One college planning guarantee

I spoke at a middle school last night and a parent asked me about my preference between AP and IB programs.

I told her the truth–that the IB program is great for some kids, but that it's not a magic key that unlocks the doors of admission to selective colleges.  Intellectual kids who challenge themselves in honors and AP courses have the same opportunities that those in the IB programs do.  The important thing is to pick an academic program that fits the student.

I could tell it wasn't the answer she wanted when she retorted, 

"Students in IB programs are accepted to college at double the rate of students in other programs.  I've seen the data."

I don't know what data she's seen (it's probably from a local high school who's pitching the program to prospective parents).  But I do know two things:

1)  If that data really does exist, it says less about the IB program and more about the kids in it.  Kids who end up in an IB program in the first place are, not surprisingly, the type of students who are likely to go to college.

2)  Wanting to believe it doesn't make it so.

That mother is worried about picking the right high school for her son, and it would be so much easier if she could be assured that the IB program was going to give him all the advantages she wants for him.  It would put her at ease to have an IB guarantee. 

Like just about everything important in life, there are no guarantees in college admissions planning.  No college, high school, private counselor, tutor, test-prep course, academic program, activity, essay or alumni contact can promise to make specific college dreams come true.

But if you put smart kids in academic programs that excite them, encourage them to pursue activities they actually enjoy, and celebrate the process rather than just the outcome, you'll have happy, motivated kids with plenty college acceptances from which to choose.  Guaranteed.