How do the constricting course choices for IB DP affect one’s future?

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After talking to my teachers and peers, I had discovered that lot of the schools make an exception in these rules. For example, some of the schools in Netherlands have an option for taking 3 science courses, as it’s required for students to take these to enter science universities. 

This made me realize that these restraints could affect my future in university, as I might not be able to attend certain universities, or be able to take certain courses due to the lack of my perquisites. 

Something to note is also that currently there is no other way for me study and get credits for a course out of school. The SAT subject tests were one way to do so, however they have been cancelled.



So to start off, I decided to determine the players. There are a lot of parties involved in this game, however only 2 of them are making decisions that affect my chances of getting into university. These are: The student (me) and the university. 

University: This player has an advantage as they set the rules of the game. They make the final choice, and are under no constraints. Lastly, there are no payoffs for this player. This player also doesn’t form any coalitions, meaning that there is no room for compromise. This player also does not work against their opponent, however they don’t work in the support of their opponent either. 

For the purpose of this model, the university makes a decision based on the number of points a player has accumulated from their decisions. They are only allowed to accept an application if the player’s points are above 0. 

Student: This player is at a disadvantage due to the course constraints. The have to make the first choice, however they know the other player’s strategy beforehand. All the payoffs are for this player. This player works in the favor of their opponent, making choices to ensure that it benefits the opponent. This includes bringing in good athletic skills, good academic skills, benefiting the university by paying tuition, and ensuring to help make them better and more recognizable. And after the game, this can be in the form of alumni donations. 

Empathy Interview

To get perspective from another student in my grade, and to see how it affects not only me, but students on a larger scale, I conducted an empathy interview. This is from a fellow classmate, who wants to pursue a career in psychology or journalism. However she was only allowed to take 2 humanities courses, and had to take an extra world languages course. Here is a summary of the interview

  • “Instead of taking 2 subjects that I wanted to take, I have to take a subject that you don’t need, like and find interesting.”
  • “Gives the diploma – it’s the preferred thing. However affects mental health negatively- draining and waste of time.”
  • “Want to go to the US. The unwanted course affects the profile. It is not supporting the courses that I want to take.”


In this game there are multiple strategies that can be used. First one would be, to take a generic course in your first year, and then in the second or third year, the student can take a generic course. This means that at the time of applying, the student wouldn’t have to “specialize” in a certain subject area. Another less effective strategy would be to apply to a specializing course without having all the perquisites. While in most cases this wouldn’t work out for the player, it is still a strategy that multiple students have to use. The last strategy, which isn’t feasible at my school, however is the optimal strategy, is to take specialized courses and apply for the specialized university courses as well.

The strategy that is available and most optimal for me is the first one. I am (currently) choosing to take 2 science courses, 1 humanities course, 1 english course, 1 mathematics course and 1 world languages course. This means that in order for me to move forwards in the field of science, I would have to spend some time in university taking generic science courses and then going for the specialized ones. 

To figure out how this affects my chances of getting into a university, I will graph out all the 3 strategies in a backwards induction map. And then I would compare my strategy to the other 2 and see which one is the better and how my chances are lower or higher, compared to them. 


So to be able to model this scenario and give it some value, I need to have payoffs for each course of action. The way I am choosing to model this is using backwards induction. So the first choice a player would have to make is choosing the type of strategy. 

1: Apply to generic courses with the non specialized course set. 

2: Apply to specialized courses with non specialized course set. 

3: Apply to specialized courses with specialized course set. 

Here are some rules and payoffs that are in the game:

  • University is only allowed to accept a student if their final payoff is above 0. 
  • If the student chooses to take courses that they do not want, they get a -2 payoff
  • If the student chooses to take the courses that they do want, they get a +2 payoff. 
  • If the student is applying with correct prerequisites, they get +5 points
  • If the student is applying with incorrect prerequisites, they get -5 points.
  • If the student is applying to their desired courses (in university), they get +1 point. 
  • If the student is applying to an undesired course (in university), they get -1 point. 


Model and analysis

(This model only works if the student is meeting the merit requirements for a university)

Looking at this model, we can see that the first choice has an overall payoff of 13 points. This means that the student who chooses to apply to specialized courses with a specialized course set will get accepted. The students who choose to take generic courses with the constricted course set would also get accepted, however with lower points. Lastly, the students who are applying to their desired course, but with an incorrect course set are not accepted. 


Conclusion and Reflection

Looking at the model above, I can see that if I apply for the correct courses with the correct prerequisites, it increases my chances of acceptance. This means that even if I don’t get to apply for the desired courses in the first year, I always have a chance to take generic courses and then specialize later on. The key point, and the positive here is that I get accepted into my desired university. However should I not apply to the course with correct prerequisites, it decreases my chances of getting into my desired university to a no. 

Comparing my current choices, to the desired ones, I can see how there is a huge difference in payoffs in the end. The payoffs represent my happiness levels (which depend on making choices in my favor and getting the “+” points). This means that while I still get into the university with taking generic course sets, I would be compromising a bit on my happiness and desires. 


While this model gives me a general idea, it is not completely accurate. This is because a lot more factors are into play when making these choices. My scores are a prominent part the process. Another part is my motivation to take an undesired course. These affect my chances of getting into a university as well because I do not have a score that meets their merit, my application is automatically rejected. And I need motivation to go through grade 11 and 12, and be able to get desirable grades, that meet the merit requirement. 



“A Quest To Conquer University Applications | IB Community Blog”. Blogs.Ibo.Org, 2021, Accessed 1 May 2021.

“Creately”. App.Creately.Com, 2021, Accessed 1 May 2021.


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