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What sets this 15-year-old apart? She's college-bound


On the outside she looks like lots of other high school students, with long straight brown hair and glasses, carrying a black vinyl satchel loaded with textbooks and notebooks.

But on the inside, 15-year-old Emily Dickinson Murray -- yes, she is related, distantly, to the poet Emily Dickinson -- is hardly an ordinary teen.

In the fall, the high school sophomore will go to college. On a full scholarship.

Emily will enter University of Maryland Baltimore County to major in mathematics with a strong concentration of physics. She has been awarded UMBC's highest scholarship, a University Scholar Award, worth about $30,000.

Emily was officially awarded the scholarship Thursday at Aberdeen High School, where she has been a student the past two years. A beaming principal, Robert S. Magee, looked on.

Magee said he is confident Emily will make the adjustment from high school to college very easily. "Emily is ready. She is mature, intelligent and focused on what she wants to accomplish," he said.

Emily will enter UMBC with 44 college credits -- about 1 1/2 semesters worth of work -- already under her belt.

She accomplished this by taking night and summer classes at Harford Community College. Emily has 4.0 grade-point average at both Aberdeen High and HCC.

Magee said Emily is a well-rounded student with diverse interests.

She plays the violin in the Aberdeen High band and also in the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra, where she is one of the youngest players.

Emily praised Aberdeen High, and said she learned a great deal at the school. She also said she was very grateful that Magee and her teachers were supportive of her efforts to graduate early.

Emily said she was so bored in middle school that her grades sometimes suffered.

But "something clicked" in high school, she said, when she was allowed to take advanced classes and studies with older students.

In ninth grade, Emily said she sometimes felt "pretty lonely" because she was concentrating exclusively on academics.

During the past year, she said, she made an effort to cultivate friendships. "I needed to become more well-rounded socially." Emily decided to take Friday and Saturday nights off and go to movies and parties with friends.

This time off is one of the few luxuries Emily allows herself. Even when she settles down with a good book, she is more apt to choose one on quantum physics than a breezy novel, she said. Emily does have one vice: She likes to sometimes watch soap operas or other "mindless" television programs in the hour or so between coming home from high school and going to college in the evening.

Emily arranged her college schedule to correspond with that of her father, who was also taking some college courses. Sometimes they were in the same classes, Emily said. Her father has worked in the journalism field for several years. Her mother has a doctorate in Asian studies and works for the U.S. Defense Department.

Emily, who is an only child, has always been very bright and willing to work hard, said her grandmother, Anne Murray.

Murray who also attended the ceremony along with representatives from HCC and UMBC, said, "Emily has always been very self-directed and has always known what she wanted to do even when she was a small child."

Murray said she and Emily are "very distantly" related to the poet and writer.

Emily said she, like her namesake, enjoys writing poetry and frequently writes down her thoughts, though she doesn't keep a diary or journal. She hopes to do more writing this summer.

Emily said one reason she choose UMBC was its relatively close proximity to home. She and her parents have lived in Havre de Grace for about six years.

Emily, who one day hopes to earn a doctorate, ultimately wants )) to be a university physicist, where she can teach and conduct research.

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