Malia Obama will be attending Harvard in Fall ’17, after a ‘gap year’


Sigh… I could seriously spend a whole day looking at photos of their First Family. It’s so bittersweet! I remember when President Obama came into office and his daughters were just little girls. Malia and Sasha have grown up so much in eight years – they’ve become young ladies, and Malia graduates from high school this summer. There has been so much talk in Washington and beyond about where Malia will go to college. Some people insisted that she would be going home to Chicago. Some insisted it would NYU or Columbia. Some insisted it would be Stanford, for sure. But in the end, Malia chose the diplomatic path and decided on Harvard, the alma mater of both of her parents (Michelle and Barack both graduated from Harvard Law). Not only that, but Malia is going to take a “gap year” and not start Harvard until Fall 2017!

Malia Obama, the older daughter of President Obama, plans to attend Harvard University beginning in the fall of 2017, the White House announced on Sunday, waiting until her father leaves office to begin her college career. Malia’s much-speculated-upon decision, announced in a news release after months of official silence from the White House about her college search process, will make her the latest in a long line of presidential children to attend the elite university in Cambridge, Mass. Both of her parents attended law school there.

“The President and Mrs. Obama announced today that their daughter Malia will attend Harvard University in the fall of 2017 as a member of the Class of 2021. Malia will take a gap year before beginning school,” the White House said in a statement.

In deferring her start date until 2017, Malia, 17, is availing herself of the opportunity to take a “gap year,” a popular option for high school seniors who are seeking experiences outside the classroom — some in far-flung parts of the world — before they begin pursuing a degree. Harvard actively encourages admitted students to do so. It may also yield a less scrutinized freshman-year experience for Malia, whose parents have worked vigilantly to keep her out of the public eye during her years in the White House and hope to shield her from such attention as a college student.

Harvard accepted 5.2 percent of applicants this year, making this admissions cycle the most selective in its nearly four-century history. When she arrives at Harvard, Malia will join a long list of presidential children who have attended, including John Quincy Adams and his son, John Adams II; Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert; the sons of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt; Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of John F. Kennedy; and George W. Bush, who went to business school there.

[From The NY Times]

I do find it interesting that the whole gap-year phenomenon is getting more popular in America. I mostly think of the gap-year thing as a European construct, and American kids used to be encouraged to immediately begin college just a few months after graduating high school, which is what I did. If I could go back and take a gap year between high school and college… I’m not sure that I would? I was so eager to start my college life, and while my first few months were rough (I was terribly homesick), I ended up loving college life. Also: I’ve known many Americans who have done the “gap year” thing after graduating from college, not high school. But maybe with the younger kids, it’s becoming more of a thing to take a gap year in-between high school and college.

Photos courtesy of WENN, Getty.

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115 Responses to “Malia Obama will be attending Harvard in Fall ’17, after a ‘gap year’”

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  1. QueenE says:

    I just loathe seeing news headlines ‘The internet weighs in on..” like this girl has to explain to the internet (or anyone besides her family) on why she decided to wait a year before going to college

    • Deedee says:

      Exactly. It’s her life. And most opinions, especially uninformed ones, don’t matter anyway.

    • Carmen says:

      You should have seen the comments on the Fox News web site. They were so nauseatingly racist, Fox had to take them all down.

  2. The Original Mia says:

    So proud of her. It’s been a pleasure watching these young girls grow into young women.

    I like the idea of Malia taking a gap year. Her dad will be out of office and she can possibly blend in and be a semi-normal freshman.

    • Pinky says:

      Totally agree. Good for her! It’s been a pleasure watching these young girls blossom into earnest, interesting, respectable young women.


    • Who ARE these people? says:

      Given the nature of this family, she’ll probably do something really worthwhile with the time, and she’ll still be at home to lend support to her younger sister for another year, too.

    • teacakes says:

      I feel like nothing brings home the idea of just how much time has passed between 2008 and now, as realising that Malia and Sasha are now the same height as their mother- or nearly there. They were literally little kids back then!

    • Sarah(too) says:

      I think the main reason for the gap is so that she can spend the last few months with her Dad in the White House. I actually thought she might start 2nd semester, but a full gap year makes sense. She will be able to do what she wants to do with her parents as his time in office ends and their private life begins. Then, off to college to start her own life. Makes perfect sense.

    • lucy2 says:

      I agree the gap year is a good idea for her. Their family will be going through a big transition, so this gives everyone a chance to adjust, spend more time together than they’ve been able to, and prepare for the next chapter of her life.

      I’m proud of those girls too, and their parents for giving them as much privacy as they could.

  3. missmerry says:

    I agree completely, I don’t know if I would have taken a gap year.
    I feel like thats a rich-kid thing, any high school graduate who didn’t have their parents or family money for a gap year would just end up working, no?

    maybe shes taking a gap year to let the idea of her being in Boston die down before she actually goes and tries to get educated in public. Her dad will have been out of office for a bit, people will be focused on the new president so maybe she’ll have some peace…

    or is that just not a thing that happens to children of ex-presidents…

    • Samtha says:

      There will be so much election hubbub right at the start of the new school year, which would likely put a lot of focus on her. Pushing it back until things die down is a good idea, IMO!

    • Bettyrose says:

      MissMerry, ITA that not everyone can travel during gap year, but I wonder if I would have benefited from a year of working full time before college. As I mentioned yesterday, I entered college with no real world goals. In fact, I was terrified of the real world. Students today facing huge debt don’t have the luxury of just exploring options in college with no clear plan.
      (OTOH, instead of a gap year, colleges could better integrate paid internships into the educational experience.)

      • Esmom says:

        When it comes to a gap year, I know many affluent kids travel. Some do “service projects” that cost tens of thousands of dollars, funded by their parents. I’m not sure how valuable those are in terms of helping kids mature a bit before college. But my ideal gap year would be all about working. That’s what will help kids appreciate college when they do arrive and it might even make some of their classes more meaningful. I know I took a couple advertising classes as an undergrad that I know I didn’t get nearly as much out of compared to if I’d had a bit of experience in the industry first. That’s exactly why MBA programs require work experience.

      • claire says:

        I definitely would have. I wouldn’t have had the money to travel but at least I’d have gotten some real world work exposure or something, anything to add to my thinking about college choices. It’s a bit bonkers to me that at 18, we have to commit to an educational path for a career. It’s a huge investment that essentially is dictating what you will be in life, for the rest of your life for many. If I could do it all again, I’d not have the debt, I’d likely have chosen a different career subject.

      • Lolamd says:

        I know I would have benefited. I would have a better appreciation of some of the classes I took had I taken a gap year. I would have tried out different jobs during my gap year so I could figure out through real world experience what I liked and didn’t.

      • ab says:

        just adding to the chorus here, I would also have loved a gap year to get real world career experience before college. I was completely at sea in college, and while I managed to narrow my focus in grad school, I found after a couple years of work in my field that I didn’t actually love the path I had chosen as much as I thought I would. but how could I have known? it’s crazy to think that you are supposed to figure it all out so early in life.

      • WTW says:

        I feel like a gap year is for privileged kids, not underprivileged. My husband teaches kids who are poor and often the first generation in this country and the first gen to go to college. When these kids don’t go to college right away, they often end up in dead end jobs and struggle to go back to school. In California, where I am, it’s taking longer and longer to graduate from community colleges and four-year public schools in a timely manner as well. Kids can’t get the classes they need to get out in 2 or 4 years, respectively. So add a gap year on top of that, and it increases the odds that these kids will drop out. For Malia and her ilk, a gap year is fine but for “at-risk” kids, not so much. They have high drop out rates, even when they do attend college right away.

      • Bettyrose says:

        WTW, those are valid points. Even middle-class kids paying for college with loans have some amount of privilege when compared with kids for whom college attendance is a huge obstacle. Obviously, the gap year isn’t for everyone, but 20 years ago I’d never even heard of it. So it’s an interesting option.

    • Farrahh says:

      I am American, not that rich, and took a gap year to save money for college. I don’t see why everyone is acting like this is that big of a deal…

      • perplexed says:

        I think it’s been done by others but a name probably wasn’t attached to it. In today’s economy, a gap year probably makes sense for making extra money.

      • Esmom says:

        Yes. Another grand I see is kids going to their local community college for two years before transferring to a four year university where they’ll get their degree. I love the idea but it’s been hotly debated among my friends. Many feel like the university experience won’t be as authentic if the kid transfers there as a junior. I also know there’s still a stigma attached to choosing a community college over a four year school. At senior night at a couple athletic team events, they always announce where the student athlete is going to college. The few that choose two-year schools invariably get snickers and I always feel a little sorry for them.

      • SloaneY says:

        I went to community college and then transferred. It was a great experience. It was LOADS cheaper. I was able to stay at home and save even more money. The classes were smaller so there was more personal attention from the teachers. And you also got real teachers, not graduate students. And then transferring, I went straight to an apartment situation with a friend. It was a much more adult, real world experience than the tyPical college one. I wasn’t living in dorms and partying on my parents money. I was working and paying my way and doing grownup things like budgeting for rent and utilities and food.
        *oh, and the college I went to – the student athletes win national championships and then go on to good 4 years. Not a bad deal *

      • Esmom says:

        SloaneY, This is exactly what I envision for my sons, my older one in particular. Glad to hear it was so positive for you. Did your peers make you feel inferior for not choosing a four year university right out of the gate? Just curious.

        My husband, on the other hand, is not on board with this idea at all, with his idealized dorm and fraternity memories. At least I’ve gotten him to agree to not support or encourage our boys in joining fraternities under any circumstances. They’re nothing but trouble.

      • SloaneY says:

        I think there’s always going to be that person or 2 who’s like, oh, you went to community college…but overall, it’s been really positive. Especially from the people from the school that we (there was a big group of us that transferred from the same community college to the same university over a period of a few years) transferred to. They were all really impressed that we already had all of our non-major classes out of the way and we were even stronger in our major classes than a lot of them (I have an arts degree). Another plus that was huge is that a lot of us from the community college actually finished in 4 years , while quite a few that started off at the 4 year ended up taking a year or 2 (or more) to finish their degree. That’s a lot more loan money (or parent money) when you need an extra year or 2 to finish.
        Another plus (at least for me) was there were a lot of different age groups taking classes. My classes were probably 70% 18 year olds, but there were a lot of people in their late 20’s and 30’s/40’s who were going back to school. It makes discussions so much richer when you have different points of view. Plus, people who were there, especially the older ones, really WANTED to be there. They wanted to do well and better themselves and weren’t goofing off.
        Like I said, it was definitely more of an adult experience. It depends what you want out of the college experience. If you want the party experience then CC isn’t going to be right. You might get it when you transfer. But if you want your focus to be on your academics and learning how to be an adult in society it is a great choice.
        Side note: the professors at the university loved all the kids from the CC. We all had a much better work ethic.

      • SloaneY says:

        Btw, I’m not slamming 4 year universities. I did graduate from one, and it was great. Some people really want that typical college “experience” and I completely understand that.
        I’m just a huge advocate for community colleges. Financially, it’s a really smart decision. I hate when people denigrate community colleges. Especially when you realize that not only do many people go on to wonderful universities, but many are the ones educating your nurses, paramedics, police officers and such.

      • swak says:

        @esmom & SloaneY, where I live, there is a program for high schoolers that allows them take certain classes in school (ones needed to graduate), do community service, such as tutoring, helping out other places, and must have a 95% attendance rate and they can get two years of community college free. Community college is great if you don’t know what you really want to concentrate on. Plus it gets the required classes out of the way and they work with you to make sure they transfer to the four year college which you will go to.

      • Reece says:

        I went to community college and then transferred. I would highly recommend it.
        1.You get to save a ton of money.
        2. IMO because you aren’t off in the bubble of “College” you do get to do and experience life and still work on a degree. I worked and went to school and had a little life experience to boot. And just to add did not miss out on the “college” experience when I transferred because when I did I stayed on campus. Although I will say that because I came in older and experienced, so t speak, I was definitely much more mature than my counterparts. Mostly that meant I had no desire to be drunk every weekend.

      • Veronica says:

        If there’s any elitist attitudes lingering around community colleges, I haven’t encountered them. Most people are wising up to the cost issue these days – especially since a lot of universities are offering mega money to students to entice them to transfer. (Legit yo – I got my tuition cut in half because I was transfer.)

        I did my general credits at community college and never had a problem keeping up with the four year university students. I don’t think people realize just how greedy colleges have gotten when it comes to the hiring process. Adjuncts used to be a tiny fraction of teaching positions so that professionals could teach the occasional class – now they dominate the industry because it allows colleges to underpay professors, dump benefits, and control the contractural process. At this point, the quality of education you’re getting at a typical fourth year probably isn’t all that better than a community college – maybe worse since prestige is often valued over actual teaching talent.

      • Esmom says:

        Everyone, thanks for chiming in, I loved reading your thoughts. Another reason why I think my one son will do better starting with community college, I think, is that I’m not sure he’ll have the ACT/SAT scores to get into the universities he has in mind. He has a specific major in mind, too, and I found out our community college has a partnership with a university in our state where he’d do the prerequisites at the CC and get automatic admission to the program at the university his junior year. Seems like a no-brainer. But my son is still struggling with the stigma, thinking kids will tease him for not being able to get into a “real” university. Sigh. And I think this plan would be good for my other son, because I have a sneaking suspicion that the temptation to party a lot will be irresistible to him, because he’s very distractible. I remember having to fight to stay disciplined and to not succumb to the party culture at my university. It sucks that so many people just aren’t that serious, academically. It kinda blows my mind, actually.

      • SloaneY says:

        If he’s worried people will tease, just remind him that a lot of his university bound friends will be in debt up to their eyeballs come graduation, and he’ll get the same 4 year degree after he transfers, just a lot more cheaply. I still have my BA from a major university. They’re all the same. It doesn’t say you went to CC on your diploma.
        He can always turn the discussion around if someone actually teases him. No one has to know his academic status. He can make it about being financially smart. Which is true!

      • Jib says:

        Esmom, I teach 12th grade, and what many parents don’t know so they don’t encourage their kids to apply is that if you can get into an Ivy or Little Ivy school, they will give you whatever financial aid you need to be able to attend. It can be cheaper than a community college. My son got into an Ivy, and we paid about 5 to 7K a year – much cheaper than my other son’s state college!!

        I have mixed feelings about this – I am sure Malia is a smart young lady, but we all know that she was going to get into whatever colleges she applied to because her father is President. We have our own version of royalty here. Meanwhile, millions of other kids won’t get into any of these with the same qualifications. That irritates me.

    • OhDear says:

      It can also be a year where someone works to save up money for college, too.

    • INeedANap says:

      I was so desperate to get out of my parents’ house and especially to get the heck away from my mother. I am so glad gap years were not a thing for Americans a decade ago, because she would have forced me to stay home for a gap year…and then stay at a local college afterwards…and then live at home…and marry some guy she picked…and moved in next door…and be attached to her for the rest of her life…

      I am getting cold sweats right now. Anyway, congrats to Malia! Cambridge is a great town for young people. 🙂

    • Vizia says:

      I work with kids who struggled in high school, emotionally and academically, and find that it can help to get the extra maturity, and the confidence that comes with making their own money, that a gap year can give.

    • Wilma says:

      I took two years, one year to work and save and the second to do volunteer work around the world. My parents are pretty poor, so had to do it myself.

    • Veronica says:

      To me, it should be the opposite – kids who AREN’T wealthy should be waiting a year or two for college. A rich kid can change their mind later and still be okay. The rest of us will spend our lives paying off that debt. It’s wise to make sure it’s what you want before going in. I got a two year at a community college first in order to have a job to pay the bills, then attended part time out of pocket while I worked full time decided what I wanted to pursue. I went back for my Bachelors at 29 and am heading for an MD program next fall. Yeah, I missed the “traditional” college experience, but I was also much better organized and way more mature in my approach to school than a lot of my younger classmates. It was a real eye opener about how much we exploit young people in the college system.

      I’m graduating with honors and near perfect GPA; I also have a fraction of the debt that my peers do. I have a lot of students who come to me amazed at how “brilliant” I am, and while yeah, I’m fairly intelligent, more of it is that I’m just disciplined enough to put the work and study in. While I’m sure plenty are happy and successful in their right, with some of the students I help, I wonder how many of them wish they’d followed my example and waited a few years before jumping in.

    • notasugarhere says:

      I used to work with teens, many of them high-achievers from high-achieving families. About 10 years ago, when they were accepted to Ivy League schools they started to be *strongly encouraged* by those schools to take gap years.

      Many of them took it as, “Go do even more to earn your spot here” and went off and did academic programs. One went to Europe for a one-year program in non-profit management. At 18. Because that was the kind of high-pressure, achieve, more is not enough environment in which she had been raised. p.s. She was on a full-ride academic scholarship to Harvard.

      • Veronica says:

        And that’s a shame because from what I hear from a lot of friends in academia is that all that extra admissions padding is doing far less these days than it used to. With the level of competition out there, universities want kids who are actively interested in their field, not a resume that basically reads like “mommy and daddy told me to do this to look good.” A kid who got pressured into high performance is not necessarily one who can keep that momentum outside the home, you know?

      • Jib says:

        And the top schools like kids from middle and lower middle class schools if the kids apply. They pull from my zip code – my small high school has sent two kids to Harvard in the last 4 years. The problem is that these schools aren’t on the radar of most of the kids I teach.

    • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

      Eh, I have a writer friend whose daughter is taking a gap year before she starts Meredith College, and they are far from rich.

    • Erinn says:

      Meh – my husband took a gap year before going into carpentry… which was completed, then he moved on to plumbing and put in his hours, and did all of his upgrades, and we found out this morning that he just passed his inter-provincial exam, so he’s now a certified journeyman.

      But he didn’t come from a family of rich parents, honestly, they probably cleared under 20k a year. He took a year to decide what he wanted to do, and to squirrel some money away to avoid having to take out as large of a loan.

      I wish I’d taken a gap year, honestly. But I got pushed hard to decide what I wanted to do, and now I have a giant student loan from two years of a program I didn’t end up completing because I just didn’t want to do it.

    • Carol says:

      I thought Gap year meant you just didn’t go to school directly after college. That even if you worked, that would be considered a Gap Year. No? I didn’t go to college directly after high school. I took a year off and worked a little while still living with my parents. Then after a year I went to college. That was the best thing for me because I could appreciate college better. Good for Malia for taking a Gap year in my opinion.

    • ladysussex says:

      Well in the UK most students are finished with school at 17, AND a university degree only takes 3 years in the UK. Even a medical degree only takes 6 years total. So young folks there have a bit more time to have a leisure or travel “Gap Year”. It’s never been a thing in the US because that would be 2 extra years of putting off starting a career. But if your a rich and famous American, I guess even Harvard will let you get accepted and decide not to come until the following year, and you don’t have to worry about burdening your parents for another year, or having to work for a living.

  4. Azreen says:

    Agree with the gap year after getting your degree. After I graduated, I had a 4-month gap before I started working and it was fun 😛

    • Esmom says:

      I remember feeling like I HAD to start my “real” job search immediately — and my mom definitely felt the same way — and that if I waited my opportunities as a new grad would slip away. Irrational now that I think about it. 🙂

    • lucy2 says:

      I did a one month gap before I started working (I had a job lined up when I graduated). I really wish I’d taken more time off, but my bank account was pretty much tumbleweeds by then.

      • Esmom says:

        That’s great you had a job waiting for you, that’s the dream. Quite a few people who I graduated with did, too, especially if they were going into engineering, accounting, management consulting or advertising. As an English major, I didn’t have many companies pursuing me so I basically felt like a failure for not having locked up a job prior to getting my diploma. And with every week that went by without an offer, my mom’s panic escalated. As did mine. In hindsight, I really wish I’d done something like the Peace Corps but I know my parents wouldn’t have supported that.

      • lucy2 says:

        I lucked out, I’m in architecture and at the time I graduated, it was booming and I actually had a few offers. I’m still happy at the same place all these years later and survived weaker economies, so I made the right choice!
        I remember our professors were mad at us for thinking about jobs, working on resumes and scheduling interviews – during spring break! They wanted us only concentrating on our studio work – because the 60+ hours a week we did that wasn’t enough apparently. Now they’re all about job fairs and always email us to participate.

    • Arpeggi says:

      I took a year off between undergrads and grade school to figure out what I wanted to do next. I was lucky enough to find a job in a biotech company right after graduation (those were the days where pharmaceuticals were still hiring), even luckier to finish undergrads debt-free thanks to the low tuitions in my part of the world and the fact I’ve been working part time since high school to afford college, but I would never had been able to afford some real time off after graduation. That year ended up being the best decision for me: I hated that job so much that I couldn’t wait to go back to school and was overjoyed when I found an interesting lab to apply to for grad school. Plus the real salary I earned that year helped living through grad school despite the ridiculous stipends I had

  5. Samtha says:

    Those girls are so pretty, and they seem so sweet and intelligent.

    Twitter was going crazy about this for some reason yesterday. I don’t get it at all. A gap year is not a big deal, nor is her choice of college. I mean, getting accepted to Harvard is a big deal, but…why is this a “thing”?

  6. Rainbow says:

    Good for her.
    I like her dress in the first pic. So cute. And those legs!

  7. aims says:

    The Obama girls are growing up. I’m so proud of everything our President has accomplished he’s going to be missed.

    I’m terrified over what the next 8 years could potentially have in store for us if we vote wrong.

  8. Bettyrose says:

    I agree that in the U.S. “gap year” is more common after college. In fact, both Peace Corps and Americorps are set up for attracting recent college grads. But I’m fascinated to see what Malia does.

  9. lower-case deb says:

    in my time too, we’re encouraged to go straight to college from high school, some of the more gifted classmates were even snatched up before they finish high school. the unis met them personally, did some tests, and they were accepted and enrolled in spring intake without having to sit for finals! (a good 6 months than us the less gifted ones).

    but these days, i see my nephew and nieces so a gap year, usually 6 months of volunteering in the frontier islands in building or education project with some NGOs–they get peanuts allowance to basically survive, but they are young full of idealism and energy; and then the last 6 months in jobs to scrape money for college, minimize the loans they have to take out. truly the younger generation has to bear a higher loans burden than mine, i feel. some of them get low paying menial jobs, some are lucky to get research assistant jobs (actually intern’s intern either in office or lab) that sets them up quite nicely for in-college part time or even if they’re lucky post-college career.

  10. Cynthia says:

    I think it’s a great idea, even if it seems that she’s taking a gap year in order to start her college experience when her father is not in office anymore which is totally justified.
    I hope she’ll use her year to travel, make new experiences or do some volountary work.

  11. Jenns says:

    I like the gap year. I went to college right after high school, but then ended up taking a year off. It was the best thing I did at the time. I got my sh*t together, changed my major and focused on my education.

  12. Miss M says:

    I took the gap year between high school and college and it was the best decision I made!
    Malia, congrats and good luck! Have a productive (and fun) gap year!

  13. Who ARE these people? says:

    I had an unwanted gap year after college but it turned out to be a good thing — I worked at a variety of jobs, changed direction and went onto grad school with a lot more focus.

  14. Nancy says:

    Good for her. You haven’t heard one peep of negative press about either of the first daughters. Malia in particular seems headed in the same direction as her parents. very intelligent. I’m going to miss this family. The President was so great at the dinner Saturday, he could be a stand up comic!

  15. Embee says:

    Congrats Malia!

    As for the gap year thing, it really depends upon the student doesn’t it? In Malia’s case, she won’t be starting college whilst the nation is embroiled in a nasty, atypical election year. It seems a solid choice. Furthermore, I know plenty of students who need a year of working to figure out their interests/direction. I did not take a gap year and wish I would’ve. Not that it was an option lol my mother scoffed at the kids who went to “find themselves” as she called it. So I went from boarding school to college, finished in three years and spent 5 years working and traveling before going back to school to do what I love (law). I think if I’d taken the year to work between high school and college it would have helped me find my direction earlier.

    Education is not a one size fits all endeavor! Best of luck to her.

  16. Lex says:

    I definitely think a gap year is more for those in upper class. If I could have afforded it, I would have loved to take a year off to travel and volunteer. I love the Obama girls, and Michelle is my ultimate woman crush.

  17. Clare says:

    The gap year is totally a European thing – justified in part by the fact that most undergraduate degrees here are shorter (3 years) and less expensive (or free, depending on where you are). Also because most degrees here are very focused (very few unrelated electives or opportunities for unrelated double majors etc), so it perhaps makes sense for one to broaden their horizons…
    It doesn’t make sense to me in the American context where school is going to cost SO much – where are normal kids getting the extra $$ to spend on a year away?
    Having said that – it does make sense that she’d want to wait till The Obamas are out of the White house and then go to College – every kid deserves as normal a college experience as possible.

    • Jen43 says:

      It is also a rich kid thing. The idea here is to go to college, get a job and start earning money. My parents would have gone ballistic if I suggested some time off, not that I would have because I was very eager to start college. Also, kids here work in the summer. A good college friend of mine was wealthy and had European parents. They would never let her work in the summer because they reasoned that she would be working the rest of her life. My parents called that being lazy.

      • Virgilia Coriolanus says:

        That’s the rationale my mom gave me when I was a teenager–we’re going to work for the rest of our lives, so enjoy being a kid/teenager and having free time. But that didn’t mean that she bought us anything extra–outside our birthdays or Christmas, if we wanted something, we had to decide if we wanted to work to get it.

        But she was pretty much forced out of the door when she graduated high school, without any support or advice.

  18. Louisa Ahlqvist says:

    I am a strong advocate for a gap year between high school and college. As a sophomore in college now, I will say this is not just a phenomenon or trend or something Europeans do, it’s actually an extremely valuable experience. Whether the person travels or works or whatever, the year between allows them to grow and mature further and I know I would have never survived in college as an 18 year old because that’s just not who I was back then, I wasn’t ready, and I think it’s important for people to feel comfortable admitting that going to college immediately isn’t what they want to do and nobody should make them feel bad about that.
    I am so glad Malia is doing this, especially as someone so influential, because she’s letting other people her age see that you don’t have to start college right away and not everyone realizes it.

    • Jen43 says:

      I feel that once you leave school, it is very difficult to go back. Good for you that you were able to do that. I loved college, but taking grad school courses and working at the same time was very difficult for me. Once I started earning money, I really lost interest in sitting in a classroom.

      • pk says:

        I think it really depends on the person. My daughter would have been fine taking a gap year , but I don’t think my son would have wanted to go back after taking a year off .

      • Veronica says:

        I think it’s difficult to go back if you have a family or an established career – less so if you are intentionally focused on a “starter” career and planning to go back all along. I went back at 29 without any serious problems because I felt completely sure of what I wanted to do.

      • WTW says:

        @Jen43 Preach. I went to college at 17 years old, 2,000 miles away from home. For me personally, waiting a year wouldn’t have made a much of a difference, and I took part in a study abroad program my junior year. As a high school student, I also worked, so I had “real world” experience from that. I know “different strokes for different folks,” but I’m glad I didn’t wait, and many kids my husband teaches have no family members who’ve gone to college before and we feel like they need to go to college right away to beat the odds.

  19. OhDear says:

    It makes sense for her, as it’ll be a big pain in the [heiny] for her if she starts school while election season is still going on.

    • Who ARE these people? says:

      Thank you for reviving the word “heiny,” I didn’t know I missed it until you said it!

  20. JenB says:

    I am so happy for her! I think both the Obama girls are lovely young ladies who will have a profoundly positive impact on the world. Congratulations!

    When I first read this story yesterday on various media sites I was disheartened to see so many comments that implied she did not get in based on merit and “lets see her test scores” etc. Should have expected that reaction but I was still disappointed.

  21. KJ says:

    It was fascinating to watch the reaction on Twitter yesterday. The Obamas have done everything conservatives tell black people we should be doing to get ahead. Yet, when these two exceptionally successful and well-educated people announce that their daughter is going to Harvard, conservatives freak out and still find a way to discredit them. It’s amazing. Obama Derangement Syndrome really should be in the DSM-5.

    It makes perfect sense to me why Malia would want to take a gap year. It gives her a great chance to enjoy and really experience her dad’s last few months in office. (*sob*) I’m not sure I would have taken a gap year after high school because I was unbelievably excited to go to college, but I definitely wish I’d taken one (or two) before law school. I was in such a hurry to get on my career path, and now I realize it wasn’t that deep. Taking time to pause and do worthwhile things that make you happy is essential.

    • JenB says:

      Exactly. They had to find a way to discredit her. SMH

    • Magnoliarose says:

      They are pathologically rabid and crazy. An example of the downside of social media at work.

  22. TyrantDestroyed says:

    Congratulations on her acceptance into Harvard. I like gap years and I think they should be more popular between the young generations.
    Sadly in my home country it’s still a weird thing to do and it more plays against you when applying for college. But if I could turn back time I would definitely invest myself in a gap year before uni, travel and try to have a close experience either volunteering or being closed to people in the fields that interests me in order to take a better decision about my future.

  23. teacakes says:

    Congratulations to Malia! It must have been tough in some ways, I can’t even imagine the challenges of protecting the privacy of the teenage First Daughters in the age when everyone is on social media. We’ve hardly seen any of that from her, and that’s a good thing – it means her parents and the Secret Service did their jobs.

    Also the gap year makes sense, she’s not even 18 and would probably like to start her college experience without the burden of being the current First Daughter hanging over her head. You KNOW the Internet and right-wing trolls would go crazy if she was ever photographed anywhere near an alcoholic drink or a party.

    • ohdear says:

      I also think she has probably led a very sheltered life and would like some independence to adjust to life as others have experienced it. She has travelled, but that doesn’t equate to all the independent experiences you have when your schedule isn’t planned and you have secret service and republican criticism everywhere you go. I think in her situation, the gap year will be very invaluable for preparing her for the transition out of the white house and into Harvard.

  24. Insomniac says:

    I think a gap year is a good idea. Perhaps not for every student, but I think in some cases it can’t hurt to give them an extra year to figure out what they want to do with their college experience, or if they even want to go. (Or to just keep a low profile until your father the President is out of office.)

    And I really admire the Obamas for doing such a great job of keeping those girls out of the spotlight as much as possible. I’m always stunned when I see new pictures of Malia and Sasha and they look so much older than the last time I saw them.

  25. Alex says:

    Gap year is a great thing. I wanted to start college right away and no way my parents would’ve let me travel alone at 17 for a year (and I didn’t want to). I took two years between my MA and my MsEd which I start this fall and it was great. Sometimes its necessary and people can do all sorts of things like travel or save money. Harvard apparently encourages a gap year so good for her.

  26. Ninks says:

    Both Obama girls seem really smart, grounded and mature. So I have no doubt that Malia will do something really great during her gap year. But even if she doesn’t, if all she does is sit in her jammies for the year and decompresses after eight years living in the White House and under a very large microscope for her entire teenage years, I’d still think it was a good idea for her.

    • Ash says:

      I completely agree. I don’t know why she *has* to do anything with her gap year, except for rest after the past eight years. She could use the break.

  27. Boston Green Eyes says:

    I think if I took a gap year back when I was about to go to college that I may have never gone to college – I just wasn’t that focused at the time. I really needed the structure of college to get me through my life at the time and I really blossomed in college, too. Gap years are good for focused individuals who plan to do a set thing for a year (work, volunteer) and then get back into the school rhythm of things.

  28. Veronica says:

    I want to know who can afford to do a gap year after college these days – those loans can only be deferred for six months in most cases. I think a gap year or years should be considered by most people these days given the cost of college. Make sure it’s what you really want to do before you lock yourself into debt. I know way too many people who wound up dropping out after they realized how miserable they were.

  29. K says:

    I can’t believe how much time has passed. The Obama’s have raised two outstandingly poised and lovely women- it is shocking to think they aren’t little girls anymore and get I haven’t left my 20s haha or aged at all amazing.

    Harvard is a huge and much deserved accomplishment and good for her taking the gap year. Let’s be honest it is probably in her and Harvard’s best interest to wait for President Obama to leave office ( uncontrollable sobbing).

    God I’m going to miss the first family!

  30. DutchBlue says:

    Congrats to her!! If both of my parents went to Harvard and I had the choice, of course, I would go to Harvard. I also think the gap year is a smart decision if only to stay in the White House longer and avoid going off to college while your father is still the President. Less stress.

    I wish I had taken a gap year or maybe even 6 months off after high school (I started college 3 weeks after graduating high school). I would have changed my major and the college I went to. A gap year after graduating college seems impractical for American students since they have to find a job and start paying off their student loans. Or continue with their schooling to avoid paying them (which is what I did).

  31. BooBooLaRue says:

    In ’83, I graduated into a worse recession than the most recent one, my “gap” year lasted about five years until I could find a job with benefits. No regrets there, I sailed on a tall ship in the Med, worked on a cruise boat on the Mississippi, worked at the GAP, mucked around boats and shipyards as a painter, worked more retail, went to Taiwan on a 4-H program. It was really, really educational, if not money-making even though I had loans to pay off. No regrets. Good luck to those girls – they will do great things!

  32. paranormalgirl says:

    I took a gap year between undergrad and med school. I needed it to work my butt off and bank some money.

  33. Murphy says:

    If you can do it–DO IT.
    If I were her I would absolutely do it.

  34. CornyBlue says:

    I entered college to study a subject which I knew nothing about and only chose it because I was getting one of the best colleges in the country because of it. I would not go back and change it, my subject has offered me opportunities the one I wanted to study since I was little would not have. But it is still something of a regret and no matter what I do I feel like I will never fulfill my childhood dream. Gap years a re not a thing where I studied from and I do not think that is harmful as you are in the flow of studying and the transition is easier. However colleges here are very cheap so i did not have to work for paying fees or anything and I can totally see why someone would want to take more time and work and save up
    Congrats to her for Harvard. I cannot fathom how pumped she must be

  35. aang says:

    Devil’s advocate. Forget the being the president’s kid, a double legacy is much more likely to get in. Add in being the president’s kid and is it really that much of an accomplishment? Not saying she isn’t qualified but lots of qualified applicants don’t get in because they don’t know anyone or aren’t rich enough to donate big $$. The Ivy’s just reinforce the aristocracy developing in this country. Again, not criticizing her, but the system that will ensure the privileged stay that way and the rest of us can fight for the scraps.

    • teacakes says:

      But neither of her parents attended Harvard as undergrads, though?

      I thought ‘legacy’ admissions criteria only counted parents who got their BAs from the university, and POTUS/FLOTUS graduated from Columbia and Princeton respectively.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        That’s what I’ve heard too. Bush’s B School diploma didn’t bestow legacy status on his daughters.

    • Dlo says:

      @aang. This! The privileged continue to receive while the rest of us 95%ers sink even farther down. Want to impress me? Send some poor underprivileged in your spot and You go to regular university. Feel free to hate on me for my opinion.

      • AlmondJoy says:

        I get your point. But I’m not so sure that Malia made this decision to impress you… I’m guessing the Obamas made a decision based on what was best for their child.

        If a person doesn’t share your opinion it doesn’t meant they’re hating on you, it simply means they disagree.

      • paranormalgirl says:

        Why should she impress you? Malia has a future to think about, too. And from all accounts, she is an incredibly bright girl. She should go to the school of her choice.

      • Magnoliarose says:

        It isn’t her job to right the biased system we have. Maybe she will use her abilities to help people. Idk. Why should she give up something she worked for?

      • Kristin says:

        Are you serious?? This is a young, incredibly intelligent, African-American girl who has the opportunity to be a positive example for other young minority girls, many of whom are shut out of opportunities like this. You think she should give someone else her spot to make you feel better? And while I agree that there is often bias in our top schools and that needs to change, the last person upon whose shoulders I’d place the weight of that on is a minority female. I think they’ve been oppressed long enough.

      • lilacflowers says:

        “Want to impress me? Send some poor underprivileged in your spot and You go to regular university.”

        I doubt that Malia has any interest in impressing you. She is focused, and rightfully so, on getting the best education for herself. And no, she cannot send some underprivileged person in her spot; she does not get to decide who else attends. Harvard Admissions has that job.

        On a side note, one of my co-workers is over the moon about this. Her son was also accepted to Harvard and is also going to do a gap year so Malia will be in his class. And oh, Harvard is giving him lots of help. His tuition will be $8,000 a year while I suspect Malia will be paying the full rate.

      • Dlo says:

        It was an expression and the comments sure flooded negative because I happen to have a differing opinion. Very disappointing, but not surprising.

    • HK9 says:

      @aang-If there’s a ‘but’ in a sentence it invalidates everything that precedes it. If you’re passionate about all people having equal access to education, don’t accept the status quo, do something about it. I support certain scholarship initiates in my area. It’s not huge but it helps. Can you really say you’ve done the same? And by the way, no one has to give up an existing spot that they worked for to help out either.

      • Jib says:

        People can have an opinion, even if they can’t afford to give to a scholarship.

  36. Annika says:

    My siblings & I all took a gap year, or a half-gap year.
    Out of necessity though, because we needed to work to pay for college.
    The work experience was a huge benefit as well. I got my CNA class done right after high school graduation, then worked my gap year as a CNA while I attended LPN school (did the same thing as I worked towards my RN).

  37. Magnoliarose says:

    My siblings and I did it and it was great for us. I will encourage my kids to do it too.
    Malia will appreciate the break from academics and pressure. They are such poised young ladies with great futures ahead of them.

  38. Jenn4037 says:

    I would have loved a gap year, but I would have lost health insurance and it wasn’t worth the risk. Obamacare fixed that and just in time apparently.

  39. Babsie says:

    This country is so politically polarized, and her father played a role in it. I think she is incredibly smart to take the gap year, especially with what looks to be an incredibly nasty, dirty campaign brewing for November. Both candidate will be referencing her father’s performance, and getting quite negative. The press and her fellow students will naturally want to know what she thinks.

    These young women have grown up with politics going on around them. They aren’t politicians. I think they deserve to attend college without disruption. By waiting, she can lay low and attend in relative privacy the following year.

  40. Amelie says:

    I had a “gap semester” before starting college which means I started in the spring semester versus the fall. This was not by choice–the college I accepted admission to claimed to not have room for August but that I could start in the spring semester. They were trying to emulate Middlebury College’s program in which a group of freshman starts in February instead of in August with the rest of their cohorts (my alma mater has since discontinued this because their program was so poorly implemented and was really stupid). During my gap semester I took some college courses at a local college to get some credit and worked in retail part time at a clothing store. I was productive with my time but I was so frustrated not to be at school. This was back in 2006 when Facebook had just taken off so I was seeing pictures of all my friends having a great time at school while I was stuck at home.

    The school did a terrible job of keeping in touch with me during my time off and when I finally got on campus and met the rest of the students starting at the same time as me, I learned some of them had been abroad to do service trips, learn languages etc. I felt like what I did was super boring in comparison. The school did not do a great job of offering support to us and I felt so overwhelmed starting spring semester. All the other freshmen thought I had transferred from somewhere… It was a really lonely time. Still graduated in 3.5 years though!

    But if I were to do it over again I’d either take a full gap year or insist the school let me start in September like everybody else. Not sure what the heck I would have done for a full year… No way I would have worked in retail the whole year though! That place was run by crazy people.

  41. Betsy says:

    I just want the printed dress Mrs. Obama is wearing in the first pic. So fun and sophisticated.

  42. KiddVicious says:

    Maybe she’ll spend her gap year in England with Harry. *wink wink-nudge nudge*

    Being a California girl I was hoping Malia would decide on Stanford. I supposed Harvard will do 😉

  43. Amanda G says:

    I think it makes sense for her to do this. This way her fathers presidency will be over (boo!!) and maybe she won’t have to have as much security/attention around her when she begins her freshman year.

    I love that the Obama’s will stay in DC until Sasha graduates HS. They seem like such good parents and their girls are absolutely lovely. I will miss seeing this young family in the White House! No matter what people’s opinions are on the President, you can’t deny that Michelle was an incredible First Lady and the girls were well behaved.

  44. holly hobby says:

    If I had to do it all over again, I would not take a gap year. College is hard enough and I want to get that over and done with as soon as possible. A gap year just delays my career path. I did work and go to college at the same time so I benefited from an outside of school perspective.

  45. Liquorice says:

    I think it’s each to their own. Some kids feel the restlessness and will be in a better for college after a gap year doing whatever. Random fact: Malia is 185 cm tall!

    • AlmondJoy says:

      Agreed. To each their own. And what a cool fact about Malia! I’m terrible with math so I googled to see what that converts to in feet and inches. She’s a little over 6ft tall, same height as my hubby!

  46. Kathryn says:

    The entire First Family is smart and accomplished! My son took a gap year and it was the right thing for him. He spent a few months doing good works and then worked at a ski area to make some money. He had a great year and was ready and eager to start college the following fall.

  47. Ellis says:

    That’s fine, I expect her to register for the draft when she turns 18. Since her dad’s Defense Secretary Ash Carter has proposed it, she should set the example.