“If you are completing an IB Diploma then we require your predicted grades to be submitted on the 7-point scale. The percentage grade is only used by us if you are completing the regular high school diploma.”
My stomach sank when I received this transcript request from what was my top choice school at the time. Their journalism program had many application steps and expectations which I had worked to meet — I’d paid for and written their entrance tests in English and current events. I’d written a killer personal essay. However, when it came time to simply send my transcript, I paused.
I was on track to receiving my prestigious International Baccalaureate diploma with 25 points, but the university I sought to attend had a cutoff of 28 predicted IB points.
Crash course on the IB marking system: to just achieve an IB diploma with 24 points means that with a heavy workload of university-level assignments, a student has earned at least a “4” in each of their classes — usually equivalent to about a 75 percent to 85 percent score. Lower marks must be compensated with extremely high marks to total at least 24. This is not an easy feat.
With these marks in our high schools, we are almost always in a position to be on the honor roll. Still, those who reach it are compared to having marginal academic marks, as reflected in the standards of many universities when it comes to IB points. Asking for 28 points was the equivalent of asking for somewhere around an 85 percent to 89 percent average from IB students, while they asked a 75 percent average of regular academic high school program students. At my 25 points, I had an 83 percent average. Panicking, I had arranged to send my percentage grades alone. Now with this email, they were insisting on measuring my marks on the 7-point scale only — against a requirement I knew I did not meet.
Bottom line: I would have had an easier time being admitted if I’d come from a regular program with the same marks.
I am not the first IB student to face this dilemma. When I first realized that my 7-point scale marks were below the cutoff total for many universities, I asked an older graduate for advice. Interestingly, she was attending a school with a 28-point cutoff, though she had graduated with 26. Her university had seemingly based their decision on her percentage marks, while another had rejected her as they likely only considered her total IB points.
To me, this inconsistency in Canadian schools is greatly problematic and leads to a loss of opportunity for some of the most ambitious students in our secondary schools. When I was emailed by my dream school and asked for a copy of my full IB transcript, I was backed into a corner. I replied head-on, explaining that my 25 IB points expressed the same achievement as my 83 percent, that I hoped they would consider both and that their imbalanced requirements had confused me. I sent my transcript and I hoped.
I was eventually glad for this experience, as waiting on this competitive school led me to changing my mind completely and choosing St. Thomas University instead, which I associate less with feelings of pressure. However, this situation left me feeling as if my ability to succeed in such a difficult program was underappreciated. I rethought everything — what kind of recognition could I have attained if I had stuck to regular academic classes and undoubtedly gotten better marks? While this program had acclimatized me to the demands of university, had it permanently hindered my merit on paper?
I’ll never know if I was waitlisted because of my entrance test, my personal essay, room in the program or that seedy 7-point scale. I’d chosen St. Thomas before I received that result. I hope that universities can take another look at their IB requirements someday soon and try to fit them to their percentage requirements, in order to recognize the value of the IB program and its students’ efforts. Ambition should never put us at a loss.
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash