Malia Obama to take a 'gap year' before college. Should everyone?

Given it is zero stretch of the imagination to say that the percentage of Americans taking gap years will significantly spike, let us just say to all American college students, from years of experience with the gap yah phenomenon, prepare for a million fucking stories that begin with "Well this one time, on my gap year..."

The high-school senior, who turns 18 on the Fourth of July, had reportedly been spotted wearing a Harvard Class of 2020 shirt at her school's "college signing day". 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.

Malia Obama is set to graduate this spring from Sidwell Friends School in Washington and previously attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. According to the Associated Press, the university encourages incoming students to spend a year prior to their collegiate start tackling a special project, traveling, working or taking on some other meaningful pursuit.

Next year, Malia will emerge from her secluded existence when she joins a "regular" college freshman year, but she would perhaps be protected as usual by Secret Service officers. Most scholarships do not come with an option to defer for any length of time, so students on scholarship or other financial assistance must either accept and push through it or risk not having the funding to attend college the following year. "Most fundamentally, it is a time to |step back and reflect, to gain perspective on personal values and goals or to gain needed life experience in a setting separate from and independent of one's accustomed pressures and expectations".

When I worked as a high school tutor, I quickly learned that students from less-privileged homes often struggled in the classroom for reasons other than not comprehending the assignments.

"I felt like it was necessary to go straight into school", said Hofstra University student Sean Bates. "If a student is genuinely excited for college, they should go to college", he said.

There is growing research showing that taking a year off boosts motivation, confidence and achievement and, for many, is a cost savings, as it decreases the timeline to graduation.

With nontraditional students making up the majority of college students today, many arrive on campus without the enrichment-oriented "gap year" but certainly a break between high school and college. The vast majority of students who completed the AGA survey had parents who were college educated-higher, certainly, than the average college-bound teen (while this is not a ideal comparison, only a third of adults nationwide have completed their degrees). "And when the admission comes, students understandably want to get on with it". For some students like Malia Obama, that may be the gap year.

Dale Stephens, who runs a San Francisco-based program called UnCollege that combines elements of entrepreneurship and mentorship, also sees his alumni getting into better colleges and earning better financial aid packages.

Who can benefit most from gap years? "If a student really lights up at the prospect of going to college, then he or she is ready", Knight said.

Malia carved out a different path for herself in high school, one far away from the harsh glare of politics and the power brokers in Washington.

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