Why University Admissions officers favour IB students

We’ve previously mentioned how many universities prefer students who have graduated from International Baccalaureate programmes. They’re accepted at a 22% higher rate and achieve higher GPAs in general, and the academic rigour of the IB casts them in a favourable light, and some universities even provide course credits for IB subjects.

This kind of preference is quite important given the general sentiment of admissions officers about secondary students and their readiness for university. A 2017 study by ACS International Schools revealed that a staggering 49% of admissions officers in the UK believe that sixth formers are not prepared for moving from school to university.

These officers believe that the main reasons are that students are generally insufficiently prepared with independent thinking skills, as well as lacking time and workload management.

Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and skills at the OECD says, “The world no longer rewards people for what they know – Google knows everything – but for what they can do with what they know. Global education today needs to be much more about ways of thinking, involving creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making; about ways of working, including communication and collaboration.”

Other important skills include inquiring minds, positive and passionate attitudes towards study, and strong collaborative skills – all of which are specifically tackled in the IB’s principles of education.

These same admissions officers believe that the IB does confer these skills on its diploma holders. Indeed, one officer says, “I will be honest, the IB Diploma is as close to ideal in terms of academic rigour plus requirement to do project work, with more rounded life skills. It is all about getting this balance right.”

This sentiment isn’t restricted to the UK or the US. Let’s take a look at some anecdotes from admissions officers in schools around the world.

Glowing praise

Over at McGill University in Canada, Director of Admissions Kim Bartlett talks about the rigorous academic preparation that IB students can expect to receive, and how it applies to university life:

“McGill has enthusiastically recruited IB students for over two decades. Even today, when reviewing an application from an IB diploma candidate, whether from the local CEGEP (collège d’enseignement général et professionnel) or the other side of the globe, our admissions officers can be assured of the candidate’s strong and broad‑based academic preparation. We have seen that IB students embrace the rigorous academic challenges of university life and perform well in their McGill programmes. As a member of the College and University Recognition Taskforce, I can attest to the respected position of the IB diploma at prestigious universities throughout North America.”

On the other side of the world in Australia, Professor Lyn Griffiths, Head of Griffith University Gold Coast’s School of Medical Science, and director of their Genomics Research Centre, highlights the unique learning skills developed in the IB, a core component of the Learner Profile:

“Increasing numbers of university students now continue their education to include postgraduate research qualifications. Unique skills are required for tertiary research studies and for those who continue into research careers. The International Baccalaureate emphasizes inquiry‑based learning, independent learning and lifelong learning. These are exactly the types of skills that are needed to undertake postgraduate research studies effectively and to develop and establish successful long‑term research careers.”

In India, Dr. Indu Shahani, principal of HR College at the University of Mumbai, reports the maturity, outspokenness, and open-mindedness of IB students.

“Over the years we at the University of Mumbai have been delighted to admit students of the IB Diploma Programme. The candidates stand out as mature, well-grounded students who have a very broad outlook on education. In the class, they are very interactive and well-informed. While they are quite opinionated on issues it is interesting to see how open they are to the opinions of others. Their application orientation helps other students in the college to bridge the gap between theory and practice. The IB philosophy definitely rubs off on our undergraduate education!”

Sounds like a glowing recommendation, doesn’t it? The IB is uniquely designed to prepare students for the real world and the workplace, allowing them to become global citizens and contribute meaningfully to society.

In January 2019, just a month after sending his application to Brock University Canada, our Grade 12 student Ibrahim Refai received an offer for admission to the Bachelor of Science in Medical Sciences. In recognition of his outstanding academic achievements Ibrahim was granted the Brock Scholars Award AND an additional scholarship for being an IB DP student!

According to the IB’s own guide for universities and colleges, admissions officers are assured of certain assumptions in every student:

Academic strength of curriculum

Admissions officers can be assured of students’ strong preparation of coursework in a cohesive and broad‑based curriculum that encompasses the basic academic areas: mother‑tongue language and literature, second language, social sciences/humanities, experimental sciences and mathematics.

Academic strength of schools

All IB World Schools must offer, support and maintain a minimum of seven or eight strong academic departments.

Academic strength of students

The IB Diploma Programme requires students to maintain a high level of focus and performance.

External validation

The IB Diploma Programme validates both achievement and academic integrity in students’ performance through its examination requirements.

Research and writing skills

The extended essay requirement—an independent, self‑directed piece of research, culminating in a 4,000‑word paper—provides practical preparation for the kinds of undergraduate research required for further and higher education. It is also the opportunity for students to engage in an in‑depth study of a topic of interest within a chosen subject.

Acceptance of educational challenges

Participation in the IB Diploma Programme demonstrates that students accept, rather than avoid, rigorous academic challenges.

Critical‑thinking skills

The required theory of knowledge course ensures that students become critical thinkers who understand the interdisciplinary nature of learning.

Interview skills

IB students have strong preparation in oral presentation skills. Several IB courses include mandatory oral assessments, and the theory of knowledge course requires students to shape their opinions into logical discourse.

Extra‑curricular involvement

The creativity, action, service element requires students to invest a minimum of 150 hours during the final two years in non‑classroom activities.

Maturity and responsibility

The IB Diploma Programme assists students in developing time‑management, goal‑setting and other organizational skills.

Each of these assumptions applies to every student in SISD, and you can be assured of your child having a solid shot at any university they apply to.


DP Guide for Universities

University Admissions

IBDP – A guide for Universities



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