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Articles / Applying to College / Impact of Top-Notch IB Program on Elite College Acceptance

Impact of Top-Notch IB Program on Elite College Acceptance

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | July 9, 2015

Question: The high school that I will be attending has an exceptional IB program, and I’m taking my first AP class as a freshman. All of the students ,in the program, apply to college get in, and they receive many scholarships (2-3 million for a class of 100). The students year after year are accepted at very prestigious schools, such as Ivy League universities, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. Will it hurt or boost my chances into getting in top tier universities for being in the IB program where students have major success?

As you can imagine, there is both good news and bad news. The good news is that college officials will understand and appreciate the rigor and reputation of your school’s IB program, and–if you are successful in it–this will definitely work in your favor. But the bad news is that it may be hard to stand out in the crowd when you are in class with other bright, high-achieving students. So, in order to maximize your admission odds at the so called “top-tier’ colleges, you need to pursue interests … both academic and not … which allow you to be viewed as different from your classmates.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of applicants to the Ivies and other hyper-competitive institutions will have top grades in challenging classes and top test scores on their transcripts, no matter where they attended high school. So, in order to distinguish among so many qualified candidates, the admission folks then ask, “What’s special?”

Thus, although academic success in a well regarded IB program will definitely be a plus at admission time, your chances of acceptance at the most sought-after colleges and universities will be best if you are also successful in another arena … and, ideally, an uncommon one.


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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