend:


Stick with your full IB diploma. College admission officials always get a spring in their steps and a smile on their faces when they see it on an application.

Now, it seems that you have to choose between band and choir, right? Our suggestion is that you pick the band for that remaining school schedule slot (and stick to the State band, too) and then see if you can get yourself into a barbershop quartet outside of school, especially one in which you will be the only high school participant among a group of older adults. Admission officials especially like it when students tackle intergenerational pursuits and stretch their horizons beyond their high school and peers. Again, accept this advice with the understanding that we may not be seeing the big picture completely clearly.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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