Obama’s First Daughter, Malia, Set for Harvard – White House
But the Sidwell Friends senior, 17, will not be attending school this fall.
In a statement released by the East Wing on Sunday, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama announced that Malia “will take a gap year before beginning school.” This means she will attend Harvard in the fall of 2017 as a member of the Class of 2021.
Don’t you feel old?
In September, President Obama shared some advice he had given college-bound Malia: Don’t worry too much about which school you choose — advice that the rest of the world has completely ignored.
The where-will-she-go fever hadn’t died down since Malia made headlines in 2014 by wearing a Stanford University T-shirt on a bike ride with her dad. The wild guessing game was immediately on, with first-family watchers piecing together clues and parsing her visits to more than a dozen colleges. Would she attend any of her parents’ alma maters? Head to California to get a slice of West Coast living? Or stay closer to the District, where the post-White House Obamas will park until Sasha, 14, graduates from high school?
At times, Malia’s road to college felt a lot like basketball superstar Lebron James’s massively hyped 2010 NBA decision. But on Sunday morning, there was no booming announcer declaring over the loudspeaker: “And Malia has decided to take her talents to…” Instead, the White House emailed reporters a two-sentence news release on the traditional May 1 deadline to declare acceptance.
Although the president and the first lady adopted a code of silence about Malia’s specific choice, they did publicly share the advice they gave her as she navigated the college-admissions process. They said the topic was a regular part of the family’s nightly dinner conversation.
“The one thing I’ve been telling my daughters is that I don’t want them to choose a name,” Michelle Obama told the editors of Seventeen magazine in an article published in April. “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?”
The first lady, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, was echoing advice similar to what the president, a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law, said he had given Malia. “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,” Obama told a group of high-schoolers in September.
The White House, which has closely guarded the details of Malia and Sasha’s comings and goings, had no further comment on Malia’s college choice or why she has decided to take a “gap year,” a sabbatical of sorts between graduating from high school and heading off to college.
The first daughter’s standardized test scores and grade-point average have not been released, but Malia’s interest in film is widely known. (She has interned for the CBS series “Extant” and HBO’s “Girls.”) In the past, the Obamas have described their firstborn as scholarly — an “avid reader,” her mother said; the kind of student who was unhappy with average grades, her father noted.
The bar for Malia’s and her sister’s behavior has always been high. As the first children to grow up in the White House during the age of social media, Michelle Obama has warned her daughters of the danger of a “bratty” moment being caught on video, shared with millions and shaping their public images without their control.
In the rare moments that Malia’s image has spread on social media, the spontaneous snapshots have been relatively innocuous. A photo she sent a friend wearing a branded T-shirt for the rap collective Pro Era was shared widely in 2015, as was a 2014 photo of her at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago. The most memorable moment, though, was a grainy image of Malia attending a college party during a visit to Brown University. She was standing next to what appeared to be a beer-pong table covered in those tell-tale red Solo cups.
After the image surfaced, the country’s collective willingness to protect the privacy of the president’s daughters was made evident in an editorial titled “Sorry, Malia Obama” that ran in the Brown Daily Herald, the student newspaper at Brown University.
“It is a shame that Malia was unable to visit Brown and enjoy herself at a party without several news headlines coming out about it the next day,” the editorial read.
“Malia did not choose to grow up in the White House, and it is unfair that everything she does at just 17 years old is subject to such harsh scrutiny,” continued the editorial, also acknowledging that “the chances of her selecting Brown have probably decreased since the publication of those articles.”
Picture: Getty Image