Steve of Rockville Centre, NY writes: 

What's the story with IB programs?  In 2006 if my daughter had picked a State college, she would have gotten 32 credits for her IB diploma (that's one whole year of college).   She chose a private university and had to fight for the 18 credits she was eventually given.

 The College Whisperer responds:

Contrary to popular belief, IB stands for International Baccalaureate®, and not irritable bowel. Although, given the stomach-wrenching one often has to go through to secure college credits for IB courses from American universities, one can understand the confusion.

The International Baccalaureate offers programs in many, but not all high schools that, over the course of the program (typically, 2 years) challenges students with a rigorous, college-level course of study.

 Not unlike Advanced Placement courses, administered by our old friends at College Board (the folks who brought you that original knot in the gastrointestinal tract), students who excel may (the key word being “may”) receive college credit for work completed in high school.

 As with AP credit, the college or university sets policy as to whether the school will accept IB credit, and if so, how many credits will be accepted.

Unlike AP, where one year of study typically yields one year of credit, colleges, more often than not, will award only one year of credit for the two years of IB study. Not a very good rate of return.

As noted, this policy varies widely from public universities to private (the former generally being more liberal in the acceptance of IB credits), and then, from one private institution to the other.

Moreover, fewer schools, at least in the United States, accept IB credits than those that accept the more popular and widely-recognized AP credits, where variations are more dependent upon the student’s score than on recognition of the program itself.

Southside High School in Rockville Centre, NY is one of six Long Island high schools (the others being Bay Shore, Commack, Long Beach, Northport and West Islip) currently offering IB programs. Virtually every high school on the Island offers at least some AP courses. The best practice in deciding whether a college-bound student should enroll in an IB program, where offered, is to engage in a bit of forward thinking – as in, where do you intend to go to college?

If the reason for pursuing IB is not merely for the knowledge, but for the college credit as well, make certain that the colleges to which you will be applying not only award IB credit, but actually give you the credits you’ve earned.

When in doubt, stick with the Advanced Placement courses, where available. There, too, check with individual colleges as to credit. Compared to IB, you should find a more welcoming reception.

For a well-written article on this very issue, check out The Washington Post's, Despite IB Growth, College Credit Is Elusive.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
* * *
Comments? Questions for The College Whisperer?
Write us at

The road to college begins at