Lin Forgoes Senior Year


Nikki Honda, Sports Editor

While many juniors are busy taking the SAT, going college touring, and preparing for their senior year, junior Rachel Lin, in a spur of the moment decision last fall, has decided to skip her senior year and go straight to college at Cal Arts to start a career in film making.

According to Lin, she got the idea of going to college early from her 16-year-old friend who went through the process. In order to apply, Lin had to pass the California High School Proficiency Examination (CHSPE) test, which is the equivalent of passing the General Educational Development (GED) test, but for minors.

If students pass the CHSPE test they can graduate high school before the end of their senior year.

Lin said she had nothing to lose, and decided she would take the November test. She passed. “It was kind of like the CAHSEE test,” she said.

According to Lin, the problem with the CHSPE test is that some colleges do not accept students, regardless of whether they pass or not, so it set restrictions on the colleges to which she could apply. However, she knew she wanted to go to Cal Arts, and after contacting them, they agreed to let her in.

“I wanted to get right into my career [film making] earlier, and I felt like I was ready. I have the capacity to be independent and make good movies. I believed in myself for that and my friends thought I was ready too, so I decided to just give it a try,” she said.

Lin said the application process was stressful and took a lot of hard work. She was grateful for the support of her friends and family. “One of my friends also applied to the same college as me. We would go to cafes together for like three hours and work on essays together while we were applying for college,” Lin said. Her parents were divided on her initial decision to go to CalArts. “My mom was not very happy about it, but my dad was supportive because he did it himself too when he was younger,” she said.

Lin was in shock when she recognized the extent of her decision. “I realized when I was applying what I was stepping into, like ‘wow this is college, I’m going to start my career and everything’,” she said. “It felt really big, but it also felt really exciting, sort of thrilling,” she added.

“I wanted to get into the business as soon as possible, that’s why I wanted to go to college. I wanted to have a newer perspective and I wanted to experience college as soon as possible,” Lin said.

According to Lin, Campolindo’s video production program has largely influenced her decision to attend Cal Arts for film making. She took video production because she knew that the program is well funded. “There’s a lot of money coming in, we have so much equipment,” she said.

Video Production teacher Justin Seligman said the program is funded by a combination of the Moraga Educational Foundation (MEF), the Campolindo Parents Club, and the Contra Costa County Office of Educational ROP. He said it is a very expensive program to run due to technological advances, but many of the students win awards which helps to increase awareness and respect for the program.

Lin has definitely contributed to the program’s success. According to Seligman, she has had her films featured in a number of film festivals. Most recently, she had a film play in Los Angeles at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome for the Harvard-Westlake Film Festival. In addition, she has had pieces in the district’s film festival LAUFF 8, has participated in workshops for which a special selection is required, and has worked for the Bay Area Video Coalition, which also needed a nomination.

Lin won an award from Avid this year, and received a copy of Avid Media Composer, a video editing software. She also worked with SF Art and Film, a program which is partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

“What I like about Rachel’s work is that it’s very mature in its subject matter and it tends to be very personal stories,” Seligman said. “She tends to do work which stems from her own life in some way and I think that’s part of what makes it powerful.” He thinks Lin excels the most in story and screenplay writing.

Lin realized that, after taking video production for 3 years, she has learned many concepts she wanted to improve in. “It’s a really good program because it teaches kids how to use the different technical aspects of film making. Their technical skills become so much better than other people which has helped me excel in making films,” Lin said.

She also appreciates the hard work and dedication Seligman has put into the program. “He really goes out of his way to teach you different skills that you want to learn about. I’ve taken advantage of that and I think he is one of the main reasons why I film the way I do now,” she said. She attributes her success and opportunity in attending college early to Seligman and her other film teachers.

Likewise, Seligman acknowledges Lin’s ability to make accomplishments. “My job is to help students be the best they can be and she’s risen to that challenge well,” he said. Seligman also wrote the teacher’s letter of recommendation for Lin. “Without him, I would probably not have gotten in. I’m really grateful for that,” Lin said.

Seligman thinks Lin’s maturity shows she is ready for college. He believes her level of commitment surpasses that of many other students because of her “above and beyond work outside of the classroom.” He also affirms that Cal Arts is a good match for her because it is a fine arts program with ties to the film making industry.

In addition to the school’s video production class, Lin also participates in another film class in San Francisco called The Factory. The class takes a lot of commitment because it is scheduled for multiple times a week, it is two and a half hours long, and the transportation time is over an hour each way. “I think being in that class teaches me about community and collaboration because I’m surrounded by all these different filmmakers who are the same age as me and they also have the same passion of filmmaking as I do,” Lin said. She thinks the class helps to keep her motivated and encourages her to persevere while making films.

Lin said it was difficult balancing college applications with school work. She said, “I had to write three essays for the application and I also had to make a portfolio with all of my best films. I was stressing about it because the films that I picked could affect whether I got into college or not.” Lin is currently still figuring out the logistics of financial aid for next year.

According to Lin, leaving high school early is bittersweet. “I really am going to miss my friends. These people are the people that you’ve been with for most of your life and going away from that is just really hard for me. At the same time, it’s extremely exciting because you’re going to this new place with new people and you’re going to meet new friends,” she said. Lin plans on keeping in touch with friends through social media.

Lin is happy with where she is now. “I feel like if I can put my mind to it then I can actually balance everything out and achieve it all,” she said.

However, she does think she will miss being at home. She anticipates missing the little things, like having her parents cook dinner.

Junior Nick Riddle, Lin’s video production partner, described Lin as “a very hard working and talented student.” He said, “her films are very inspiring as they reflect a lot of personal insight and experience. She’s a great person to work with and I’m going to miss her.”