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Competition & Academic Rigor at HW

By Ava ’26

When I was first accepted to Harvard-Westlake, in the midst of all the congratulations, I also began to notice that people were increasingly worried about me. “Good luck,” they’d say, with a nervous look on their faces, “you’ll need it.” I started to ask around, what was this ominous warning? Should I be scared of this journey ahead of me?

I then learned about this stigma that surrounded my new school. Harvard-Westlake is the type of school that has unrealistic expectations, people would tell me. Harvard-Westlake kids are stressed out, they’re just competing with one another to get to the top. So many of these thoughts started to get to me, and I myself was worried about what I would find at my school. Thankfully, for me, my new school showed me that all of these rumors were exaggerated, and whoever had made them had obviously never been inside a single class at HW. Of course, there will always be days when you’re stressed, and you’re tired. But there has never been a single day where I have regretted choosing Harvard-Westlake. I’ve found myself to be so fond of our loving and welcoming community, one where people lift each other up, not bring each other down. I have been surrounded by extremely intelligent peers who are amazing to work with, not against. I learn something new almost every day from my classmates, and group work has become an extremely enjoyable and fun experience. I’ve found that if anything, the only person you are truly competing with is yourself. 

Academic rigor is another thing you’ll hear about HW. The classes are too hard and the teachers expect too much out of the kids were the themes I would hear. I, however, have been pleasantly surprised by how kind all the teachers are. Teachers understand that their students at Harvard-Westlake are involved, they have extracurriculars and other hard classes that keep them busy, and they’re aware of that. They acknowledge it, and subsequently urge us to come to them for anything we need help with, as well as if we need any extensions for our work. Teachers know that we’re all human, and sometimes we all need a break. 

Sometimes, we do get caught up with all of our work, and our school does so much to help us take some well-needed breaks. Harvard-Westlake allows us so many moments to just step back, to take a break when we need it, and help us catch up. On both campuses, there are always Flex Days, random days when we have no school to help us catch up with work and even give us community service opportunities during the same time. I personally always feel like Flex Days come at such strategic times, when you feel like you’re worn out and you miraculously have a lucky day to sleep in and catch up on extra work. At the upper school, our schedule is a cycle of 6 days. One day a cycle, there is something called Late Start, when classes are pushed back to start at 10:00am rather than 8:00am. Allowing us to wake up a little later than we would normally, we all go to class those days well-rested and ready to tackle the day ahead of us for the rest of the week. 

Harvard-Westlake has made it its mission to make its students feel like a community of people who are extremely supportive of each other, a true family that looks out and cares for one another.

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Tags: , , , Last modified: December 15, 2023