Harvard-Westlake School review by Cornell University student. Harvard-Westlake's academic experience succeeded marvelously in preparing me for university academics. Harvard-Westlake not only provides breadth of curriculum, but also depth of subject area. From a Molecular Gastronomy class to a Comparative Politics class, the variety is there while allowing a given student already cognizant of his or her preferred field of study to excel in a given path with advanced classes in fields like physics and government. The breadth and depth aspect of Harvard-Westlake's curriculum is important because it is much like a college curriculum, and it thus gives students a head start in not only discovering what truly interests them but also delving deep into that interest. What specifically aids in this academic exploration is the freedom to choose from a plethora of electives and student organizations. That way students get a well-rounded experience, which encompasses writing, listening, and discussing ideas in the classroom and greater self-development in extra curricular activities. Students may also create their own student organizations of an unrepresented interest, which speaks to Harvard-Westlakes's effort nurturing independence in students. Teachers, for the most part, are strong. They provide ample time to meet with them to discuss assignments and exams. They also lead class discussions in a meaningful way and are great lecturers. Many teachers also care about students and check in with them. But teachers are not very helpful. For some reason, many teachers are reluctant to answer the question "what should I do to excel in this class?" This is a weakness of Harvard-Westlake that benefits the wealthy students who can afford tutors in these cases.
Where Harvard-Westlake falters is in its student life. The high-strung parents attracted to Harvard-Westlake's high ranking are more likely to induce stress at home, which translates into competitiveness in students. In addition to these stress-induced students, the large amount of "elite" students, as discussed in the admissions section, not only exacerbates academic competition since they have a leg up when applying to college, but also create social pressure for less privileged students. For the most part, social groups are divided by SES. Lower SES students cannot keep up with the lifestyle of high SES students, and many times don't feel good enough as they cannot afford their cars, clothes, tutors, etc. which discourages them from interacting with high SES students. Harvard-Westlake tries to bridge the gap by providing financial aid, wide-ranging busing, and organizing diverse classrooms, but it is not enough and is unfortunately a cost of attempting to maintain its high reputation and large endowment. In the end, students end up fending for themselves, racking up on tutors and leadership positions and high test scores to pad their college application, which causes Harvard-Westlake to have a weakness in self-development and identity development. Of course, other highly ranked college preparatory schools will most likely be the same for similar reasons, and there are Harvard-Westlake students who realize these issues and manage to develop their identities while excelling in school.