Applying to university as an IB student

The world of university applications can sometimes be a confusing minefield of forms, submission requirements and deadlines. When you’re already putting all of your energy into getting to the end of your IB in one piece, the stress of working out what to do afterwards can all get a bit much! But DON’T WORRY! Over the coming months, Lanterna will be on hand to guide you through the process. To start us off, let’s get to grips with the basics:

Where is the IB recognised?

Each year, IB Diploma students apply to universities in over 90 countries worldwide. Thanks to ongoing efforts from the IBO to ensure its global recognition, many excellent universities are now aware of the IB Diploma and its advantages. However, understanding of the Diploma still varies from country to country. Since IB students apply more regularly to universities in certain regions than others, overall awareness isn’t always evenly distributed. Many universities now outline what they expect of IB applicants in IB-specific admissions policies: a list of these compiled by the IBO can be found here. Even if you can’t see your university of choice on the list, try contacting their admissions department directly to chat. Chances are they will still consider you once they learn more about what the IB involves.

Map with pins

Do universities like the IB?

Yes! Most universities do not officially state a preference for one qualification over another, and of course they judge each application in its own right. This said, studies of IB students in the US, UK, Australia, Mexico, and China suggest that IBDP students are more likely to progress on to higher education. They are also more likely to gain admission to prestigious and competitive universities than their non-IB peers. The prestigious ‘Ivy League’ Colleges in the US, for instance, are between 3 and 13% more likely to accept IB students than other applicants who didn’t do the IB.  Better still, once they are at university, IB students are more likely to continue to excel academically than their classmates!

Sign towards university success

Do I need any other qualifications to apply?

In most instances, you will be able to apply to a university using just your IB exam results. However, there are some exceptions to this. Certain competitive US universities like Harvard and Yale require you to sit the multiple choice SAT Reasoning Test, along with 2-3 SAT Subject Tests. You could choose to sit these in your Higher Level subjects, if you feel that these are your strongest.

Certain UK courses in oversubscribed courses will require applicants to sit admissions tests. For instance, many law applicants must take the LNAT (Law National Aptitude Test) before applying. Similarly, most aspiring medics will have to take either the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test) or UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test). Some competitive universities such as Oxford and Cambridge even have their own admissions tests for certain subjects. Make sure that you find out exactly what will be expected of you in good time, and prepare early.


Will my subject choices affect where I can apply?

For certain courses, yes. As ever, each university has it’s own policy, so do your research. Universities often will require you to achieve a certain grade in specific subjects at HL or SL. As a general rule, courses in the natural sciences, medicine and engineering will have stricter subject requirements than arts and humanities. For example, the Chemistry course at Oxford University requires 40 points overall (including core), with a 7 in Chemistry HL and a 6/7 in Maths HL, or a 7 in Maths SL plus a second science with 7 HL (…ouch!). Equally, different university systems have different requirements (for example, German universities are quite particular). Always check the website of the university you are considering applying to as early as possible to ensure that you are not limiting your options.

University subject choices

Do you have a question about applying to university as an IB student? Email Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out on the rest of our IB university applications blog series.

Learn how to nail the UCAS application!

Share article links