Harvard-Westlake School review by Yale University student. Harvard-Westlake School has exceptional math, science, and performing arts programs. As 250 students (out of an eventual class of 300) enter the school in seventh grade with strong math backgrounds, Harvard-Westlake offers rigorous math course loads that enable students to take high level Calculus classes and gives students the opportunity to take classes such as Linear Algebra and self-directed classes. The science program tailors The performing arts department has a host of courses that let students learn skills such as stage management, costume design, in addition to more standard offerings such as acting classes. Classes are kept under 20 in all subject areas. Faculty are very accessible and have weekly office hours where they encourage students to come and meet with them. The workload is intense, with each class requiring approximately four hours of homework a week. While exams are a major part of determining grades, students are given a lot of liberty in deciding what they want to write about in their term papers in the humanities and social sciences, and motivated to individualize their academic experiences.
The college counseling program at Harvard-Westlake is the biggest draw of the school. At the start of 10th grade, you are assigned a college counselor who helps prepare you for the college process. The goal of Harvard-Westlake is to get students into top tier colleges. Students meet with counselors about once per semester in 10th grade. In 11th and 12th grade, students meet with counselors as often as they need and are given significant guidance in regard to when to take standardized tests and ask for recommendations from teachers. Counselors devote several hours a semester to each of their students and are in constant contact with students' parents. The Harvard-Westlake counselors are very well connected and have relationships with admissions officers at almost every school where students apply. Almost every week, various college representatives come to campus to speak about their schools and how well an Harvard-Westlake student needs to perform to gain admission. I would say that my acceptance to my first choice college is attributable to the relentless advocacy by my college counselor.
Students at Harvard-Westlake tend to be happy, however, constantly feel overwhelmed by the amount of school work they need to do. There is a need for students to balance their rigorous course load with athletic and extracurricular commitments. At the same time, there is the pretty explicit pressure to get into a top-tier college or university. There are no dorms/housing options for Harvard-Westlake students. There are school cafeterias at both campuses (7th to 9th grade and 10th to 12th grade). Students usually buy their lunches at the cafeteria. Food is reasonably priced, but, the menu is dominated by greasy, unhealthy options. The facilities at Harvard-Westlake are excellent. Most classes are equipped with media docks that allow teachers to make Powerpoint presentations on large projectors and to show DVD/VHS clips. There are several computer lounges located throughout the campus. Both campuses are in nice neighborhoods and there are very few (if any) reports of students have problems with neighbors. Students at Harvard-Westlake are usually from well off families who can afford the $25,000 annual tuition. However, Harvard-Westlake does offer generous financial aid to students who show a need. The faculty tend to have very diverse backgrounds. The Middle School (7th to 9th) campus is located in an upscale neighborhood in West Los Angeles and the Upper School (10th to 12th) campus is located at the bottom of Coldwater Canyon, also in a nice area.
Harvard-Westlake is known for its athletic teams (men's basketball, women's volleyball, and water polo). Some of the schools rivals are Loyola and Compton Centennial. I most enjoyed being a member of the Harvard-Westlake newspaper, the Chronicle. The Chronicle has won many national journalism awards. The journalism advisor is an experienced field journalist who teaches students how to write for and design a newspaper from scratch. The required weekend sessions of laying out the paper gave me an opportunity to bond with my fellow newsies and learn how difficult, rewarding it can be to produce a publication. I continue to use many of the writing techniques I learned while on the Chronicle staff.