How Stressed is the Average IB Student? You’re Not Alone

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The 10th grade, Pre-Calc claas

The 10th grade, IB Pre-Calc class at St. Petersburg High

The IB Program or the International Baccalaureate, while it’s a rigorous program full of advanced, successful students, it can also be filled with times of anxieties and stress. 

IB was founded in 1968, in Geneva Switzerland. Their mission statement is to “develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through education that builds intercultural understanding and respect,” basically, an international citizen who is worldly and knowledgeable. It is centered around IB’s main core values creating people who are: knowledgeable, caring, open-minded, risk-takers, reflective, inquirers, communicators, and balanced. These are all taught in the 9th-grade inquiry skills classes at St Pete High. IB is full of wonderful classes ranging in many sciences, math, and English paths. It allows for flexibility in schedule and students are provided with a choice of a 7th elective class. But, these past two to three years with the pandemic and normal life activities, many people feel overwhelmed and stressed. And while this article is not made to bash and critique the program, it is made to let other students know they are not alone, and there are ways to get help, whether it’s tutoring, or even seeing the school psychologist. 

Research done by the University of South Florida states that IB students are more susceptible to being stressed under the higher-pressure academic environment, which also makes them more susceptible to mental health problems, lower levels of happiness, fewer friendships, and disengagement from school. More advanced students with GPAs higher than 3.0 that have good coping skills, are proven to have lower stress levels. Stress has a lot to do with the workload being put on the students, making them feel this way. A study done in 2015 shows 12% of students experienced anxiety attacks or panic attacks at least once a week due to stress related to school (Feld & Shusterman, 2015). These IB students take 6 university level courses along with TOK, EE, and CAS which takes up the remaining free time one could have. These students have previously excelled in school and feel it’s required to achieve perfect grades, leading to lots of their stress being pushed upon their self achievement or perfectionism.

How do the students at Saint Pete High feel?

    After speaking to many different students on their stress level and management, there are many different ranges in how people are feeling. Much of their school stress is dependent on how well they manage their time, spread the workload out, and their social life/hobbies outside of school. A 10th grade pre-IB student athlete, Ellie Silvers, states, “Although it can be stress inducing, I think it will help me be better prepared for college.” Managing her time well and getting her work done in study hall increases her free time for other things. “If [Ellie] let’s her work pile up it can get very stressful”(Silvers). Ellie is a high achieving academic student, but she also balances it with soccer and life activities. She talked about how during the end of the semesters, she feels most stressed and has contemplated leaving IB, but she stuck it out knowing how much she’d gain from it. 

    After talking to this current student on the path to finish the IB program, the voice of those who already graduated and received their IB diploma was missing. Hailey Emerson, a freshman at Georgetown in Washington DC, went through her highschool years through the pandemic. During this time, halfway through the junior year, it switched to online learning. Then the following senior year, she did around a quarter of the year online. She got her cords, graduation gown, and IB pin by having a drive through line after a day online. The pandemic added a lot of stress and took away from a normal high school experience. Having her high school years be cut short and limited to behind a computer screen, Hailey states,”I thought IB prepared me well for difficult college work and handling a lot of different assignments at a time. However, after going to college I realized that AP would have probably given me more college credit than IB. IB also limited my options on courses to take because you have to take the same courses for two years.” While Hailey was a straight A student, who ended up at an extremely competitive school, she doubts if all her hard work got her the college credit she needed. 

       So how do I get help with school?

    The good thing about the IB teachers is they are always willing to help their students. Many are available to help you understand concepts during lunch, a 5th period rotation, or even after school. On Wednesday the physics teacher, Ms. Toska, provides her kids with tutoring. The Pre-Calc and Calc teacher, Mr. Tarrou, can set up times to help students understand concepts. And Mr. Beam goes to the media center after school multiple times a week for tutoring. Many other teachers offer help outside of their single class period. Students can start by meeting with their teacher and just talking to them. If students are still confused or behind, they can also study with other students, friends, or even a parent.  And, if they are struggling with something outside of school or need a person to talk to, St Pete High offers an on campus school psychiatrist that will meet with students and help them. 

And while school should be taken seriously scholars should put forth their best effort, one should never put a grade over their well being and happiness because perfection is unattainable.