She's leaving home: Chelsea chooses Californian college

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The Independent Online
Divulging what had become a veritable state secret, the White House announced yesterday that Chelsea Clinton, the 17-year-old only child of Bill and Hillary, will attend Stanford University in California to study medicine. Stanford is one of the US's premier - and most expensive - universities, with a particularly strong reputation for medical research.

Its location, in an idyllic setting at Palo Alto south of San Francisco, makes it also one of the furthest from Washington. Chelsea has apparently promised to introduce her parents to the virtues of computer e-mail before she departs.

Chelsea's choice had become a hot topic of gossip in recent weeks, with the First Daughter's every trip out of the capital scrutinised for signs of her educational intentions. Yale - her parents' alma mater - was seen as the "romantic" option; Harvard and the select Wellesley College were also shortlisted, with Princeton, 40 minutes outside New York, the strong favourite after she made a repeat visit there.

Both parents had insisted that the choice of college, and course, was entirely Chelsea's. She had reportedly been vacillating between medicine and history, but after accompanying her mother on a recent tour of Africa, which included visits to many aid projects, she seems to have settled on medicine.

After arriving in Washington from Arkansas five years ago, Chelsea attended the elite Sidwell Friends' school, a Quaker foundation, in north-west Washington. Even without her highly placed parents, her high score in the university qualifying aptitude test, which placed her in the top 15,000 school-leavers in the US, would have given her the pick of the best colleges.

Academic excellence apart, Stanford is known for its astronomical fees (more than $20,000 a year for tuition, with another $7,000 for lodging). No wonder Clinton senior recently joked that he was thinking of approaching his former rival for the presidency, the millionaire Republican Bob Dole, for a loan.

Joking, indeed, seems to be the President's way of dealing with Chelsea's departure - which both parents have conceded will be a wrenching experience. "The bad news," Mr Clinton told a recent dinner, "is that our only child is leaving home; the good news is that it frees up another bedroom." Washington was scandalised earlier in the year by reports that big Democratic Party donors had been rewarded with bed and breakfast at the White House.