Harker School review by Columbia University student. The academics is this school's strength. The class quality is very high; the difference is day and night between the public school I attended before and this one. The class sizes are small but not too small--about 16-18 per class, which is small enough to stay quiet if you'd like but also to know your classmates and to have your teacher know you very well. The teaching methods aren't innovative; they're time-tested and proven and generally fair. There are no terrible teachers or horrible pop quizzes and teachers are lenient with tweaking grades slightly. The teachers are excellent and many have said that you go to this school for the teachers, especially science and math, which we EXCEL in (like, 3 Intel winners in one year.) Languages is surprisingly a strong part of the school. I'd say I was better at French than all of my friends, who attended public school, because the classes were so small (10 people) and the teachers were of such superior quality. Especially Spanish. Also, you can skip a grade in languages if you do well (going from Spanish III to AP Spanish Lang, for example.)
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No housing. Campus is taken care of well, they seem to plant flowers every day and there are redwood-like trees bordering it, which is just delicious. Dining is very good for high school. Some memorable meals include delicious churros!, chocolate-covered strawberries, lobster, smoked salmon, deviled eggs, beef roast with carvers standing by, fresh strawberries almost every day. There's no crime in this neighborhood, seriously NONE, but we are also on the intersection of a major state highway so they don't let us cross the street much and the traffic gets pretty bad. Social events: not incredibly notable. Clubs are the main outlet for social events, and there are some private parties; there aren't any huge bashes. A lot of people are very very geeky. And a lot of people are very melodramatic (actors!) So it's not as social as it could be. In fact it's not very social at ALL and I knew some people who would spend their time in the library. But it's really what you make of it. I'm sure there are some people who partied. I didn't know anyone in my grade who partied every weekend, but it was vaguely there.
There are a great many clubs; I was involved in Key Club, the environmental club (planting daffodils), the Conservatory program and chamber music program. There's a great volleyball team but in general the athletics are rather trying; our football team has the highest GPA in the league, apparently. However, there is a lot of money spent on athletics; there are matching uniforms, really good equipment and specially-hired coaches, etc. The conservatory program is also very good; it costs a lot to hold a performance, apparently. But for a single club, the robotics team has to take the cake. I have had it rumored that the school gives them $20k each year to compete, while normally clubs only have $2000-3000 annual budgets and performing arts is an entire department. Of course, it's like a third-world country in that the welfare economics of it all make robotics students get lazy in the first semester and then cram everything in the second and stay until midnight in the hallways. The activity that had the most lasting effect on me? I really liked playing in the chamber music group. I was a pianist and playing with only three or four other people and hearing their individual voices and their small quirks, a violinist inviting us all over to his gorgeous house, 4-hour drive to state, seeing him poke a metronome with the bow to turn it on--there's just a number of immeasurably cute moments. The conservatory program isn't very good except that the students are amazing because they all have trained for 10 years with private teachers since the age of 5 (or whatever), so your peers are great. I remember winning superiors or command performances at CMEA almost each time we went, and I also learned a lot about responsibility and commitment and teamwork and whatnot (though apparently not enough!)