Written By Rashi S.
Expectedly, DP Y1 is less rigorous and less time-consuming than Y2. Therefore, I would recommend engaging in extracurricular activities and completing CAS, at least for the most part in Y1 parallel to your academics. This enables you to focus more on your IA deadlines, practice past papers, and organize yourself for the upcoming IB exams in the second year. The Y1 winter break and summer holidays and to a certain extent your DP Y2 winter break offer you a fruitful opportunity to build your CV and can potentially contribute to you standing out in your (eventual) university applications. In this blog post, I discuss various practical activities you can do during either of the two breaks as they are the longest holidays not only to boost your university applications but for your personal growth as well.
Finish your CAS Project!
I would highly recommend finishing your CAS Project in Y1; I remember finishing mine during the DP Y1 summer break. It will be one less thing to worry about and one less thing to do on your checklist as you progress to Y2. It can leave a positive impression on university admission officers if you can do your CAS Project related to the field that you would like to pursue at university.
Although this is often difficult, ideally, it would be great if you can find volunteer work or an internship in an organization related to the field that you like to pursue at university. This is the most optimal as it can aid you in understanding what to (practically) expect from your university course, help you develop skills needed for that field which admission officers may be searching for in candidates, and can perhaps even show you potential career prospects that arise once you earn that BSc degree. Moreover, it can be a starting point for building your network.
If finding volunteer work or interning in an organization related to the field that you would like to pursue at university is not possible, it is nevertheless worthwhile to look for other opportunities and attempt to work with what is available around you. Whilst this may not help you in building skills that are directly connected to the program that you aspire to follow in your further education, you can nonetheless develop both hard and soft transferable skills from it. For example, skills such as but not limited to compassion, working with others, and problem-solving.
To find volunteer or intern opportunities, simply begin by using Google. Once you see something that interests you and something you are eligible to apply for, email, call, and/or visit them. Note that organizations will not always advertise vacant positions on their website and/or make explicit announcements when they are searching for volunteers or interns. Furthermore, try using your existing network; talk to your high school teachers, university counselor, parents, and so on regarding your interests and see if they have any suggestions and/or advice.
Notably, it is vital to not have the expectation that you will be paid. I understand the thinking process behind this as I am a student myself; however, at this stage, the focus should be on learning and not on earning money. It is unlikely for high school students and often first and second-year university students to find paid internships; organizations often require more specialized knowledge and a relatively more well-developed skill set.
Participate in Competitive Exams
Although I do not have experience with this, participating in competitive exams such as the International Math Olympiad, MIT Think, International Young Physicists’ Tournament, and other competitions is an effective way to showcase your academic strength to admission officers. It conveys the message that you will be capable of coping with the rigor at university.
Other ideas to Make the Most of your Break
- Initiate a project
- Join a summer camp
- Learn a new language and give the appropriate language test
- Get a part-time job (preferably one that aids you in developing skills relevant to the major you wish to pursue in university)
- However, finding a job related to the course that you aspire to study can once again be challenging. Therefore, see if you can find any employment in general as it can still be used to signal to universities that you are disciplined, self-motivated, and committed.
- Doing some of the core (EE, CAS Project, TOK essay) related to the major you wish to study at university can help you build a narrative. It can show universities that you are a focused candidate.
Keep in mind that university admission officers have read thousands of applications. Thus, they can differentiate between activities that are done and essays that are written superficially versus meaningfully. Authenticity is appreciated and hence attempt to build a rich and true narrative for yourself and your journey. Additionally, consistency is key. For instance, volunteering once for one week in some places is often insufficient. You must be able to show that you have been doing an activity consistently and with dedication for a substantial length of time.
Honestly, in hindsight, I lacked extracurricular activities on my CV to large extent and I believe that this is the primary reason that I received rejections from several universities. Had I read a blog post similar to this earlier, I think that I would have made different decisions. I hope you find all that was discussed here insightful and I wish you all the best in navigating through your DP journey.