Lauren Buchanan

For some students, their senior year is a bit of a breeze, but for IB Diploma candidates like Allise Keller and Maggie O’Connor, their last year here at West is a whirlwind of action.

Keller is co-captain of the West Side Girls and O’Connor is in a numerous amount of clubs in addition to participating in Debate and Youth in Government. Somehow they both manage to do all of this on top of being in the highly demanding International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program.

The IB Diploma requires students to take 6 IB classes plus a Theory of Knowledge class, an extended essay, and extra-curricular time devoted to Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS). Then finally, IB Diploma candidates take several required IB course exams at the end of the year.

Keller’s schedule for the next few weeks is very busy. “I wake up and go to practice in the morning, and then I come to school, and then I practice after school, and then I’ll either go to dance or work, and then I’ll come home and do my homework and I normally go to bed pretty late.”

How late is that exactly? Keller said most school nights end around 2:00 am for her. Keller manages her time by prioritizing her extracurricular activities. “West Side Girls comes first, and then I do my studio classes around that, and then I do work around that,” Keller said.

Similar to Keller, O’Connor has to manage her time around her extra-curricular activities, which for her is debate. “Yeah for sure the hardest thing for me is just managing time between debate and IB because second semester debate is all day Friday after school and all day Saturday so you have to do all of your homework Sunday. So, basically it’s just trying to do things in advance over the weekend because really for me the weekend is the worst time for homework to build up and in the week there’s actually more time to get things done,” O’Connor said.

With such a rigorous program it’s hard, yet important, to stay positive. I just kind of keep it in perspective, like the worst thing that can happen is that you get a bad grade and in the context of everything else that’s happening in the world it’s like I’m just lucky to be at school and doing homework. Getting a bad grade is not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things,” said O’Connor.

IB psychology teacher, Mrs. Meyers, and the IB Coordinator and IB history teacher are aware of the challenges this program presents. Meyers has observed student’s really having to study for the first time.

She said “some of them have breezed through school with relative ease and haven’t really had to study much for anything and now all of a sudden we’ve got to learn a little bit about study skills and how to juggle that.”

Dabalos also agreed that time management is a challenge she sees students face.

“I think that’s probably the number one thing. These are not classes where you can procrastinate very well and be really successful. There are some students that are okay with that but that is certainly not the majority, so I would say the biggest obstacle is that you have to be proactive with your assignments and get things done early,” Dabalos said.

To help with this problem, Dabalos proposed that the school needs to help students develop time management skills.

“I think perhaps that’s something that we need to implement a little bit better is to teach kids how to do this because I think they just don’t have that skill developed,” Dabalos said.

Meyers also said, “we try to stress the importance of regular incremental studying whether or not you have homework and having a system of reading things and reviewing things.

Despite the challenging demands of the program, Keller recognizes the benefits.

“It helps a lot with college admissions, acceptance, and scholarships…so it was really helpful to not worry as much if I was going to get into a certain college,” Keller said.

IB teachers also see a lot of benefits for students who push themselves.

“I think [it is good] that anytime you can challenge yourself in a high school setting where you still have built in support structures to help you when you need help, to give you a break when you need a break, a shoulder to cry on when you need a shoulder to cry on,” Dabalos said. 

In the addition of being eligible for earning college credit, Dabalos said that “It’s hard sometimes because it’s intense, but at the same time the skill set that you can leave with is what you need to be successful in college, and so you’re kind of paying in some regards for your preparation.”

Meyers agrees that the IB program better prepares you for college. “I think that students that push themselves into at least one IB class are gonna come out far more prepared when they do go on to wherever it is that they go to school beyond high school because they have had to learn some degree of study skill that the typical high school student doesn’t necessarily have to figure out,” said Meyers.

Although the IB program is demanding and presents challenges, O’Connor feels that “overall, the program is worth it because it has helped me with time management and I enjoy my teachers and the other students in my classes.”