Which is more beneficial for me in the long run, of being a candidate for USMA? (IB OR AP)


New Member
Jul 19, 2019
Hello everyone,

I'm currently a sophomore moving on into my junior year. I go to a pretty average school that offers me IB courses and AP courses. I'm currently enrolled under IB, but I can still exit at anytime I want, and so far I can see the work is much more stressful than AP.

I've asked NROTC graduates, now officers, on their opinions of my current situation, and yet some still are in the same confused boat as me. I seriously want to pursue and try for a spot in the USMA or USNA, and I will willingly attempt all the hard coursework that I will come across. But I've heard that for the service academies, the administrators will sort of view IB and AP classes on similar stances. And I would like to know which course of action that I can take, so that my life isn't pushed way too much into academics, and yet which one can make someone a good candidate.
Last time USMA had an admissions briefing in my area, the regional commander said that AP and IB are both considered challenging classes. He also said that admissions may weigh IB a little higher. I just got an IB diploma this June, and I can say that getting the diploma is not hard. You just have to do work on time and be at least a little above mediocre on the tests. However most people in the program will get lower grades.

Taking IB is good since it shows a challenge, but it is bad because you may have lower grades and less time to do other things. If the program is big at your school, I recommend that you do full IB. If not, I think you should still do the full IB diploma if you are confident in your ability and time management.

IB begins junior yr. and goes until end of senior yr. You say you are enrolled in IB as a rising junior. Are you doing the program accelerated? If so and you only have one yr. of IB left, you definitely shouldn't quit, and you should finish the diploma. If you are doing it regular schedule, you should consider that IB will take up a lot of time and maybe do some harm to grades during college application season around late junior and yearly senior year.
My DS went to an IB Middle School. I still can't tell you exactly what IB is. I have read that: "IB courses are known for being interdisciplinary, requiring a good deal of independent thinking, and assigning oral presentations and original research—all characteristics of college courses." (That depends on what kind of college courses you are talking about. Independent thinking, and assigning oral presentations and original research are not part of all college courses, for example, not part of engineering)

As far as your question, take a reasonable number of AP or IB classes, but don't take so many that it overwhelms you. As it says in the Bible "everything in moderation" The service academies look at the full package. Grades, SAT's, EC's, Sports, leadership. So, you need to keep up everything.
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I’m a mom, guided my 4 kids through their high school years. Part of the answer depends on what kind of mind you have. We looked into our IB program, but found out that the required classes to receive the IB diploma weren’t a good fit for 3 of our kids. Particularly pertaining to STEM. My boys were more interested in perusing different, higher math curriculums than were allowed in the IB program. They also would have given up engineering classes. So they went the AP route in order to meet their needs. They weren’t interested in the peripheral stuff required to complete IB.

Just like everything in this process, one can’t look at a single element for one right or wrong answer. What works for one candidate to earn an appointment may not work for the next one. Maybe you could have a conversation with you guidance and college career counselor for their input?

My last mom advice would be a “quality of life” kind of thing. You should also ENJOY your High school life! It’s not ALL about academics. Gotta have a little fun, and enjoy yourself. This is important for you whole life. Happy people are happy workers with a better outlook, which helps you get through the challenging times.
Not every IB school has the same offerings- some offer much more IB STEM classes than others. IB can be very STEM heavy in the right school.

IB diploma candidates have to take classes others don’t (eg TOK) and do an extended essay(senior thesis).

You can take the AP tests for the IB classes in addition to the IB tests. DS said the AP tests were easier than the IB tests.

Getting the diploma doesn’t mean much. Working toward getting the diploma shows commitment.

DS took 4 semesters of engineering classes while pursuing IB diploma.
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I’ve taught in both IB and AP schools. Although I’m a CTE teacher, one of my principals required all teachers to teach in the IB way. A huge pain I’ll tell you. Both my kids were IB students. Lots of work. In my district a student can take an AP course or IB course if they aren’t available at their base school. As @ders_dad mentioned, they can also take engineering and other courses as well.

I would advise students to take AP instead of IB if they had a choice. The reason one might ask, is IB is too much work for minimal return compared to AP. If only IB is available by all means take IB.
Do your best. Usually there are no two similar candidates where taking IB or AP will make the difference. West Point looks at class rank first.
If you can take HL Math or SL Math, and have had Physics, Chemistry and Biology in HS, then continue with IB.
Even if colleges/service academies don't give IB more weight, you get more prepared for college.
Make sure you look up what USMA will validated in terms of IB classes. USNA does not validate many IB classes and you have to get a 7 on those that do. Way more AP tests lead to validation.