IB vs. UR

In light of IB testing season, I thought I’d write an article for you fellow IB students out there to talk about how the International Baccalaureate program is similar to the University of Rochester. I remember my time as an IB student and being nervous about how college would compare. Rest assured, being in IB, particularly the Diploma Program, well prepares you for higher education in many important ways.

Did you know the University of Rochester has hosted two IB conferences on campus for IB students? Here’s the turnout for summer 2017!


Both IB and UR emphasize international-mindedness, as shown in their representation in and from all over the world. Although the IB program I was a part of was at a public high school in Washington State and pretty much everybody was born in the United States, IB has World Schools in areas around the world that draw students from surrounding (and sometimes distant) countries. At World Schools and UR, you will interact with a diverse group of individuals who offer unique perspectives. Even at IB schools in the US, you can have a more international-minded education as compared to general education. This is demonstrated by the IB requirement to study at least two languages and the more global focus the history curriculum, among other things.


I have yet to meet anybody who thinks IB classes, much less the Diploma Program, is easy. There is undoubtedly more work required and the curriculum itself is more challenging than general education classes. The University of Rochester is also known for its rigor, which may be part of what drew you to it. However, in my experience, UR does not cause as much suffering as IB can. In my two years here, I have regularly gotten eight or nine hours of sleep a night, I haven’t cried over schoolwork, and I haven’t had to take any lengthy timed tests. The additional work turns out to be worth it by giving you a sense of accomplishment and opening you up to more opportunities.


As you may be familiar, UR has a flexible curriculum, so there are no general courses everybody has to take. If you dislike history, congratulations, you don’t have to take any history courses! Get more information about the curriculum and requirements at UR. In IB, you get to choose which classes you take within each subject group, which courses you take Higher Level or Standard Level, what you write your Extended Essay and Internal Assessments on, and more. You do, however, still have to take a class in each of the six subject areas, which is one way UR differs.

One of my favorite parts of the Diploma Program was writing my Extended Essay (which was about how dating affects adolescent development, in case you’re curious) because I could academically pursue something that interested me rather than write a paper about a prescribed topic. This is the nature of college!

Creativity, Action, and Service

I didn’t think I’d ever think about Creativity, Action, Service (CAS) again after I finished it, but here I am. CAS makes students more well-rounded by requiring them to pursue non-academic activities that involve creativity, physical activity, and community service. At UR, you can elect to do these things through extracurriculars. We have more than 200 student organizations to choose from, including dance groups (creativity), varsity, club, and intramural sports (action), and service groups (service).

In recognition of your hard work, UR offers a scholarship to anybody with an IB Diploma. You can also earn credit for any HL exams you get a 5 or better on. Predicted IB exam scores can even be submitted instead of SAT or ACT scores. Good luck on your exams this month!

Learn more about IB at Rochester.

About the author

Kayla Zilke

I'm a member of the Class of 2021 from Seattle, WA majoring in psychology with minors in business and environmental humanities. I'm involved with Quidditch, GreenSpace, EcoReps, intramural sports, the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth, and Hatha Yoga.

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