FLEEING THE FISHBOWL? : CHELSEA OPTS TO ATTEND STANFORD.
In the end, a day before the enrollment deadline, Chelsea Clinton picked Stanford - 40 miles from San Francisco, 40 miles from Santa Cruz and just about as far away from her parents as she could get.
Clinton, 17, a senior at the exclusive Sidwell Friends School in Washington, ended months of speculation Wednesday over where she would attend college by choosing the prestigious Bay Area university. An aspiring doctor who was one of 15,000 students to qualify as a semifinalist in National Merit Scholarship competition, she will study premed at Stanford.
For its part, Stanford welcomed the president's daughter in its characteristically understated way: ``We are pleased that Chelsea will attend Stanford,'' spokesman Terry Shepard said in a statement. ``And because she will be . . . a regular Stanford student, we now will refrain from any further comment.''
Chelsea decided against a bevy of elite Eastern institutions, including her parents' alma maters.
The president attended Georgetown University. Hillary Rodham Clinton spent her undergraduate days at Wellesley. The two met and fell in love at Yale Law School. Chelsea considered them all, in addition to Princeton, Brown and Harvard, where she reportedly was granted early entry.
But the Clintons' only child - smart, pretty and seemingly well grounded - shunned Ivy League tradition for the mission-style buildings and walkways lined with palm trees at Stanford, where the smell of eucalyptus fills the air, the weather is predictably tepid, and students stroll around campus in flip-flops.
Chelsea's choice of campus is 3,000 miles away from Washington. She may be looking for a way out of the presidential fishbowl and her parents' grasp.
Her mother recently told CNN that Chelsea ``wanted to branch out and be her own person.'' The first lady joked that if Chelsea chose the Georgetown campus, three miles from the White House, ``I want to be her roommate.''
Your mom as your roommate? Just the thought would be enough to make most high school seniors bolt.
Chelsea initially visited Stanford last fall, when she stayed in the dorms with Jenny Abramson, a sophomore from the Washington area whose parents and the Clintons have some friends in common. She checked out the campus again last weekend, when she was seen at a spring dance festival and a Kappa Sigma fraternity party.
There's a good chance that Chelsea, even trailed by Secret Service agents, will mesh easily into the student body. She is not the only famous person's kid to go to Stanford, with its $28,000 tuition.
The children of former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, Supreme Court Justice Steven Beyer and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will all share the campus with Chelsea.
Chelsea might even show up for ``Full Moon Under the Quad,'' a time-honored Stanford tradition in which a first-year undergraduate must be kissed by a senior.
``If you want to join the greater community at Stanford, that's what you do,'' said Matt Spence, a Stanford undergrad.
All the more reason to be 3,000 miles from parents.
PHOTO With her mother, left, Chelsea Clinton, center, toured the Stanford University campus in September.