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Entering 10th Grade and My Public to Private Transition

By Crystal ’21

Before stepping foot on Harvard-Westlake’s campus sophomore year, I had only ever known public school. Seeing the pristine campus, small student body, and intimate classroom setting that first day, well it was a shock and a wonder to say the least. 

But of course, it wasn’t just any private school I was stepping into. It was Harvard-Westlake (HW), a school known for its academic rigor and motivated student body. That meant in addition to waking up a good two and a half hours earlier than previous years to catch the HW bus located forty five minutes away from my house, I initially felt as if I were drowning academically and socially. 

Of course, there were small perks to transferring schools too. At any point in the day I could walk into the cafeteria and grab mouthwatering meals and snacks. In the mornings, I’d get anything from chocolate chip pancakes to an omelet I had personalized myself. In the afternoons, some fresh veggies from the salad bar or rich chicken pot pie from the hot bar. And in between classes… well let’s just say I had a difficult time deciding between the boba bar, frozen yogurt stand, and the range of various cakes, to name a few options, those first few days. 

But I won’t downplay it. The transition for me… it was rough. Really rough. And what better way to impart some advice in an informative, minimally wordy fashion of my experience to you my dear reader than with a short list? … to my old self? Okay so here we go

1. You’ve just reached your starting mark, not the finish line

Great job! All your hard work paid off, and you’ve gotten into HW! Don’t let go because you’ve gotten into HW. In fact, tighten up your seatbelt because this first year may be a rocky ride. Many an HW student was a big fish at their old school. That doesn’t make you special anymore. Build good study habits over time BEFORE entering HW. That’ll save you a year’s worth of academic struggle. Learn how to ask for help and take advantage of the fact that there’s something called “office hours” here. Know a little bit of history before coming in. I know the curriculum probably didn’t require your school to teach you it last year but trust me, it’ll make for way less catching up once school starts. This school bubbles over with opportunities, but you have to show some initiative and know where to look. Look! It’s truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to be surrounded by so much support, talent, and resources.

2. We are all different people with different experiences 

Around nine other people may have also entered as sophomore transfers with you but that doesn’t mean you will all go through the same experiences at the same pace. Some may appear to fit right in. For others, it may take some time. I can tell you one thing with certainty though: make an effort but don’t force it. The people naturally drawn to you and whom you effortlessly click with will eventually become your friends. Even if you aren’t in the same classes and especially because you didn’t force it. One pattern I’ve noticed though from talking with other freshman and sophomore transfers is that first semester will most likely be pretty rough and second semester a little better. The next school year is when you’ll feel a lot more at home though. The transition, it’s gradual. Expect it, accept it, and don’t be too hard on yourself about it. 

3. The diversity makes it better! And it will be different than your old school.

The student body you’re stepping into is different from your previous schools socioeconomically, racially/ethnically, and culturally. Remember to not get bogged down in comparison. Trust me, spending your time comparing HW with your old school and HW’s student body with your previous school’s student body… nuh uh. View this change as an opportunity to learn how others were raised and their different ways of thinking. 

Thanks for reading until the end! And to you dear incoming sophomore reader who’s perhaps also only ever known public school like I did, keep my words in mind and congratulations. Your next three years will be what you make out of it. So make it great!

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Tags: , , Last modified: January 19, 2021