The White House announced Sunday that Malia Obama, the eldest daughter of President Barack and Michelle Obama, will attend Harvard University, the Talking Points Memo reports. According to the office, Malia will take a gap year after graduating high school and attend the university in Fall 2017.
Colleges are increasingly encouraging students to take a year off before jumping right back into school, giving them time to recharge after high school and explore the world, ABC News reports. Students are encouraged to gain life and work experience through volunteering, part-time employment, traveling and completing internships in foreign countries.
Not all universities allow students to take time off, however. For those who do, students can delay their entry into college by up to two years. According to ABC News, students can request to take a gap year once they’ve received their admissions letter, but must outline what they plan to do during their time off.
A survey conducted by the American Gap Association found that each year 30,000 to 40,000 students take advantage of the program and that participation in the gap year has increased by 22 percent since 2015. Still, the percentage of students who decide to take a year off is minuscule — generally 1 percent or less of an admitted class, ABC News reports. Many of these students come from high-income households, but institutions like Florida State University and the University of South Carolina are working to offer financial aid packages to students whose families may not make enough money.
Per ABC News, students say the advantage of taking a gap year is that they enter college feeling refreshed and more focused. Universities say gap year students usually arrive on campus as motivated and civically engaged leaders.
Amid recent incidents of racism and intolerance at predominately white institutions, many hoped that the eldest Obama daughter would have chosen to attend a historically Black college or university. In an article published by Buzzfeed in October 2015, the website offered 13 reasons Malia should go to an HBCU. Those reasons included being part of a long and rich tradition of Black culture, being taught by professors who offer broader contexts of the material, and inspiring other young Black women to further their education.
“The more girls see women who look like them making strides in the world the more inspired they’ll be to follow in their footsteps, “the article states. “HBCUs instill a sense of confidence in their students and that translates into everything they do pre- and post-matriculation.”
According to The Atlantic, Malia should also consider an HBCU because of the cultural diversity it offers and the potential of joining an influential “future squad.”
“As her father has demonstrated by surrounding himself with intellectual Black women – starting with Michelle and continuing with Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice and others – Malia is likely to be plugged into a network of lifelong, loyal, and driven friends (and potential cabinet members),” The Atlantic article states.