Tutor Q&A: Acing your IB, Balancing Life and Study and Getting into your Dream University

Latifa attended secondary school in Sydney, Australia, completing the International Baccalaureate curriculum (IB). While the IB is a very difficult curriculum to complete in its own right, Latifa was expected to ace it while juggling a music career, debating, UN Youth and various other commitments; ace it she did, scoring 45 out of a possible 45. Learning to balance study and extracurriculars was a challenging yet vital life lesson learnt during her final year of secondary school.

After completing a gap year and tutoring with Crimson Education, Latifa will be commencing a Bachelor of Arts/Laws at the University of Sydney in 2017. To find out what Latifa loves about tutoring with Crimson Education, how she managed to balance her extracurriculars with study, and what she plans to do beyond university, read below.

When you were in high school, did you ever think you would be studying at the university you are attending?

During high school, I was constantly looking at my university options and evaluated the benefits of studying abroad versus studying at home in Sydney. After looking extensively into the law and scholarship programs at the University of Sydney, I decided that it was the institution for me. In high school, I always thought that I'd study at Stanford or Harvard. However, after further research, I realised that studying at an Ivy League would benefit me more so as a postgraduate student. After my undergraduate studies, I will apply to postgraduate Law at Harvard Law School, that’s my dream.

Was there a meaningful moment that made you feel you could attend a top ranked university?

Receiving an IB score of 45 out of a possible 45 really opened my eyes to the possibility of studying at an Ivy League. At the point of receiving my score, however, I had already decided on studying at the University of Sydney. Getting the 45 made me feel confident in myself, regardless of the institution I had chosen. Although I didn't apply for Harvard, my score has given me the confidence to pursue postgraduate law at the world's top law school.

How did you choose your university? What questions did you ask yourself?

I considered two main factors when selecting a university; the quality of degree and the cost of study. I knew that I wanted to study law, but wasn't sure what law school to attend. At home, USyd was the best option, whereas abroad, Harvard tempted me most. However, when it came to cost, I could receive a scholarship in Sydney based on academic merit but at Harvard, this was not the case. There are many post graduate scholarships based on academic merit in America, hence I will postpone studying overseas until financial support is available to me.

What was the application process for your university? How did you find the process?

Applying to study at USyd was an easy process for me, as my career's councillor took me through the steps of applying through UAC. However, applying for the Sydney Scholar's Scholarship was slightly more difficult; it required writing a personal statement, providing previous academic transcripts and providing teacher references.

What academic strengths or extracurricular activities do you feel helped you to secure an offer at your university?

I classify myself as an all-rounder and believe that this extends to both academic and extracurricular pursuits. In an academic context, this is evident in my IB studies, as I attained a Band 7 in all my subjects, which span from theatre, to biology and modern history. My final score was essentially what secured my offer at USyd. Furthermore, extracurricular activities make up a large part of who I am. I am a recording artist signed, I debated in the Firsts, I am a national level Model United Nations debater and I volunteer with UN Youth Australia. Each of these activities I engage with keep me sane and happy. I do these things because I love them, not because they look good on a CV. Showcasing your passions is critical when applying to university.

Are you involved in any initiatives/clubs/organisations at your university?

Semester one begins soon and I’m looking forward to being a part of some great clubs. I’m writing for Honi Soit, the university's student newspaper. I have been recruited as a debater and have adjudicated a volunteer schools day for public school students. I volunteer for UN Youth Australia and am convening this year's Evatt Debating Competition for NSW. Further, I want to get involved with Model United Nations debating, the student union board, the Law Revue and music on campus.

Why do you think it’s important for other students to step outside their comfort zone and attend a top ranked university?

The university you choose to attend will be the most formative decision in your academic life. I was not the smartest student in primary school, however, I ended up receiving Dux of my high school. This was because the high school I attended provided me with the intellectual stimulation and resources to foster my academic potential. This logic applies to university; if you step outside your comfort zone and attend a top ranked university, you will perform better than you ever expected. Competitive academic environments often bring the best out of people. You don't know unless you give it a try!

What do you love most about studying at your university?

I love the University of Sydney because there are so many opportunities for students in a variety of areas. The social life is incredible, there are hundreds of extracurricular activities to try, and the professors are of the highest calibre. The resources, like the library and intranet, are brimming with opportunities and internships, too.

What made you want to become an IB tutor with Crimson?

I am incredibly passionate about young people and understand that the IB is an arduous curriculum to endure. After receiving a 45, I wanted to share my experiences with students and help them achieve a score that would open pathways to following their dreams.

What do you love most about tutoring students?

I love how easy it is to relate to students. Only a year ago, I was in the same position, stressed as anything and about to start my exams. I love being able to reassure them that everything is going to be okay.

What advice do you have for current high school students considering their future study options?

Stay busy. Often students in senior years will start to withdraw from certain extracurricular activities or programs for fear that it will interrupt their study schedules. This is completely false. From experience, you are far likelier to procrastinate when you don't have a healthy balance. Busy people get things done. It sounds counterintuitive, but it's true.

What would you like to do once you finish university?

After completing my undergraduate degree, I'd like to enhance my understanding of global legal systems and apply for the Fulbright Scholarship to attend the Harvard Law School. After completing my postgraduate studies, who knows! I'd love to work at the United Nations, or in the field of human rights law, music law or politics. My options are open and I'm okay with that.

What achievements are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being able to balance the many things I commit to. I am currently organising a debating competition for 600 students across NSW. I have five jobs, a full time arts/law degree in the making and many extra curricular activities, too. Most importantly, I'm proud that I am able to be kind and show empathy to others. At the end of the day, my connections with people are what I cherish most, and empathy is such an important quality to have.

Do you have any role models? If so, how do they inspire you?

Every young person I encounter has a story to offer, and each story always inspires me and instills the hope that young people are going to change our world for the better. Sure, I could've just said Beyoncé, but young people are pretty amazing, don't you think?

What do you do for fun?

My main passion is music. I record music, I write music and I listen to music. Music makes me happier than any legal term ever could. Going to gigs and events with live music is something I love to do. The energy of music is truly fun to me. I also love to travel. Music and travel often go hand in hand, so touring the world someday is a definite dream of mine.

What impact would you like to leave on the world?

I want to show young people that they can do anything. Rather, that they can do any things! Grammatically, that sounds terrible, but young people are often told to stay in their lane and pursue only one thing that they're good at. This is utter nonsense! Try everything and do everything out of love. If I can impact the world in a way that leaves young people feeling confident in themselves, I'll be content.

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