Colleges that favor IB Diploma students

For UCs, consider the admission rates by GPA band for fall 2021 frosh:

Recalculate your HS GPA with GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub . Use the weighted capped version for the table below.

Fall 2021 admission rates by campus and HS GPA range from Freshman fall admissions summary | University of California :

Campus 4.20+ 3.80-4.19 3.40-3.79 3.00-3.39
Berkeley 30% 11% 2% 1%
Davis 85% 55% 23% 10%
Irvine 60% 31% 14% 1%
Los Angeles 29% 6% 1% 0%
Merced 97% 98% 96% 89%
Riverside 97% 92% 62% 23%
San Diego 75% 35% 5% 1%
Santa Barbara 73% 28% 4% 1%
Santa Cruz 91% 81% 46% 9%

These are for the whole campus. Different divisions or majors may have different levels selectivity (usually, engineering and computer science majors are more selective).

Good point. We are planning to visit AU and GW in the spring along with BU, Tufts and NE. Hopefully that demonstrates applicants interest.

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AU and GWU aren’t safeties. Northeastern is a reach these days. BU isn’t far behind. Grinnell is a reach. She definitely needs more matches and maybe another safety. I suggest trimming the list of high reaches to the ones she is most interested in. It’s too easy to make a big list of reaches and hope that one of them pans out, but that isn’t a great strategy.

If Grinnell is on the list, she can consider other LACs of equal caliber. I mentioned some earlier. Kenyon and Oberlin might be matches for her. They are both excellent.

I’m not sure she needs more than a couple of safeties. By definition, she will get into at least one. She can apply to the two she likes the best and be safe. Boulder seems safe, as do many of the UCs or CSU’s. I’m not sure SCU qualifies as safe, unless her high school’s Naviance indicates that.

It would be helpful if you could give us an idea of the type of campus experience she is looking for. Your list does seem a bit too much of “colleges that people have heard of.” There’s a world of difference between WUSTL and Grinnell. Claremont McKenna is very unlike U Chicago, which is very unlike SCU.

What vibe does she want? Lots of sports, arty, Greeky, socially aware, nerdy, hip, rural, urban, and so forth. Remember, she can do premed at ANY of these colleges. Good Premed advising will be important.
This is a useful list ranked on premed advising. Some of the colleges mentioned here appear in this list. Top Pre-Med Colleges of 2021 by Pre-Med Advising Rank

Do you want her to aim for merit money? Some of the colleges on the list I linked have potential for that: Trinity, Earlham, Beloit, Juniata.

Notice no UCs are on that list. I’m sure one reason for that is that if a student can’t keep a really high GPA at, say UCB, it’s going to be very tough to get inot med school. So when you have a college full of high achievers like UCB, staying at the top of the pack is hard. Also, it’s hard for really big colleges to offer much premed advising. Too many students. Colleges that offer good advising know how to help a student stay on the path they are on, and when it might be time to switch majors. MANY kids don’t stick with premed.

To emphasize this again, I doubt there is a college out there that doesn’t favor IB diploma applicants. It’s well regarded, it’s known, and it does give her a little bit of a boost because it is very rigorous and her GPA is great. Assume that every college in the country favors IB diploma applicants.


Yes, that is the reason, we are avoiding UC’s and other out of state public schools. Keeping the lower end UC’s for safeties.

My D (a first year at Smith College now) was accepted to GWU Honors College with the $25k/yr IB Scholarship. She also graduated from a CA public IB. 3.95 UW GPA 1450 SATs. So it’s a good option.

I can’t say if she had an IB edge or not, but Occidental also offered her a nice scholarship.

I also have a HS junior D in the same IB Program so I’ll be following this thread!

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Tufts-- My IBD D applied last year ED2 test optional and was rejected. Just one data point though.

I agree GWU is a safety (or a likely anyway). I strongly suggest applying to Honors College there. American isn’t a safety due to yield protection. BU is a reach thee days.

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The focus is on Pre med advising and colleges having more research opportunities. Since kids change their mind we are also looking for colleges where it is easy to switch majors. That is the reason our choice of schools are very different. WUSTL, Claremont McKenna, NU, CWRU were chosen keeping that in the mind. She attended all of their virtual Information session.

She is not into sports or greek life, and is not prioritizing rural vs urban. She is very flexible and is more goal oriented.

As you mentioned most of the schools in the list are reach, we are struggling to find a target. Would you consider AU and GWU as targets?

What major is she planning to take? Do you know how strong their natural science dept is?

Are you just basing the definition of “safety” on acceptance rate? Or are you also considering the fact that the applicant is test optional?

It depends on what the comparison group is. IB diploma students versus the full range of college applicants with varying levels of rigor? Probably yes for most colleges that consider rigor in admissions. IB diploma students versus those college applicants choosing high rigor schedules (AP courses, college courses)? Probably much less likely that IB diploma is an automatic advantage over the other high rigor students, especially since colleges know that IB is not available everywhere, and some high schools’ IB programs are not good fits for some strong students (in terms of which subjects are offered HL and SL).

MCAT’s and GPA are so critical to Med School admittance that I would focus on a school that would maximize those two areas. LAC’s are especially good at doing exactly that (they really are pre professional colleges). Find one that has a major that your daughter is interested in and is good at. GPA inflation isn’t a bad thing either. I would also look at second tier LAC’s, its not great for GPA when your competing agains the very brightest kids for the same top grades, unless of course your goal is a top research med school, then you’ll need that.

I had a hard time understanding this post. Specifically, you seem to be saying:

LACs are especially good at helping maximize GPA; and
LACs are really pre-professional colleges.

As a consumer of three LACs, I would not subscribe to either of those two generalizations, and I think a lot of people would score #2 as basically inaccurate. Some LACs lean more that way than others, but generally speaking LACs as a group is not the first place to go looking for the pre-professional crowd.

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Some colleges like IB for the pedagogical approach it represents, and some don’t seem to distinguish it from AP.

Some colleges like IB diploma because it represents a package of rigor with less ability to cherry pick for strength. This was the point made to us by a small handful of schools. They liked that the hard science/math kid also had to take challenging English, Foreign Language and History courses.

But relative to the AP kid who by choice chose a similar path with broad exposure to rigor, then sure, probably not much if any advantage.

One thing you wind up doing a lot in IB is writing. I don’t recall that as a feature of the AP gauntlet our oldest went through outside of English, but it’s been a few years now. I think if one compared my three kids and their respective HS experiences, it’s safe to say the two IB kids had more heavy and rigorous writing loads than did the AP kid.


IB is definitely more writing intensive. There are also more requirements than a year end exam.

But the big difference is that one takes APs by subject. A student who receives an IBD is satisfying the requirements for two diplomas, one from their high school and the other from the IB. It is harder to get a 7 on an IB exam than a 5 on an AP. Some SL classes correspond to the AP. Really different animals. (And yes, you can take IB exams a la carte, but most schools that offer that also offer the IBD.)

But as noted upthread, most students do not get to choose, and most colleges just want to see you have embraced rigor, in whatever form your high school offers. @Lindagaf hit the nail on the head. Colleges like this period.

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Sorry I don’t know. My D is an econ major and not even at GWU.

Have her check out University of Rochester, they like IB and give merit money for it. I can’t say the amount as my daughter withdrew her application when she got into her ED school, but she liked the school a lot - have to like the cold though!

Someone posted an old analysis of schools that like IB when we were sifting through a few years ago, I’ll see if I can find it or at least a summary - keep in mind though it’s old!

Not sure if this will work or not: College application docs - Google Drive

Safeties take into account other factors besides grades and test scores. What’s “safe” for one kid may not be safe for another. As most colleges are still test optional right now, grades are the primary consideration, along with rigor. Some high schools offer a broader range of rigorous classes than others. Admissions officers know this. If this student has access to Naviance, and Naviance indicates a school is a safety, that’s a pretty reliable indicator. Many schools that might be considered a safety aren’t safe if a student doesn’t show interest. OOS students applying to competitive publics should not consider those schools as safe.

So there are several factors at play when determining a safety.

That’s good to know, but it will be easier to attain her goal if she attends a college where she thinks she can be happy for four years, while still maintaining a great GPA.

I get the sense your list is somewhat prestige focused. It’s in her best interest to apply to some colleges where she can see herself thriving and being happy for four years. Maintaining a 4.0 at U Chicago (the old saying is that it’s “where fun goes to die”) for four years, for example, is a very tall order. Maintaining a 4.0 at Trinity College, as another example, will be a bit more manageable for a top student and is probably going to get her to the same destination with a LOT less stress.

As I’ve just mentioned Trinity, I will throw this in…
A good friend’s kid is graduating from Trinity this year. He has loved his time there. He had a full tuition scholarship and is headed to HYP to do a fully funded PhD in the fall. He had loads of research while in college. My kid and several of her friends, all of whom attended a NESCAC, also did plenty of research as undergrads. One of those students will be attending Stanford for a PhD, and another is headed to Oxbridge. Not med school, but you get the idea.

It is not difficult for students at LACs to get research and in fact, it can even be easier in some cases. They know their profs well, and those profs can write great letters of rec and help them find opportunities.

A not-quite-as-known college can clearly provide the motivated and resourceful student with everything they need to succeed. She should apply to reaches, but she would benefit from looking at a wider variety of schools because she deserves to also enjoy her time at college. I honestly can’t see a kid who would be happy at Claremont McKenna being happy at Grinnell, and vice versa.

IMO, your matches are AU, GWU, UCI, UCD (both are going to have the same issues with premed advising though), SCU, and CWRU. There are too many reaches: NE, BU, Grinnell, and all those you listed earlier. As for safeties, Boulder and some of the UCs and CSU’s should work, as long as she would be happy to attend.

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Ok, thanks for the response. And that’s where I was going with my question. I’ve seen a lot of people in CC (and elsewhere) just use raw acceptance rates to universally bucket schools into safety, target, or reach. For a few top students, GW might be a safety. For most, it’s a reach. Depends on the student.

An excerpt from professionals doing research on schools, so maybe this will help you understand.


Any ranking system is created from a series of assumptions. From our conversations with pre-med advisors at colleges, veteran college counselors, and pre-meds and their parents, we created a list of factors we believed should go into the Best Colleges for Pre-Meds first, and then we saw what the data spit out.

Some of the results were a surprise, while others weren’t. For example, we have been skeptics of the [UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SYSTEM’S]pre-med programs for a while, based on the feedback from the undergrads that we’ve worked there. But we didn’t know how those schools would fare when we put together our rankings. As it turns out, they were among the lowest on the list.

Our list is biased toward:

*** Smaller schools, which we believe lead to better student-faculty interaction, better letters of recommendation, more mentoring opportunities, more research opportunities, etc.**

  • Urban schools, since they typically have more clinical opportunities
  • Schools with great pre-med advising - as an advising company, we believe in the value of great advising
  • US colleges, since we couldn’t find equivalent data on Canadian schools or international schools

I think this is in general true but it depends on your AP path and how a student’s high school preps for the AP exams. Many are not yet familiar with the AP Capstone, which was introduced a few years ago, partly to compete with the IB Diploma. Here’s a link for those whose schools don’t offer it yet:

Via AP Seminar and Research, my daughter took a two-year integrated course that culminated in a 5,000 word original research paper (more than the longest IB paper). She is finishing with 4 AP English and 5 AP social studies courses so I wager she has written as much as anyone in an IB. It’s not just an essay in May on the exam. It’s an essay every two weeks that replicates the exam, to prep for the exam (which is why I say the writing rigor and workload depends on the high school). And this is someone who plans to major in STEM. The main difference is the integration of the IB, as many have pointed out.

As for grading, a 7 is harder to get but considering only 3% score a 5 on both the AP seminar and research exams that isn’t a cakewalk, either. Again, I think it depends on the path as there are a lot of low work intensity, “easy” 5 APs for top students. To bring it back to college preference, I agree that it still comes back to: did you pursue the most rigorous options available to you.