Harvard University wasn't a top choice for Westerville Central High School senior Taylor Reneau. In fact, she didn't even think it was an option.
Reneau, who will graduate with the district other 1,100-plus seniors Saturday, May 26, submitted an application to the university anyway.
"I kind of felt like you apply to everywhere else, and you apply to Harvard just because you have to," Reneau said. "I thought I'd probably get a rejection, and I thought, 'At least I can frame that.' "
Reneau was shocked when she received her acceptance during a spring break trip to Mexico.
"It wasn't so much me jumping up and down and shouting as it was me thinking, 'This doesn't happen,' " Reneau said.
Reneau, who also was accepted to Brown University and the University of California, Berkeley, said it took her a little time to decide which university she would choose. She ultimately settled on Harvard.
"You kind of have to go. You don't get into Harvard and say no," Reneau said.
Reneau is one of the Westerville high school graduates who will head to prestigious universities this fall.
While Westerville City Schools doesn't keep extensive data on where its alumni go to college, Superintendent Dan Good noted that this year's graduating class seems to have even more students heading to noteworthy schools.
"Truly, we have graduates headed to prestigious schools every year," Good said. "I can't cite data that supports a statistical trend to choose prestigious schools outside the Midwest, but I do note that our graduates seem to be headed out of state, and even to other countries, more this year than in recent years."
Westerville North High School senior Adam Lim will head to Northwestern University this fall to study materials science engineering.
Lim said he feels Westerville City Schools helped prepare him for entry to a top university.
"I think I've been prepared very well. I've gotten a lot of opportunities that maybe I wouldn't have gotten some other places," Lim said.
That included participating in the district's Able and Talented program through elementary and middle school, and taking Advanced Placement and honors classes in high school, Lim said.
A partnership with Otterbein University also allowed Lim and other students to take classes there while still attending high school.
"I took all the math classes that the district offered by the end of my junior year. This year for the first time, they had a match class available at Otterbein," Lim said. "It was good, and we learned a lot. It was only eight students, so it was different than high school."
Westerville North senior Iris Jang credits the district's teachers for preparing her to attend the University of California at Berkeley to study cognitive science this fall.
"I've really had a lot of great teaches over my years here," Jang said.
All three soon-to-be graduates said they're excited about meeting new people and facing new challenges as they begin their college careers.
"I'm just excited for all the people I'm going to meet. I'm about to be surrounded by all of these brilliant people," Reneau said. "When you're surrounded by that, it kind of brings your mind up to a different level."