IB Tips Revealed for USS Students


By Jun Woo Kang, News Writer

A spring rainstorm of anxiety is deliberately hitting the USS, as the period for transition is gradually approaching. That said, DP and MYP coordinator, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Harding, and college counselor Ms. Rogers allay the anxiety of the students by advising the students for a better understanding of the IB program, and provide few tips for a smoother transition to the next stage of their academic life.

While a majority of international schools in Korea offer AP (Advanced Placement) program, GSIS is one of the few schools in Korea, which provides its students with the full IB (International Baccalaureate)  program — with Primary Years (PYP), Middle Years (MYP), and Diploma Program (DP). MYP and DP programs are taken by the USS students.

“IB Program is a comprehensive program,” Mr. Thomas, the DP coordinator, assuredly told, “Every subject is deeply connected to prepare you for a life-long learning. To speak about the DP Program, you will be taking six classes, plus TOK (Theory of Knowledge), EE (Extended Essay), and CAS (Creativity, Action and Service).” He mentioned the interconnected features of the subjects from the “in-depth learning” the IB provides — not only the DP — will certainly “prepare students to be researchers, more independent, and eventually to be an exceptional time-manager” by balancing and juggling “the schedules to meet the demands of the program.”

Mr. Harding, the MYP coordinator, seemed to commonly agree with Mr. Thomas, telling the IB program has more of a depth and range to it. “IB Program has a greater breadth of content and concepts where the AP tends to be more focused,” he spoke, “Like, you can take “AP Statistics”, or “AP Calculus” but you cannot take DP Calculus, you have to be more all around in math. AP tends to break it down and focus on an area, while IB provides students with a bigger breadth. Also, I think AP is very test-based while the IB provides more holistic education — through requirements like CAS, EE, etcetera — which I believe is more efficient for students to some extent.”

Then, Ms. Rogers, the college counselor commented on the handiness of the IB in students’ college applications. “The IB program is international — in every sense of the word. Most universities acknowledge the IB as one of the most rigorous, intense curriculums that well-prepares the students for post-graduate works,” she positively stated. Meanwhile, she also mentioned the importance of “taking the most challenging courses available,” especially in the decision between full diploma and the partial diploma. “If a student is capable of taking full DP, but decides not to, it will be a huge disadvantage for them,” explained Ms. Rogers.

Despite three months remaining until the end of the year, the students’ anxiety for their approaching new academic stages have been growing. “I am not entirely sure if I will be able to succeed in the IB, especially in the DP program,” a freshman, Matthias Büsing anxiously spoke. As if to console the students, these experts provided the students a few ‘survival tips’.

“Figuring out the way to manage your time, and keeping your sanity, in general, is one of the biggest challenges that the students face in the IB– particularly in the DP program, “ Mr. Thomas began, “Therefore, work on time-management. And, work on building a support structure for you. With academic rigor, there will be times you get depressed, when you will feel overwhelmed, frustrated, etcetera. Rather that support system would be your family, your friends, a mentor teacher, a counselor, you probably will need them. Also remember that GSIS will always be there for you,” he pointed out. “And do not cheat,” Mr. Thomas said, as he calmly laughed about how obvious his statement was — while partially being serious.

Mr. Harding’s thoughts for his MYP students were not too far apart from Mr. Thomas’ comments. “Balance your time, since the program will get intense. Also, take the learning of the ‘skills’ very seriously, if not more equally to the content,” he firmly suggested, “Too often, students are so concerned about knowing all the content, and they forget the skills that go along in the way. In the MYP, it is more about developing the skills. The ability to investigate, the ability to research, to go out and explore to find the answer, the ability to apply all the knowledges into something that may be unfamiliar to the student. In addition to learning the contents, learn the skills thoroughly, so that they will help you in the DP, but also in further educations.”

In regards to colleges, Ms. Rogers gave out a few words. “Make sure you research constantly about your future plans as you go. Be mindful of where you get your information from, though.  I’ve seen many students gathering information from various websites or asking people who have not been enrolled in the college applications for a while. I am cautious about that because what worked for your brother, father, anyone around you five years ago will most likely not work out for you in 2016, or even more in the future. Therefore, the university website has to be your primary source, not your hagwon teachers, or consultants, etcetera. Every single year, there is something new, so be aware of that.”

After all, for the GSIS students, Mr. Thomas did not forget to mention the advantages of being a Knight in an academic aspect, adding to his practical comments. “GSIS offers a tremendous amount of care and concern for students throughout the program. The counseling staffs — we now have three but it will be four next year — assist students warmly. An example of how GSIS assists the busy students would be the blackout days. They are for the DP students, often particularly for the students in arts classes who frequently have performances in the evening. The blackout dates will delete all homework assignments during the evening of the performance and the day after that, “ he passionately told, “I find the systems in GSIS, the care, concerns, accommodations, and the amount of love that we give to the students is what separates us from any other IB schools in Korea.”