IB Experiences IB Overview Preparation University

IB Grad Interview: Does IB help in university? (UPenn Student)

Yasmin is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, USA. She is studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. She did the IBDP in Malaysia and is a May 2020 graduate. This article reviews how Yasmin’s IB experience has helped her in university and helped her gain a better understanding of real-life scenarios. Yasmin’s subjects were:

  • HL: Economics, Global Politics, Mathematics
  • SL: Physics, Malay B, English Literature & Performance

We hope this interview about Yasmin’s IB experience with planning, organization, navigating the EE and exploring TOK can help motivate current students doing the IBDP!                                                                                                   

How have you learnt to manage your time and balance extracurriculars?

I’d like to start my answer by saying that no single time-management or planning method works for all students. If you try many different things, but nothing sticks, there is nothing wrong with you. I think a lot of people (myself included) have succumbed to being victims of this idea. If you have tried everything you can think off, but nothing works, look at what you’re doing right now and incorporate new habits accordingly! 

  • From my experience, I used to have a separate planner on top of Google Calendar. But nowadays, my schedule is way too hectic. So, the only thing I look at is my Google Calendar because it has all my lecture timings. Consequently, I put my tasks onto my Google Calendar because I know I will have to see it. 
  • When I was in IB, I used bullet journaling, where I used weekends to plan my week. 
  • For schoolwork, I set a binding schedule for myself. For example, if the first assignment is due on Wednesday, even though I hadn’t started my assignment I would make an appointment on Monday to talk to my professor about it. So, I would have to go with something to show them, so I trapped myself into doing the work. 

Do you use different analytical techniques (SWOT, OPVL, etc.) to critique information that you read? If yes, then when? If no, then are you thinking of using these?  

I’ve used SWOT, not for analysis but for personal growth, managing my weakness, opportunities, threats, etc.

For critiquing information, I would advise students to:

  • Look into the author’s background (nationality, ethnicity, etc)
  • Analyse the time-context (Date of writing, date of publication, medium of publication, etc)

This helps in identifying possible author biases and getting a general idea of time-periods and their possible effects on the information. I’ve been taking a Religion class in university, and one of my professors said, “A book about Islam written in 2002 after 9/11 is going to look very different when compared to a book written in 2018.” For my EE, I always checked the author to see whether they are biased in any way that might affect the information they produced.

Do you use the SMART goals and/ or Gantt charts to plan long- term projects? If yes, then how frequently? If no, then do you wish to do so?

Personally, I don’t use Gantt charts, but I know friends who did use it to plan their EE and worked extremely well for their experience with EE-organization. It differs from case to case, I would advise that you find which method works best for you. 

Unlike gantt charts, I do use SMART goals very often. However, I don’t use the framework every time because it has become a habit now. 

  • Personally, I make my end goals very specific but don’t focus much on the individual goals.
  • Instead, I spend my time creating a series of systems and habits for myself, because every goal needs a habit. For example, if your goal is to finish your EE in three months, then the habit would be something along the lines of sitting down every week to write another 300 words. In my experience, I followed this: writing 300 words every Sunday night for my EE, which led to my goal of finishing my EE. 
  • Most of my other projects (including being IBlieve’s outreach co-lead) would already be negotiated and set before the semester starts, so that really helped. 
  • With regards to long-term projects in extracurriculars, the more you can tie yourself to an organization or person such that they depend on you, the more likely you are to finish the work. I’m not sure if it’s a healthy mindset for all, but it works for me.

Has your personal engagement in your EE helped establish a personal connection to your major? If so, then how?

So I’m in a weird case scenario where I did my EE on something quite different to what I’m studying. I did my EE in religious studies, but I plan to major in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics but concentrate on the intersection of religion and politics at the University of Pennsylvania. My EE focused on how women were treated during Jesus’ time, deciding that Jesus was a radical in his attitude towards women as he was quite liberating in regards to women’s rights. 

For my personal engagement, I read a lot of primary sources and historical documents. Overall, it helped me realize how nuanced religions are, but are always oversimplified in the media. I’m interested in going back to Malaysia and working in policy research. Since Malaysia is a Muslim-dominated country, there are numerous connections between religion and politics. So it does relate to my major in the sense that I was studying religion, and want it to be in some form of my major. It was quite an interesting experience!

How has your experience with the EE helped you with University essays and reports?

Writing 4000 words for the EE is definitely a big task, in terms of the structure and the content. However, in doing so, I’ve developed quite a few skills:

  1. I’ve learnt how to structure university essays
  2. I have learnt how to set up my arguments.
  3. I’ve also understood the process behind deciding the number of examples to provide.
  4. I have a better knowledge of gauging the level of analysis required to properly convey the argument. 

In general, it’s definitely given me a head-start as I don’t have to ponder about how to write an essay and I know how to make implications of a point, which are required in every report I write in university. The IB is always stressing this, and I think having done subjects such as Global Politics has helped me set a solid foundation with my politics classes where I have to know how to make an implication and analyse my points, which has helped me earn higher grades.

How has TOK played a role in your interpretation of news?    

TOK has definitely helped me be open to different perspectives without judgement. 

  • When we read about different culture’s practices, it’s very easy for us in a different culture to think, “Oh, that’s weird, and not OK” or “That’s a backward civilization”. TOK helped me understand how certain practices are justifiable by different cultures. It has helped me be less judgemental of different practices in other countries that I might not necessarily agree with or be familiar with. 
  • As a result of TOK, I’ve definitely opened my horizons to new sources. TOK strongly emphasized how there are so many fallacies; this made me reflect of instances where I had been guilty of falling for the authority, from a single news source. I now review news from a wide range of sources and I make my own decisions, feelings, and opinions towards public policy life or politics. 
  • Example: Especially in Malaysia, a lot of the big newspapers are state-owned and so, are naturally backing the government and don’t necessarily question it. I read the news from newspapers but I think another amazing resource nowadays is Instagram. Like other open social media platforms, Instagram provides subtexts that we don’t get from newspapers! This adds to a holistic manner of experiencing news and TOK helped me learn this!

(Note: This interview was conducted on Zoom by Learoy, and is published on the IBlieve blog with Yasmin’s permission.) 


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