"Malia will take a gap year before beginning school," a White House statement said, breaking a months-long silence about Malia's college search.
Both her parents attended Harvard Law School.
Malia, 17, will concentrate on finishing her high school final exams before considering how to spend her gap year, an official who had been briefed on Malia's decision told Reuters.
She has shown interest in film and television, having worked two summer internships in the industry. Last summer, she worked in Brooklyn, New York, on the set of the HBO series "Girls,"
In 2014 she worked on the set of CBS science fiction series "Extant", starring Halle Berry. The now-canceled series was produced by Steven Spielberg, a prominent donor to Obama's presidential campaigns.
Harvard College, the university's undergraduate division, said on its admissions website that it encouraged admitted students to defer enrollment for one year to travel, pursue a project or work. About 80 to 110 students did so each year, it said.