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Area teen in Chicago Tribune - wish she were my kid!!

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This was front page of todays print edition Trib - you have to subscribe to see it on-line, so I copied it for ya'all. Impressive girl!!!


Evanston teen is accepted by 7 of the nation's top universities


By Bonnie Miller Rubin | Tribune reporter

11:46 PM CDT, April 17, 2008


In what has been called the most competitive year ever for college admissions, Chelsea Link defied the odds to get accepted into Yale. Then Harvard.


Then came the fat envelopes from Princeton, Columbia, University of Chicago, Stanford and Northwestern University.


Making that feat still more extraordinary, Link has been home-schooled since age 5.


"I was a little nervous," the Evanston 18-year-old said. "I was worried that I might not get into even one school."



This isn't false modesty on Link's part, but an acknowledgment that many stereotypes about home schooling—think barn raisings and "Little House on the Prairie" wardrobes—are still entrenched.


True, she had nailed perfect scores on the SAT and ACT, is the reigning world Irish harp champion, aced all her AP exams and enjoys nothing more than kicking back with the latest copy of Scientific American.


But being both first and last in your senior class poses a challenge for colleges accustomed to comparing credentials from conventional high schools.


"There's a built-in conflict of interest when the person evaluating your performance is Mom or Dad," said Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.


Still, many admissions officials say they are becoming more at ease with applicants who took alternative paths, if for no other reason than it's a booming market. Almost 2 million American students are educated at home, and more than 80 percent of colleges have formal policies for assessing these applicants—up from 52 percent in 2000.


While the pool has expanded, so has home-schoolers' savvy about how to package themselves, said Christopher Watson, dean of undergraduate admissions at NU, where the number of such applicants has doubled since 2002.


"We haven't changed the way we review applications, but the way home-schoolers are submitting applications has changed," he said. "They've become very good at taking out the question marks."


Now, the only uncertainty for Link, who hopes to study neuroscience, is where she will attend. She has until May to decide, although the crimson sweat shirt she wore may have provided a clue. Harvard offered slots in the class of 2012 to only about 7 percent of 27,000-plus applicants, an all-time high.


To make that coup even more impressive, Link received the good news via phone in late February, even though the official letter did not arrive for another month. Only 10 non-athletes nationwide received one of these "heads-up" calls.


One way non-traditional students have won over skeptics is by relying more on outside sources to document scholastic rigor. Link's transcript includes courses ranging from tiny Shimer College on the South Side to the Sorbonne in Paris, along with plenty of accredited online instruction, from groups such as the Stanford University's Education Program for Gifted Youth. To further bolster credibility, a stack of glowing recommendations from tutors and mentors, not relatives, is part of the mix.


Despite all this excellence, Link's mother shared her daughter's angst.


"I'd wake up in the middle of the night and wonder: 'Whatever made me think that [home schooling] would be looked upon favorably?' " said Cindi Link, who prepared detailed course descriptions for the applications.


When the green light came from Harvard, all the doubt melted away. Cindi Link was jubilant, but she had to stifle her excitement because her husband, Ross, was on a business call. "I got down on the ground and started beating the floor, trying not to scream."


The Links—who own their own marketing-analysis business—have been assuming responsibility for their only child's studies since kindergarten.


"I begged them," said Chelsea, who started reading at age 2 and remembers being so bored that she made spelling books for her fellow kindergartners. "They dug it, but the teachers didn't," she recalled dryly.


With no idea it would turn into a long-term commitment, Cindi Link started scouring the Internet and bookstores for curriculum, and started a group called Home Schooling Gifted Students, which now has about 100 families in the metropolitan area who meet regularly to share instruction, experiences and resources.


Cindi Link augmented her daughter's lesson plans with enrichment classes and lots of travel (they learned about Buddhism in Tibet, philosophy in Greece and Taoism with an abbot atop China's holiest mountain). Less exotic but equally important was immersion in Chicago's rich arts scene.


"One of the saddest parts of leaving home will be losing my subscription to the Lyric [Opera of Chicago]," Chelsea said.


Therein may lie a key to her success—one that Nassirian, of the registrars association, pronounced as "an almost unheard of accomplishment," regardless of where and when she was educated.


While other students talk cynically about the admissions "game" and "résumé-building," Link seems propelled by a genuine intellectual curiosity that can't be faked.


(Parents who can't pry their kids away from the PlayStation should stop reading here.)


How else to explain her love of literature and theater? For the last three years, she has taught Shakespeare classes to 40 youngsters (the furniture in the living room was still pushed to the side from a recent production of "As You Like It") and counts as one of her favorite memories holding a party for the Bard's 442nd birthday.


Or her passion for the harp, which she has studied in Ireland most summers since she was 10?


Or her fondness for French?


"She is the best student I have ever had, and I have been teaching for 40 years," said Michele Hall, a native of Provence and Chelsea's French tutor for the past decade. "She is brilliant, but without any of the social awkwardness or emotional problems that usually go along with it."


Link revels in the non-geek description, seizing the opportunity to debunk another common misconception of home-schoolers.


As proof, she ticks off some of her favorites: "CSI," chocolate, music (especially Radiohead and the Shins) and a boyfriend.


And, she did taste rejection:


"I was rejected at Juilliard," she revealed, almost gleefully. "I had a really lousy audition."


The past 12 years have provided a stimulating and creative ride, but now, she's ready to move on.


"I think I've had a pretty normal high school experience . . . just without the high school."



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Good for her! She deserves to be applauded for all her hard work and accomplishments. I hope she does indeed go on to do many more wonderful and notable things. Having the brains and talent to do so doesn't mean she will, but I wish her all the best in achieving all her goals and beyond. She is a remarkable young woman.


However, I don't wish for one second that she was mine. I'm quite happy with the four I've got, whether or not their list of achievements is as long or impressive to others. I'm sure Chelsea's parents are very proud of her, and they should be, just as I am proud of my children;)

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