"Don't limit yourself. Become a limited edition instead."| A Harvard Alum's Advice on Balancing Life
We had the privilege of interviewing Taylor Reneau via Email and asked for some experience about: Balancing Life
alum of top private university, Harvard University in Massachusetts
founder of Ivy Advise - an online course to help high school students get into dream school
a YouTuber who speaks on various topics about education
Here are some of her pieces of advice:
"Never do anything in this life you aren’t passionate about."
"Sometimes you need to choose the things that you love over the things that will get you the score."
"You have to prioritize results over feelings and excuses."
"Your life is not practical; your life is extraordinary."
Q: If you realized you had given yourself too many commitments, how did you determine what to give up?
A: When I realized I had too many priorities, I gave up sleep and treated extracurriculars as my whole social life. This sounds harsh and dumb and unhealthy, and I agree… it completely is. That being said, American society still values top achievers, and top schools still select primarily on the superficial. They don’t judge on how well you are treating your body, so I wasn’t docked anything for being tired. Now, if you want to ask the question, “What would I recommend for deciding what to give up?”, that has a different answer. I would recommend giving up the extracurricular you like the least. Always. Never do anything in this life you aren’t passionate about. And yes, that is an order.
Q: What would you say were your priorities and do you think they helped you stay focused?
A: My priority was to be the #1 student in my school academically while staying true to myself. That meant I didn’t have any room to slip up. I couldn’t get anything less than near perfect in every class, so I made sure I understood and memorized everything. That being said, I came in 2nd. Why? Because I chose to take painting classes every year at my school, and these classes were unweighted. Sometimes you need to choose the things that you love over the things that will get you the score.
Q: What is one inevitable obstacle we will all have to face in our high school career?
A: Acne. It will happen to you. It will happen to me. It will happen regardless of whether or not you shove 100 blueberries in your mouth at one time and tell yourself to chew. Deal with it. It’s not a requisite to look pretty while at school. And while we’re on the topic, you’re also probably going to have to deal with a little bit of ridicule, bullying, or peer pressure from students who don’t understand your goals. Forget them. They are not on the same path as you. You are working towards a greater dream, and some people will not understand it.
Q: What are some regrets that you have about your high school career, and what would you advise high schoolers to avoid doing?
A: I regret thinking that the A-list popular students were off-limits for talking to. Nobody is off-limits; nobody is too cool for school. And, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Q: How did you set your priorities in high school?
A: My syllabus set my priorities for me most of the time!
Q: Did you have to give anything up (hanging out with friends, going out more, vacations etc.) to get to a high level in what you are doing?
A: Yes. I had to sacrifice a normal social life. I always killed two birds with one stone whenever I could. My sports were my social life. And when you think about it, how much more was really going on in suburban Ohio that I was missing out on? Probably not too much. I think trading four years of high-school socializing for getting into Harvard and changing my life forever was more than worth it.
Q: What do you think people will inevitably have to prioritize more to pursue their passion?
A: You have to prioritize results over feelings and excuses. You get to choose your life. If you have a passion that you want to accomplish, you have to act like it, even when it’s not the nicest option in the moment.
Q: What are some regrets that you have about your high school career?
A: I regret taking a STEM class with students who were unkind. Nothing messes with your mind more than being surrounded by people who bring you down… especially when you’re trying to excel academically.
Q: What is one thing you wish you knew while you were in high school?
A: I wish I had known back in high school that the guys I crushed on were not worth my attention. I spent too many hours obsessing over boys that today I would not even look twice at. That time would’ve been better spent on myself and my passions.
Q: Do you have any last words of advice you would like a high school student to know?
A: You are too young to settle for practical. Your life is not practical; your life is extraordinary. Settle for nothing less than everything that you want, because you can have it. Whether you want to learn how to genetically alter a butterfly’s wings from blue to pink or you want to chat on the phone with Beyoncé or you want to get accepted to Harvard, anything is within your reach… if you’re creative and devoted enough to figure out how to do it.
While you're here, check out Taylor's advice on Getting into Harvard, Extracurriculars, College Applications, and College Life.
Also, if you want to know more about Taylor, take a look at her LinkedIn, her YouTube Channel YesReneau, and her business, Ivy Advise.