Essay attire

IB Diploma candidates adorn themselves in 4000 words of their research

Charlie Quick '25, Featured Writer

This Friday, after nine months of hard work, the senior IB Diploma candidates will be celebrating their long-awaited goal of the completion of the Extended Essay—a milestone achievement in the IB Diploma Program. 

The Extended Essay (EE) is required to earn the IB Diploma; unlike the IB classes that count toward the diploma, the EE is self-directed and primarily completed outside of the classroom. Over the course of nine months, one must: find a topic to explore, write a 4000-word essay, log 40 hours of research and writing for said essay, and regularly meet with an advisor.

The Diploma Program is based on the Theory of Knowledge (TOK), a class that is required to earn the IB Diploma. Students take the elective class in the spring of their junior year and fall of their senior year. TOK is built on the philosophical question “How do we know what we know?”

Most students will take IB courses during their time at Southwest, but TOK is the only course with enrollment limited to students pursuing the IB Diploma. This zero-hour class can serve as a place for students to check in, connect, and celebrate. 

The inaugural Extended Essay event is hosted by TOK teacher Christina Jensen, who is excited to celebrate, and hoping to begin some new traditions at Southwest.

“A four thousand word essay—,” Jensen said, “[it’s a] really a big accomplishment.”

The party will be on February 10 in room 307. Before first hour begins on Friday morning, students and community members will gather to recognize the 43 candidates who have now finished their essays. 

“We want to honor that and celebrate that… so that you don’t just finish this massive, massive project, and then just scream into the void,” Jensen said.

Earlier this week Jensen shared a list of students being honored and an open invitation: “If you know any of these students or worked as their EE advisor, please swing by to congratulate them!”

Class of 2023 Diploma Candidates include: Maisa Ali, Alec Belina, Catherine Belzer, Garrin Brandl, Jillian Brandl, Anja Breiehagen, Fiona Carlson, Sophia Case, Caroline Conner, Maximus Davis, Arianna Farrell, Andrew Fazio, Elsa Fisher, Maximillian Garr, Ava Draheim, Nelson Harris, Kellen Henry, Finn Joshi, Isobel Kolstad, Nathalie Lambelet, William Lee Buccellla, Dylan Maclehose, Madeleine Martin, Maya Pampuch, Siddharth Rohit Kumar, Collin Sande, Maia Santos Mallard, Merik Schaefer, Miranda Sih, Keshav Singh, Sterling Smith, Anika Stensrud, Wren VanDeWalker, Elena Voda, Margaret Walker, Logan Weier, Eleanor Fink, Oscar Pelican, Gwen Regenold, and Natalie Schach.

In addition to the EE, the senior students have all recently completed their final semester of TOK with the end of the fall term on January 26. The final third of the IB core that all IB Diploma candidates must complete involves Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) hours. Volunteer work, athletics, clubs, projects, and other extracurriculars can count toward CAS hours—recognizing and crediting balance in candidates’ schedules.  

Candidates have a choice in their course schedules as they pursue both their high school diploma and IB Diploma. In step with their high school graduation requirements and postsecondary/college admissions requirements (SW counseling resources), candidates plan to take a combination of six standard and higher level IB courses and pass a required amount of IB assessments based on classes taken.