Weighing the weighted course options

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After a year of educational pivots, school has just started getting  “back to normal,” and it’s already time to select new schedules for the upcoming school year. For some students, their first time walking through the halls of West was only a couple weeks ago. Now they are potentially facing the decision between enrolling in Honors and/or IB courses. 

 Both are advanced course options for juniors and seniors, and each offers a different focus and methodology. For students deciding which classes to take next year, there is much to sort through in selecting the best option for their personal needs. 

 It might be hard to tell the difference between IB and honors courses without prior knowledge of them. According to school counselors, it is very important to consider study habits as a student, and what would be a healthy amount of work to do each week. 

 Christy Dabalos is the IB program coordinator at West. Dabalos recommends scheduling a meeting with her for further advice on IB courses in particular, and which one will be best for individual students. 

 If you are interested in taking an IB course, there are three ways to do so. Students can take some IB courses, or work towards an  IB Diploma or IB Career-Related (IBCP) diploma; all are designed to mirror freshman courses at most universities. 

 ccording to Dabalos, IB classes require more homework and out-of-class time than Honors, and the subject matter makes all the difference between the two. 

 “[IB] is aimed towards students who are motivated and want to learn, students who have a curiosity with different subjects, students who don’t mind coming to school and having to do some homework and you know, things like that,” Dabalos said. 

 Dabalos also said it’s beneficial for students to push themselves to earn the college credit that comes with taking an IB course. “I think you have some people who if they get the college credit, that’s great. You know, it’s an added bonus. But then I think you have those people who just want to take the class because they like the class, but I do always get college credit questions,” Dabalos said. 

 “I think that I would be misspoken to say, ‘Oh, it’s fine, there’s never any stress’, that is just not true. With the class, if you have three days with no homework in an IB class, you probably should be doing something. It’s worth it though in my opinion, and totally manageable,” Dabalos said. 

 Senior Quinn Engel has experience with either course option and has a piece of advice to share with anyone who is undecided about which path to take. 

 “IB courses are better geared towards students who are able to manage their time effectively, though everyone crams for a test at some point. You have to be willing to do meaningful work outside of class hours,” Engel said. 

Engel is currently enrolled in IB Chinese, IB History, IB English,  IB Math, and more. She is also involved in extracurriculars and clubs outside of school. 

 “I think the classes have made me a better student. They’ve definitely taught me how to properly study, write academically, and take effective, useful notes. There’s more emphasis on trusting students to do their homework versus actually verifying it got done, so these classes have taught me how to hold myself accountable,” Engel said. 

 Engel said that she was encouraged by her teachers to enroll in IB courses when it came time to choose her schedule for the next school year. 

 “For a lot of students who had previously been in honors courses, it was almost a given to continue on the IB track. Many of my teachers encouraged the students to take IB courses,” Engel said. 

 One positive of IB classes, according to Dabalos, is the easy access to teachers, which isn’t the same in college. “I think, you know, most of our IB courses are very much modeled after a freshman level college course. Except the fact that these classes are meeting all year long, five days a week, your teacher is right there,” Dabalos said. 

 Mary-Beth Rich who teaches Honors English 11 also has advice to offer to students currently enrolling. “If a student is undecided about taking an Honors class, I would have them answer these questions; ‘Do I like to be challenged? Do I take initiative? Am I good with time management? Can I handle the extra work assigned to me in an honors course? Do I like English?’ If the answer is yes, then I would take Honors. I think that many students will enjoy their time in an honors class and I would recommend that many students take at least one Honors course during their time in high school. If they don’t like it, they can switch the following year,” said Rich. 

 Rich, similar to Dabalos, can offer a piece of advice to students who are currently enrolling. “Students do not necessarily have to be good readers or writers to do well in an honors class. Usually students who do well in honors classes have good time management skills and are willing to ask for help when needed or ask questions. Oftentimes, students who enjoy honors classes are inquisitive and enjoy diving deeper into the subject matter,” said Rich. 

 Engel claims that her overall experience with taking advanced courses such as IB and Honors have been worth it in the long run, and she is happy with the skills they have helped her develop. 

 “The classes are stressful, but it’s not stressful all the time. For most students taking a larger quantity of IB classes, their lives still don’t revolve around school, so it’s important to find that balance. I do think the stress of IB is worth it, mainly because I actually feel engaged in my classes and feel like I’m learning useful and important topics,” said Engel. 

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