An IB student’s guide to making the most of the summer
As the school year is coming to an end, you have a long and restful summer ahead of you – a chance to relax, take things easy, switch off your brain for a while, and take the time to enjoy the things which you may not have had the time for throughout the academic year. If you are an IB Diploma student, however, the summer can also bring with it a nagging voice from the inside of your head which can be difficult to push away; a guilty conscience that you should be working and not wasting valuable time preparing for what might be your most academically challenging year to date (and ever!). You will, and should, be very aware that you only have one year left of school and that whilst the summer might call for some well-deserved time off, it is also your opportunity to get a solid headstart on your upcoming academic year. With Extended Essays, CAS, summer jobs, university applications and subject revision, it can be a challenge to find that perfect balance, and we thought we would give you some useful insights on what you can do to make the summer as great as possible!
First things first: don’t misunderstand the purpose of the summer. It is indeed there to give you a chance to relax and do everything but study. Something to keep in mind as you start to take your mind off mock exams and TOK are all the amazing things which actually come with relaxing: your mind will suddenly open up, give you a chance to take on new information, as well as be inspired. You might be lying on a beach soaking in vitamin D when you suddenly receive a brainwave for your Extended Essay (EE). You might have a chance to read a book that is completely non-IB related which suddenly provides a brand new perspective for your English Literature internal assessment. You might even have a summer job where you suddenly find yourself, for instance, using maths in a bit of a different way, or having to analyse a situation using skills you have gained through TOK. You will never know when the brainwaves will come, but it can happen when your thoughts are far, far away from the IB. If it suddenly happens, quickly write it down and then when the school year starts up again, look back at the thoughts you have had and see if anything useful might come of it.
So don’t feel guilty about focusing on things other than the IB this summer. Instead, remember that you deserve a bit of a break – not only that, but you need it to succeed in the final few months of the IB.
Saying that the one thing which most IB students are advised to work on over the summer months is the Extended Essay (EE). Your EE advisor might even have asked you to complete your first draft before you return in the autumn, and if so, you know that you have some work to do and you already know that parts of the summer will have to go towards working on this.
Depending on what type of person you are you might just one day wake up in mid-July and feel like working on your EE. If so, great! If you do not believe the motivation will come so easily, our key advice is to plan ahead at the start of the summer when you will be doing your EE work. Have a look at your overall summer plans- when will you be home, when will you be travelling?
When will you actually feel ready to start working on it? Make a decision before the start of the summer break as to when you will spend time on your EE and then ensure that you commit to this. It could be anything from starting after three weeks off, perhaps setting a few hours aside each morning for a week or maybe spending two full days whilst your parents are at work halfway through the summer. Whatever works for you is the key, just ensure to commit to the time you set yourself and not leaving it with a week to go until the start of the new school year. Indeed, do not forget the importance of taking some time away from a first draft before entering the editing phase, and so do not plan (for so many reasons!) to leave all your EE work to three really intense days the week before you go back to school.
With a large project such as the EE, you should first and foremost try to make an effort to enjoy the time spent on it. Take pleasure in working out of your normal learning environment and do it at your own time and pace. Maybe try a local library for some alternative literature to the one existing in your school library. If you’ve got an older sibling or a friend who can give you access to a university library, take the opportunity to go get some alternative resources that you can quote. The EE is, after all, the component of the IB where you have been given the opportunity to focus on a topic which you genuinely are interested in, and so hopefully you will feel passionate about writing your 4000 words in this area. Furthermore, if your plans are to pursue an undergraduate degree following the IB then your EE will also be one of the best preparations available for the research and written work you can expect at university level!
The EE might not be the only thing you are looking to work on this summer. If you feel you have been struggling in a subject throughout your first year, then the summer can also offer you the chance to catch up on your subject knowledge. Read through the topics covered so far, create a study group with some friends, or maybe find a tutor who can help you understand the more difficult areas of the syllabi. You can also join a summer course where you can take advantage of intensive two-day subject workshops – for more information on this, please see the Elite IB Mid-IB Summer Course.
There are also lots of other things which you can do over the summer to give you a smoother autumn. You could begin writing your personal statement(s) for university – if you are applying in the UK for instance, start building your “shortlist” by researching different types of universities and beginning to select the 5 which you will eventually apply to. You can have a look at Elite IB’s UCAS matrix for an idea of the type of IB grades required by specific degrees and universities. You might be surprised by the requirements offered by some universities! There are so many different types of universities out there – campus, collegiate, and city, to name but a few! – that it is important to spend plenty of time getting a feel for the type of university you wish to attend, and perhaps try and take the time to go visit a few you are tempted by.
When it comes to CAS, writing your reflections can become a sudden burden if it is left too late in the second year. Why not spend some time on it this summer, analysing the impact of your CAS experiences to date, and perhaps spend some time getting involved in projects you might not otherwise have been able to take part in. CAS is not there to be felt like a burden – it is there to offer a balance to your studies and encourage you to think creatively, build a healthy lifestyle, and contribute towards society through voluntary exchanges. If you can find the things which you are passionate about, CAS will be a breeze!
To conclude, the summer is there for you to get a well-deserved break from the classroom. Take the time you need to recuperate and get your brain in gear again so you are ready for the final year of the IB. Soothe any guilty conscience telling you to work by clearly planning out when you will be able to do so and stick to the plan – this way you will know you have done what you hoped to achieve and, if the unexpected happens and you find yourself swayed from the plan, you will be well aware of what remains to be done so you can update plans for the rest of the summer. If you ever start worrying about anything over the summer, make a plan, and speak to a friend, teacher, parent or tutor to ensure you are doing what you can to be on the right track for the upcoming year. But most of all – enjoy everything you do over the summer! Do it at your own pace, break your usual habits, go where you can’t otherwise go, and return to the classroom ready to hit the ground running in September!