CRYSTAL LAKE - Molly Pounds' love of horses prompted her to study hard and earn good grades.
That hard work paid off in admission to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - as a high school junior.
Pounds will graduate from Crystal Lake South High School in June, one year early, and attend the prestigious science and technology school in the fall.
"Some people are really into the high school thing," said Pounds, 17. "I'm so ecstatic to get into college life."
What drove her to work so hard was horseback riding. She goes to Our Day Farm in Elgin six days a week to ride Champagne, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood that she bought by saving for half the cost and having her parents chip in the rest.
"My goal is to grow up and have a big company and have horses," she said, adding that the big company would pay the expensive costs of horse care. "I want to fund my passion."
Pounds said she was inspired to apply by an article about younger students at MIT.
She worked hard on the application and on the required tests. She earned an ACT composite score of 32, which included a perfect 36 on the math portion, and an SAT score of 2,100, which included a 790 out of 800 in math.
Patty Pounds, Molly's mother, said she knows her daughter is ready for college.
"She's more mature than most," Patty Pounds said. "She had the drive and ambition to do it."
But Patty Pounds said that she and her husband, Ted, did not push their daughter.
"Ted and I both said, 'This is yours,' " Patty Pounds said. "We didn't want to put any pressure on her."
Ted Pounds knows what the school is like; he graduated from MIT in 1979 with a degree in electrical engineering.
Ironically, selling Champagne will help Molly Pounds pay for her first year of tuition, but she plans to ride horses as part of a team started at MIT this year.
Aside from owning horses, Pounds has other dreams that she hopes MIT will help her achieve.
"I always wanted to be influential in society," she said. "I want to do something for the world. I want to leave my mark on the world."