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"One day or day one. You decide."| A Harvard Alum's Advice on College Apps

We had the privilege of interviewing Taylor Reneau,

  • 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

We asked for some experience about: College Applications

Here are some of her pieces of advice:


  • "...there are three main things that admissions officers are looking for:..."

Q: What are some of the most important steps to take when preparing for college and when should they be taken?

A: The most important steps? Oh my goodness, they’re all important. But the first ones that stand out to me are getting good grades, executing on extracurriculars, getting good ACT/SAT scores, securing teacher recommendations, writing a solid essay, hitting submit. I cannot stress this enough, THIS IS A 4-YEAR PROCESS. This is not something you just start thinking about your junior and senior years. If you do that, you will likely make mistakes that could jeopardize your chances of getting into the college of your dreams.

If you want help with this, I literally do it for a living. If you’d like to take my 6-week, online course for how to get into an Ivy League school (or Stanford), click here:

Q: Did reading any books or literature help writing your essays (some say sounding ‘smart’) for colleges, and if so which ones would you recommend?

A: No, they did not. I don’t think I mentioned a single book in my main essays. However, when I got into Harvard, I remember deciding to read, “Crime and Punishment” because I thought that was the type of book that Harvard students would probably read. I remember feeling so unqualified to be a Harvard freshman (imposter syndrome happens to the best). Although, I will say that my entire life I was a voracious reader, and I think that did translate well into my writing style. I will never truly be able to quantify to how large of an extent reading helped me, but I know that all my reading must have contributed positively to my essays in this respect.

Q: When should I begin applying for financial aid/scholarships and is it for everyone?

A: As far as scholarships go, there are some you can apply to as early as 9th grade, if not earlier. You should always be searching for aid, if that is important to you. Alternatively, if you’re willing to think outside the box, know that you can pursue getting a degree in countries like Germany where college is essentially free and often taught in English.

And as far as financial aid goes (to differentiate from scholarships), that is something you start applying for your senior year of high school when you’re in the process of applying to colleges.

Q: Which teachers should I ask for teacher recommendations and how should I ask them?

A: For recommendation letters, you should typically ask teachers who taught you later in your high-school career, who like you, who taught you a main subject, and who can attest to your character. You should ask them in 11th grade, in person, if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. In 12th grade, early in the year, you should confirm (again, in person) that they will write your recommendation letter. Make sure to send them along a “brag sheet” that includes things you’d like them to say about you, and make sure to thank them early and often!

Q: What do you think are some of the most important things that colleges consider and how did you make yourself stand out in that aspect?

A: Wow. What a question. If I can answer it simply, there are three main things that admissions officers are looking for: 1.) Will you be able to thrive academically and extracurricularly on campus? 2.) Will you positively impact your fellow classmates? 3.) Will you leave your mark on this world after you graduate? Whatever you want to say about yourself, make sure that your profile is answering those three main questions. Impress the admissions officers, and you’re in. It’s really that easy.

Also, if you want to know more about Taylor, take a look at her LinkedIn, her YouTube Channel YesReneau, and her business, Ivy Advise.

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