Malia Obama to attend Harvard, but first she’ll take a gap year

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President Obama and daughter Malia. | AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Malia Obama will attend Harvard University, the White House announced Sunday, but first take a gap year and not enroll in 2017.

The surprise gap-year plan will allow Malia, 17, to fully experience the last months of President Barack Obama’s second term.

In a statement released from first lady Michelle Obama’s office, the first couple announced: “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 did not elaborate on Malia’s gap year. She is still figuring out what she wants to do. The Obama daughters have been increasingly traveling with their parents as the second term draws to a close.

A factor for delaying enrollment at Harvard is that Malia will face far less scrutiny if she arrives on campus as the daughter of a former president, allowing her a more traditional university life. At present, she is accompanied by a security detail.

In a few weeks, Malia will be graduating from Sidwell Friends, an elite private school in northwest Washington. The oldest daughter of the Obamas selected a university both her parents attended.

They are Harvard Law School graduates with undergraduate degrees from Ivy League schools; Columbia for the president and Princeton for the first lady. The Harvard announcement ends almost a year of speculation about Malia’s decision. She had been spotted on campus tours at universities on both coasts, including Yale, Brown, Columbia and Stanford.

At Harvard, where it is not uncommon for students to come from famous families, Malia will have an easier time blending in, and her classmates will be less likely to be starstruck.

Malia and her sister, 14-year-old Sasha, transferred to Sidwell Friends from the University of Chicago Laboratory School after Obama was elected president.

After the president leaves office next January, the Obamas will remain in Washington for two years until Sasha finishes high school.

Obama joked about Malia growing up Saturday night at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where Bernie Sanders was in the audience.

“A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me, I get it. Just recently, a young person came up to me and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. As if we were actually going to let Malia go to Burning Man this year. That was not going to happen. Bernie might have let her go. Not us,” Obama joked.

Talking to students in Des Moines in 2015, Obama was asked what advice he was giving Malia as she goes off to college. He said, “My best advice to Malia. Now, this is assuming that Malia would listen to my advice. She’s very much like her mother at this point. She’s got her own mind.

“One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college. There are a lot of good colleges and universities out there, and it’s important I think for everybody here to understand you can find a college or university that gives you a great education, and 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. So one is, lower the stress levels in terms of just having to get into one particular school. I think that’s important.

“The second piece of advice I have is keep your grades up until you get in, and after that, make sure you pass.”

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