Key Questions

1. Is there evidence that students in IB programs are more likely to enroll in a four-year college, enroll in a more selective college, or persist in college for two years than similarly high-achieving peers, even when using robust controls for selection bias? How different are these effects if we look at all students who enroll in the IB Cohort in ninth grade, versus those who persist through the official IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) in eleventh grade?

2. How do IBDP graduates describe their college experiences? How well-prepared do IBDP students feel to engage and succeed in college-level coursework? Do IBDP students feel they have the skills and behaviors required to be successful? How do these students manage the challenges faced by first-generation college students in the transition to college?


This report rigorously examines the impact of participation in the IBDP on the post-secondary outcomes of students who graduated from Chicago’s neighborhood high schools from 2003 through 2007. IBDPs were established across Chicago beginning in 1997, when CPS announced an ambitious plan to expand its flagship IBDP program at Lincoln Park High School to neighborhood high schools. At the time, the scale of this expansion was unmatched by any other school district in the United States.

This study draws on quantitative data to estimate effects on college enrollment and persistence using a propensity matching technique; it also uses student interview data from Consortium’s longitudinal qualitative study to investigate students’ experiences in college. The report looks at the effect of the IB DP program in 12 neighborhood high schools. It did not study the IB program at Lincoln Park High School because it is highly selective and serves a different population than the IBDPs at other neighborhood high schools.

The study found that, when compared to a matched comparison group, students in the IBDP are 40 percent more likely to attend four-year colleges and 50 percent more likely to attend more selective colleges. In addition, these students are significantly more likely to persist in four-year colleges for two years. When in college, IB DP students report feeling prepared to succeed and indeed excel in their coursework, often stating explicitly that their experiences in the IBDP taught the specific skills and behaviors demanded of them in college. Despite strong academic qualifications, IBDP students often have limited access to the social capital necessary to successfully navigate college course selection and access the support of college faculty. The study also found that only 62 percent of students who enter the IBDP Cohort in ninth grade subsequently enroll in the program in eleventh grade. There are no effects of IBDP participation for the 38 percent of students who do not complete the program.

This report is part of the Chicago Postsecondary Transition project and is a follow-up to two reports in the From High School to the Future series, Potholes on the Road to College and Making the Hard Work Pay Off.

This research was supported through a grant by the International Baccalaureate Organization. This study builds off of research conducted by the Chicago Postsecondary Transition Project, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and uses qualitative data collected under grants from the Spencer Foundation and William T. Grant Foundation.