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Malia Obama to Attend Harvard University

Malia Obama Joins Wave of Students Taking a Gap Year Before College 1:52

President Barack Obama’s oldest daughter is going to Harvard.

Malia Obama will attend Harvard University in the fall of 2017, the president and first lady said in a statement on Sunday.

Image: U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia walk from Marine One to board Air Force One upon their departure from O'Hare Airport in Chicago
U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughter Malia in Chicago April 7, 2016. KEVIN LAMARQUE / Reuters

The 17-year-old will be taking a "gap year" before attending the university, the White House statement said. It was unclear what Malia will be doing in her year off. "Gap years" are often used to travel the world and/or do humanitarian work.

"We can confirm that we have received her acceptance and she will attend in the fall of 2017," Harvard Spokeswoman Anna Cowenhoven said in a statement. "We look forward to welcoming the entire freshman class to campus and seeing all they accomplish in the years ahead."

Related: A 'Gap Year' Before College Is Doable — Here's How

Malia, who turns 18 in July, is the elder of the Obamas' two daughters. She is a senior at the exclusive Sidwell Friends school in the District of Columbia, which claims another first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, among its alumni.

Malia Obama gives Sasha an adorable thumbs-up as she chats with Ryan Reynolds 0:18

Malia is set to graduate from high school in June. Her sister, Sasha, 14, is a freshman at Sidwell.

Obama has talked about dreading the day when Malia leaves for college. Her decision to take a gap year could keep her closer to home as her family prepares for the major transition coming next year: leaving the White House and returning to private life. Obama plans to live in Washington for a few more years so Sasha can finish high school. The president and his wife, Michelle, still own a home in Chicago.

Gap years are more common in Europe and Australia than in the U.S., according to the Portland, Oregon-based American Gap Association. But a growing number of gap year programs suggest increasing popularity in the U.S.

Related: Taking A 'Gap Year' Before College Changed My Life

How a Gap Year After High School Changed My Life 1:48

"It's definitely gaining momentum," said Ethan Knight, the association's executive director, citing increased interest from high school students. "Students go to college more satisfied and engaged, and universities often see these students become leaders on campus."

The first lady has said Malia wants to be a filmmaker. She has interned on the set of HBO's "Girls" and on a now-canceled network TV sci-fi drama that starred Halle Berry. Malia has also had internships at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington.

The president turned down an invitation to speak at Malia's Sidwell graduation, saying he would be too emotional.

"I'm going to be sitting there with dark glasses, sobbing," he told Ellen DeGeneres during an appearance on her talk show.

Related: Ready For College? Why Some Students Are More Prepared Than Others

Malia visited at least a dozen public and private colleges during her search, mostly on the East Coast, except for Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley. Six of the eight Ivy League schools were among them, including Harvard, where her parents earned law degrees.

The president is a 1983 graduate of Columbia University, and Mrs. Obama graduated from Princeton in 1985.

By choosing Harvard, Malia seems to have disregarded her parents' advice. Harvard confirmed Malia's acceptance.

"The one thing I've been telling my daughters is that I don't want them to choose a name," Mrs. Obama said in a recent interview with Seventeen magazine. "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?"