Seniors share their thoughts on the ib diploma

By Allegra Wesson, Copy Editor

List of diploma candidates:

Arman Alavizadeh     Kate Waggoner          

Emma Barbee      Jacob Walter  

Emma Blodgett      Cole Swanson   

Morgan Bonds       Anders Song     

Islay Collins          Taylor Smith        

Ryan Dexheimer    Daniel Shimanovsky               

Darilyn Distant      Helena Shaw    

Annika Esau         Victoria Liu   

Erin Griffiths        Jaymi McNabb  

Britta Harbury      Casey Litmer   

Natalia Kurpiel       Peter Kwak                  



Earning an IB diploma is quite an accomplishment, with the journey consisting of nights devoted to studying, hours of activities to be done, and piles of college level homework to complete. This year we have 22 students who are eligible for the diploma.

It was a very busy two years for these students. To keep up with the amount of schoolwork received from the IB program, they had to make a serious time commitment, usually spending most of their free time on IB work. It was also not uncommon for them to have to drop extracurricular activities or lose hours of sleep due to the huge workload. The difficulty of the coursework was around college level and they had to learn to think critically, or they would quickly fall behind. They all learned what it meant to work hard.

To be eligible for the diploma, they had to take almost entirely IB courses in a wide variety of subjects, take a critical thinking class called Theory of Knowledge, write an extended essay over the summer, and have hours in creativity, action (like sports), and service. Then they had to score 24 points or more between all their IB exams to finally receive their diploma. The results don’t even come in until after they graduate. With all these requirements, it’s easy to see why it’s such a high accomplishment. On average, 20 percent of full IB students don’t end up being eligible for the diploma nationwide, but Tigard High’s rate is slightly better, with a little less than 10 percent being ineligible.

Senior Annika Esau loves the IB diploma program despite the amount of work, and thought it was a great experience overall since she gained a variety of skills, experiences, and a community from it. She has earned a full ride to the University of Idaho and can now start college as a sophomore if she wants, due to the amount of college credit she has earned.

Esau really enjoyed the way the classes were structured and the material that was covered in IB. She found that she liked the tests more since they were based more on gaining a solid understanding of the material than simply memorizing a bunch of information. “The classes are smaller, so you get more of an intellectual relationship with everybody,” Esau said. The students in IB are generally serious about learning too. “I have gotten lots of friends who are as dedicated, driven, and as interested in school as I am.”

Esau firmly believes that IB is a great program. “Students should talk to teachers and they can help determine what would be the best fit for them. I think teachers know students very well. But I don’t think students should listen to other students who are in IB that are complaining about how terrible IB is. I think we just like to complain a lot. We like to make it sound worse than it is,” Esau said.

Like many others, she is rewarded with a feeling of great accomplishment after all the hard work she has had to complete. “I’m pretty excited and proud to be a candidate. Our entire lives have been building up for this moment these past couple years,” Esau said.  

Her mom, Cara Esau, noted that Annika had to devote much of her time to homework and she was in her room a lot. Sometimes, Annika couldn’t do more fun things due to the amount of schoolwork. “She was always a very serious student, but I think it challenged her to be even more diligent and serious about her studies. It pushed her,” Cara said.

Cara didn’t have to remind her to do homework hardly ever; it was mainly Annika’s own discipline. “I could have never pushed her as hard as she pushed herself. You really need to be self-motivated to do IB,” Cara said.

Other students wouldn’t describe their experience as being positive. Senior Emma Barbee is one of the IB diploma candidates who had a bumpy experience with IB. Doing full IB wasn’t what she expected, and it took a tremendous amount of work on her part to pull it off.

“I’ve never had to study for classes before this, and so full IB was a completely different experience. It was an abrupt shift and I didn’t really feel ready for the adjustment,” Barbee said.

Barbee is also the head of Robotics team, but during the months when she had all her IB tests, she couldn’t even come to the meets after school. All her time was spent on studying and preparing for the exam. “I had to drop some of my extracurricular activities to keep up with my schoolwork, since there’s so much homework,” Barbee said.

During these two years, as soon as she got home from school pretty much all of her time was dedicated to doing homework. If she decided to do any after school activities, she wouldn’t get much sleep.

Barbee did notice some people being burned out from all the work that was piled on top of them from IB. Anxiety and depression seemed more prevalent in her peers. “It’s nice and shiny on the outside, and it makes the students in it look good, but your health really does plummet,” Barbee said.

“I know it’s definitely going to be cool being one of the kids with the diploma hood walking across stage. It’s a victory, but it almost feels like a hollow one. I did do so much stuff and I succeeded super well, but I’m so used to meeting these super high expectations now, that if I do anything less, it’s not good enough. There’s so much pressure built up with IB, and if you’re not perfect, it really messes with you. And nobody’s perfect,” Barbee said.

She has gained a few valuable skills from the program, but doesn’t think it balances out. “I learned how to manage my time and how to study, but I’ve lost so much sleep and I spent so much time worrying about school. Overall I learned a bunch, but in general, there are multiple ways people could fix it to make the program more worthwhile. If I was doing it again, I wouldn’t do full IB,” Barbee said.

IB director Michael Savage understands how time-consuming and stressful the program can be. Being eligible for an IB diploma is the hardest path you can take at the school, and it requires a great amount of dedication and determination. “It’s a marathon. The amount of work that you have to do to just get through it is tough,” Savage said. He has heard complaints from students about it being too hard, and so there is going to be a new class called IB senior seminar specifically for full diploma seniors. The class will act as study hall for students to complete their IB diploma requirements, especially to help out with their hours they need to complete.

“It definitely prepares you for the workload of college. I would say without exception all of the students that have gone off to college and come back and visited said they felt very well prepared for college,” Savage said.

Senior Natalia Kurpiel is another IB diploma candidate. Partly due to doing full IB, she’s getting a full ride to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. It has been a stressful two years for her, but she is proud for making it this far. “It was very time consuming and stressful, but I learned a lot and made very good friends,” Kurpiel said, summing up her experience.

Doing college level work has made her feel more confident going into college. With such a massive amount of work, she had to learn how to work hard and manage time well to keep up, which will be valuable for going into college. “I feel like I am more prepared for college now with all the work I had to do along with the research projects.” Kurpiel said. “I am so happy and proud to be a candidate, and I’m glad the stress is over.”

Being eligible for an IB diploma is truly a respectable accomplishment which all of these seniors should feel proud of. Full IB is a path with many obstacles, but these students were able to preserve and make it to this point. These students have completed the most challenging program one can take in high school.

Hillary Currier
Peter Kwak accepts one of his scholarships at the Senior Award Assembly