It’s now official. Malia Obama has chosen Harvard, and is a member of the class of 2021. President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama made the announcement today via a press release. Malia will graduate from Washington’s elite Sidwell Friends School this year, but will take a gap year before attending the Ivy League university.
Although the White House released a statement on Malia Obama’s college choice, no further words have been spoken about plans for her time off. Her grades and test scores have been closely guarded as they should be.
In the United States, it is common for students to attend university in the fall of the year that they graduate from high school. But in Europe and Australia, often students take a year off to travel, volunteer, work, learn a language, or engage in other experiential learning. Harvard encourages admitted students to enjoy the year, and their place is held — the sabbatical is becoming more popular through the U.S.
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In 2014, many speculated on which school Malia would attend as she was spotted wearing a Stanford University T-shirt while bike riding with her dad, per PBS. What’s certain is that the first daughter checked out several schools before making a final decision. Schools visits included Brown; University of California, Berkeley; Stanford; New York University; Barnard, Tufts; Yale; Wesleyan; and the University of Pennsylvania.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 1, 2016
Although Michelle attended Princeton as an undergraduate and Barack is a graduate of Columbia University, it is unclear whether either of these schools was included in Malia’s tour. Both Michelle and Barack graduated from Harvard Law School.
Michelle gave Malia wise motherly advice on selecting an appropriate school, noted the Washington Post.
“The one thing I’ve been telling my daughters is that I don’t want them to choose a name. I don’t want them to think, ‘Oh, I should go to these top schools.’ We live in a country where there are thousands of amazing universities. So the question is: What’s going to work for you?”
Barack Obama gave similar advice when speaking to a group of high school students last fall.
“Just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.”
In the past, Malia has been interested in filmmaking and has had two internship experiences. She has interned for HBO’s Girls and the CBS series Extant.
— Wendy Braitman (@wendybraitman) July 6, 2015
There was speculation that she would attend New York University, which has an excellent film school. One of the most famous alumni is Spike Lee, who graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a master of fine arts in film and television.
Malia, like many young people, may have changed her mind about a major, or she may have chosen to defer study in filmmaking until graduate school. Obtaining a well-rounded liberal arts education is important for many who choose a career in the arts. When Malia enters college next year, she will have had time to re-adjust to life outside the White House, according to the New York Times.
Fourteen-year-old younger sister, Sasha Obama, will stay behind in Washington so that she can finish her education at Sidwell. In an unusual move, the Obama family will remain in the Washington area after the president leaves office, for the sole purpose of accommodating their youngest daughter. If the family moved back to Chicago or another city, Sasha would have to transfer to another school.
[Photo by Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty]