WASHINGTON – Soon Malia Obama will choose where to apply for college and which one to attend beginning in the fall of 2016, as her father’s presidency winds down.
She wants to be a filmmaker, President Obama has said. Last summer, news media reported that his 16-year-old daughter toured two northern California rivals: Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.
Berkeley, the state’s flagship public university, is known as a liberal enclave, and it has a department of film and media.
Stanford, a private university in Palo Alto, is more conservative and has alumnae including first daughter Chelsea Clinton and retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Obama’s commerce secretary, Penny Pritzker, attended Stanford — and, like Michelle Obama and the Obama daughters, is also from Chicago.
Expectations for Malia Obama no doubt are high. Her parents are Harvard-educated lawyers with Ivy League undergraduate degrees — the president’s from Columbia and the first lady’s from Princeton.
Most college-bound U.S. students apply to a number of schools. From 1990 to 2012, 77 percent of students submitted three or more applications; 28 percent submitted seven or more, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA said.
But Malia Obama, in light of her singularity, may have only a shortlist, surmised David Hawkins, an official at the National Association for College Admission Counseling in Arlington, Va.
A savvy viewpoint on the college experience of first daughters comes from Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to Laura Bush and inhabits the college application world herself since she has a 17-year-old son in prep school.
Since the Obama daughters’ school has such a strong academic program, McBride said she can’t imagine Malia Obama not getting into whichever college she wants.
Bob Morse, who compiles college rankings for U.S. News & World Report, said it would be surprising if a college-admissions officer “read the words ‘Malia Obama’ and it wouldn’t ring a bell.”
“The question is — I’m just posing it — does somebody like Malia Obama or some other child from parents who are visible, a celebrity, a politician or a CEO, is their application going to be treated the same as any other student whose parent isn’t wealthy or powerful or influential?” Morse asked.
“I’m not an insider to know enough, but it would be surprising to me if they were treated the same way.”