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Gap Year Between High School And College Catching On Among Students

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- President Barack Obama's daughter, Malia, graduates high school this year, but she's taking a year off before heading to Harvard University.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan explained Monday, the gap year after high school and before college is growing in popularity – and students and teachers are talking about it across high school and college campuses.

"I felt like it was necessary to go straight into school," said Hofstra University student Sean Bates. "I wish I had the opportunity to take an entire year off and go and explore the world; see what I could do for others."

That was apparently the plan for Malia Obama. Her parents said their elder daughter will take a year off after graduating from high school next month before attending Harvard in 2017.

Harvard, and a growing number of other schools, are now encouraging admitted students to defer for one year to travel, pursue a special project, or focus on a meaningful activity.

"Oftentimes, students in high school have one particular idea of what they want to do, and that isn't always what they should be doing," said professor Thomas Shinick of the Adelphi University School of Business.

"There's also those students who decide to take that bridge year or gap year because they want to just financially help their family -- earn a little bit of money, put that all toward college," said Sunil Samuel of the office of admission at Hofstra.

First Lady Michelle Obama has said Malia wants to be a filmmaker. But she is also interested in radio and TV and worked as a summer intern on a CBS show.

Some students on Long Island said internships and travel are marvelous ways to learn outside the classroom.

"At the end of the gap year, I went back and I looked at myself, and I was able to say I grew as a person; that I was able to take responsibility for myself," said Adelphi student Isuri Wijesundara.

But there could be pitfalls to the plan. Lourdes Caballo said she regrets being a couch potato during her gap year.

"If this is about Malia taking that gap year to travel, I am all for it, because throughout that time, she could actually have, like, a life-changing moment," said Caballo, a theater major.

Adelphi freshman admission director Stephanie Espina extolled the benefits of the gap year.

"It's great experience for personal, professional growth, great résumé builder," she said. "Students get to hone their skills. They come back very mature."

The gap year can allow some students to work and save. Harvard and other select schools can cost more than $60,000 a year for tuition, room, board and other fees.

Malia Obama's gap year decision could keep her closer to home as her family prepares for a major transition next year – leaving the White House and returning to "normal life."

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