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Navigating the Upper School

By Kriste ’24

With its countless stairs and complicated pathways, the Upper School can be a daunting location. I know, personally, that upon my first visit to the Upper School, I dwelled on how I was going to find my classrooms and navigate through the unfamiliarities on campus. Two months into the school year, however, I can now confidently say that I feel comfortable with the campus. While it is true that the stairs can be a pain at times, learning to navigate the Upper School can be a simple task, as long as you have the necessary resources. 

1. Make Use of Orientations!

There will be many opportunities for you to visit and get acquainted with the Upper School before the start of your sophomore year. Sometime in April or May, for example, ninth graders will be invited on a tour of the Upper School where you will be able to explore the campus and its facilities. Then, in August, the school will host a sophomore orientation where you will be able to receive more specific information regarding your classes and their locations. While it may be tempting to talk to your friends, marvel at the campus, or groan about the excess of stairs while on the tour, it is recommended that you pay attention. The tours and orientations will provide you with useful information regarding buildings, pathways, and fire roads on campus, all of which are necessary for a successful transition.

2. Start Local, Then Move Global

When you first come to the Upper School, the last thing you want to do is overwhelm yourself with every detail about the campus. Instead, start local — think about how you get from class to class on each day of the cycle. Simply knowing what your daily routine looks like will be immensely beneficial when you start the school year. 

3. Upperclassmen are Friendly: Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out

One of the greatest benefits of joining the Harvard-Westlake community is the sense of interconnectedness throughout grade levels. Unlike the Middle School where classes are divided by grade level, there are a lot of opportunities for students of all grade levels to socialize at the Upper School. Upperclassmen are friendly, so do not be afraid to reach out. If you are confused about a certain part of campus, or you are not sure about how to get to your next class, feel free to ask an older student. We have all been in your shoes, similarly worrying about transitioning to the Upper School, and we want to help. 

This is a brief list of some tips and tricks you can use to navigate the Upper School. That is not to say that you must follow every single suggestion on this list. It is highly possible that student-led tours and orientations simply do not stick. If that is you, go ahead and choose an alternative route! Whatever you do, however, internalize it. Harvard-Westlake is an academically challenging and rigorous school, but it is also a home full of supportive adults, peers, and friends. Transitioning to the Upper School can be tough, but it does not have to be — choose your own adventure, that is what high school is all about!

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Tags: , , Last modified: October 25, 2021