Six university-level courses, at least three of which are Higher Level, with TOK, EE, and CAS on top. Without a doubt, IBDP is one of the most challenging high school programs in the world today.

Because of the immense workload, IB students often lack time to invest in hobbies, extracurricular activities, or social relationships. According to research from the University of South Florida, IB students are “more likely to experience elevated stress” than typical adolescents in other educational curricula.

Related Article: IB STRESS: WHY WE NEED TO STOP BEING 7-OBSESSED AND START SETTING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Then how do you find balance, between taking care of your mental well-being and achieving academic success (which is, and should be, different for everyone)?

For some professional insight and advice, The Bite reached out to DP Counselors Lindsay Kehl and Vera den Otter. Here’s what they had to say.

Q. What does it mean to be successful in the DP?

Kehl: This is so personal. Success can be the lightbulb moment when something finally clicks in a class. Success can be that a student comes to school on time every day. Success can be that a student realizes what they’d like to go on to study in university. Success can be that you get to take two classes in the Arts during grades 11 and 12.

Vera: A lot of students think success is all in their grades. But it’s about what you learned, whether you enjoyed learning… if you do your best, your grade will reflect how much you did best. In the end, it’s just a number. Success means something different for everyone.

Q. Why should you care about having a “balanced life”?

Vera: It’s important that students make sure they care about all aspects that are in the ‘mind platter.’ If the student [were to] only focus on academics, they would give up on their friendships, exercise, relaxation, nutrition… they would see that they probably [wouldn’t] achieve as much. To do well academically, you need to nourish all those aspects.”

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Kehl: I [also] find that language is super important. Don’t talk about ‘surviving’ the IB but talk about ‘thriving’ in the IB. It’s about your motto and how you live your life.

Q. I can’t find the time or motivation to do that. What do I do?

Vera: If you’re struggling with procrastination, it often has to do with stress and not knowing how to deal with it. Talk about it, whether it’s with a friend, family member, counselor, or someone you trust. See if you can keep each other accountable. For example, study together. If you feel like you’re putting things off, ask for someone to check on you.

Kehl: Start to think about what you would do if you started. What steps would you take? What book would you open? What text would you read? When you start to think about it, you’ll find that you do have motivation.

Vera: DP is about keeping balance, not doing things on your own. Whether it’s procrastination or “senioritis,” if you feel like you’re not doing as well as you could, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask someone for help. This is something counselors can help you with.

Q. Overall tips you have for DP students?

Kehl: It’s so important to remember that in order to have a brain that is functioning at the optimal level, it needs rest and downtime. Take breaks unapologetically. Make time for your younger siblings, your friends, your parents. Take your dog on walks and enjoy the fresh air. At the end of high school, you’ll want to feel proud of the relationships you’ve built and the things you’ve learned.

Vera: DP is definitely a rigorous program, but I think [all] students around the world feel that. If it gets difficult, it’s normal. So do whatever helps you relax. While all those things help you do well academically, you’re also more than just school.


Check out this video to find out what our students are doing to deal with DP stress. If you have any other tips on staying balanced as a student, share in the comments below!

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