Tiffany Trump wants to go to law school.
The president’s younger daughter graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in May and has apparently set her sights on becoming a lawyer. She has taken the Law School Admission Test and toured three of the top-ranked law schools in the country — Harvard, Columbia and New York University.
If she gets in, the 23-year-old will join the very short list of presidential children who attended law school while their fathers were serving in the White House. She’s certainly the only one with a father who has on various occasions called federal judges, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., “disgraceful,” “so-called,” “a hater” and “so political.”
The prospect of a Trump at one of these elite universities has provoked curiosity, envy and debate on law school blogs and forums.
“I was actually wondering if u guys think being who she is and her dad being who he is does that hurt or help her chances?” asked one prospective Harvard student on an online forum where participants obsessively dissect every possible detail of admission to the best law schools — which leads to the top jobs in corporate law (starting salary $180,000), elected office and the federal judiciary. Their verdict: It helps. A lot.
But Tiffany’s application may be different, says David Lat, founder of Above the Law, a leading website covering the legal profession. “The X factor is how her father’s controversial presidency affects what would normally be a big plus,” he says.
Here’s the unfair and unavoidable dilemma faced by a presidential offspring: Regardless of her grades or her test scores, most people will assume that Tiffany got into law school — or landed a great job, or accomplished anything else in her life — because of her famous name. And because that name is Trump, she could have it harder than most.
A law degree, according to sources close to her, would be Tiffany’s way of being taken seriously and earning her place in the family empire. The president’s three older children grew up in New York, have served as executives in the global brand, had a significant presence on the campaign trail and were all named to his transition team as trusted advisers.
Tiffany, on the other hand, was raised in California by Marla Maples, the president’s second wife, and has lived the life of a wealthy young heiress: a flirtation with a pop singing career, an internship at Vogue magazine and a very active Instagram account with more than 740,000 followers. Other than delivering brief remarks at the 2016 GOP convention, she’s best known as one of the “Rich Kids of Instagram,” a group of wealthy millennials who chronicle their gilded lives on social media.
The first hint of her interest in law came last summer, when she posted a photo of study guides for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and a blond bitmoji avatar with the slogan “I Got This.” Sharp-eyed observers noticed a practice test with plenty of incorrect answers, but she didn’t take the real exam until Dec. 3, when she was spotted at the City University of New York in Long Island City.
Days later, Tiffany popped up at Harvard, drawing the inevitable “Legally Blonde” comparisons. That was followed by a visit to Columbia with her mother and a tour of NYU, where she sat in on a first-year property class.
Applications for the Class of 2020 at these schools closed in February. It’s not known which, if any, schools Tiffany has applied to or been accepted at.
The White House declined to comment on Tiffany’s interest in a legal career, but she wouldn’t be the first Trump to study law: Her aunt, Maryanne Trump Barry (the president’s older sister), is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, and her brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, earned a law degree from NYU, although he has never practiced.
Tiffany graduated from Penn, the alma mater of her father and her older sister, Ivanka, with a B.A. in sociology, according to a university spokesman.
Her father, mother and siblings were all at commencement cheering her on. Her father has described her as “a great student,” although she was not listed in the commencement program as a Phi Beta Kappa member or receiving any other academic honors.
If her name were, say, Tiffany Smith, she’d need stellar grades for a shot at any of the top-ranked law schools. Most of those admitted have college GPAs of 3.75 or higher and LSAT scores of 172 or higher out of a perfect 180, putting them in the top 2 percent of those taking the test.
“The issue is how much a school would be willing to deviate from their normal LSAT standards for a famous person,” says Lat, who graduated from No. 1-ranked Yale Law School. The most elite universities always make a few exceptions for wealthy donors, celebrity students and, yes, presidents’ kids.
But even if Tiffany graduated from Penn with straight A’s and earned an impressive test score, most people will say that it’s all about her name — which has worked both for and against her.
When she was a freshman at Penn, she was quickly shunned by the Tabard Society, two members told Vanity Fair, because they were afraid that the Trump name would scare off the blue bloods who typically join the exclusive private club. (She went on to join a sorority.)
By Trump standards, Tiffany has maintained a relatively low profile, which should help her blend in on any campus, says Lat, and most of the law students he’s spoken to aren’t opposed to her as a classmate.
“My guess is that there would be a small minority of people who would give her a piece of their mind,” he says. But he thinks the majority would give her a chance. “Law students can be mean and snarky, but they believe in due process. It violates due process to have preconceived judgments about people.”
Still, questions about her aren’t likely to go away. Once admitted, law students vie for grades, law review, clerkships, internships and jobs at prestigious firms. Tiffany will be subject to intense scrutiny, second-guessing and the quiet resentments that breed in such a pressured, competitive environment.
And then there’s Dad. One blog participant wondered whether having her in class “might have more of a negative effect, where people don’t want to attack the policies or legal arguments of the person’s parents while they’re sitting right next to them. Or people could be afraid for their future career prospects if something they said that Dad doesn’t like gets back to them.”
Tiffany is reportedly interested in Yale, which accepts only 10 percent of applicants for its incoming class of 200. Of the three law schools she has publicly visited, Harvard (No. 2) is probably the best fit: The incoming class is much bigger — about 550 students — and generally regarded as less liberal than the smaller classes at Columbia (No. 4) and NYU (No. 6).
Plus it’s Harvard, a brand name even bigger than Trump.
If she ends up in Cambridge this fall, Tiffany will be on the same campus as Malia Obama, which could — at the very least — make for some interesting Instagrams.