Fans and her parents alike may have been shocked with her decision, but the reason Jazz Jennings initially deferred her Harvard admission is perfectly understandable, even for those of us who don't have cameras following our every move. With so much going on in her life, and so many eyes watching, it made sense Jennings needed some time to herself before embarking on this next chapter in her life.
But, just a few months after making the announcement, the I Am Jazz star said she'll be joining the Harvard Crimson Family sooner rather than later after all. Jennings took to social media to excitedly share her plans with fans, despite confirming in October that it'd be a while yet before she arrived in the Ivy League college's prestigious halls.
Jazz Jennings is Harvard bound
After previously deferring her start, Jennings confirmed on Instagram that she's actually heading to Cambridge, Massachusetts very soon. "After a tough decision, I decided Harvard would be the best home for me," she wrote. The 19-year-old, who recently showed off her gender confirmation surgery scars, advised, "I can't wait to spread my wings and fly at Harvard." The optimistic message accompanied a shot of the reality star and transgender rights activist spreading her arms in front of a butterfly mural in Harvard Yard.
A deluge of congratulatory comments soon flooded in, including from Jennings' brother Sander, who gushed, "Continue you spreading your wings and radiating a positive light on everyone around you. I am so excited for you."
Jazz Jennings can't wait to start college
Jennings confirmed all the way back in May that she'd been accepted to Harvard. She initially planned to attend the coming fall, but later deferred due to feeling overwhelmed with I Am Jazz, her surgeries, and life in general. She told People a couple of months prior to being accepted that Harvard was one of her top picks, but noted, "We'll just have to see where I get into."
Even without knowing she'd definitely be attending one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Jennings was stoked to begin her college experience. "I'm really excited for the next couple of years. It's exciting and it's going to be a huge step in my life." No doubt her excitement is at an all-time high now her start date is drawing ever closer.
What Jazz Jennings' life will be like at Harvard
Jazz Jennings, the star of the TLC show I Am Jazz is quite the accomplished young woman. Assigned male at birth, Jennings knew from a young age that she was actually a girl. Her parents were quick to support their daughter's identity, leading to Jennings becoming one of the youngest people to ever be diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Jennings became a public figure in 2007 at the age of 6 when she appeared on 20/20. Since then, she has became an outspoken advocate for transgender rights and, through her television show, has grown up in front of our very eyes. Soon the teenager will be off to college but not just any college. Jennings has been accepted to Harvard, the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and obviously one of the most prestigious.
Going off to college is going to be quite a big change for the young star. Jazz Jennings is taking a gap year first, but eventually she'll be leaving home and entering a whole new world. While we can't predict the future, we can come up with a pretty good picture of what Jennings' life at Harvard might be like.
Harvard was one of her dream schools
Getting accepted to Harvard is a dream that many aspire to, but few attain. A whopping 43,330 students applied to the school's class of 2023, and just 1,950 were accepted. That's a 4.5 percent acceptance rate a record low. "The Class of 2023 is remarkably accomplished and promising by any standard," William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, said in a press release (via The Harvard Crimson). "Reading their applications and getting to know these individuals through their unique experiences and talents inspires great confidence for the future of Harvard College and our society."
This makes Jennings' feat of being accepted to the prestigious institution even more impressive. "I'm hoping that they will accept me because it's definitely one of my top choices," she told People early in 2019 when she was still waiting to hear back from the schools she applied to. While Harvard was a top choice, it wasn't Jennings' only option. She also looked at Princeton and Pomona, where she was also accepted.
She'll be far from home
Moving up north for college is going to be quite the change for Jennings. The South Florida teen is going to need an entirely new wardrobe to get through those Massachusetts winters. Going off to school is already a major life change, but going from a notoriously warm and sunny state to the Boston metropolitan area, which is no stranger to snowstorms, is going to be a big transition.
The weather might not be ideal, but Harvard has other offerings. Aside from its reputation for excellence, the description of first year life on Harvard's website seems pretty idyllic. Freshmen live in or adjacent to Harvard Yard where the dormitories are lined with trees. Jennings will share a suite with other freshmen and eat in the first year dining hall where she can get to know her peers. Harvard is also home to the largest university library system in the world — perfect for a bookworm like Jennings, who has already written her own book.
She doesn't have a major yet
Like many new college students, Jennings is going to enter her freshman year without a major (or, in Harvard speak, a concentration). According to Central College, 75 percent of American college students either start off their college careers without a major or change their major at least once, so Jennings is in good company. By not pigeonholing herself into an area of study she'll be able to adjust to her new environment, focus on taking general education requirements, and give herself time to decide the field of study she's most interested in.
There are some core courses at Harvard that all students have to take. Jennings will take a class called Expository Writing 20 to hone her scholarly writing skills with other freshmen. The school also recommends that all freshmen sign up for a freshman seminar. Seminars are offered in a variety of subjects from the humanities to the sciences and have fewer than 15 students in each class. She will also need to demonstrate proficiency in a second language by the end of her second year, so it's likely she will end up in a language class.
She already has an idea of what she wants to do after school
While she hasn't declared what she will be studying yet, Jennings does have some ideas. "I'm thinking about gender studies," she told People. "Philosophy, maybe even Religion. Communications, Journalism, Writing. All those things."
It sounds like she has some narrowing down to do before finally settling on a concentration, but Jennings' wide array of interests reflects what she wants to do after graduation: change the status quo. "With my life what I want to do is really combat a lot of the social systems that have dictated our societies for so long," she said. "There's so many things that people don't even realize they are allowing to rule their lives. I'm hoping I can just do what I can to help this world move forward to a more loving and accepting place where we don't judge each other as much."
As always, she'll have to deal with some haters
Jennings has overcome so much in her life. People who identify as transgender are often the target of harassment, and trans adolescents in particular have high rates of attempted suicide. The fact that Jennings has openly documented her experiences and become a public spokesperson for trans rights is proof of how remarkable she is. "I think that a lot of people don't understand how much discrimination transgender people actually face," she told Dazed. "They think that we're just kind of saying it to put it out there and get sympathy, but that's not true at all. I wasn't allowed to use the girls' restroom. I wasn't allowed to play on the girls' soccer team."
In spite of the impact Jennings has already made in the world, and all she has had to overcome to do so, there are still some people who are quick to criticize her and minimize her accomplishments. These naysayers have said that Jennings doesn't deserve to go to Harvard, and that she was only accepted to the school because of her celeb status.
She'll probably do well in her classes
There might be haters out there who don't think that Jennings will succeed at Harvard, but the teenager has the intellectual prowess to flourish at the top institution. Jennings graduated at the head of her class, and she's got the receipts to prove it. She posted her academic record on her Instagram story, which was captured before it expired and shared by Starcasm. Jennings reportedly graduated with a class rank of 1 out of 113 and a weighted cumulative GPA of 5.4138. Those are some impressive stats no matter how you look at it.
"Try to tell me I didn't get in out of academic merit," Jennings also wrote in her Instagram story. "Yes, my advocacy and the show helped significantly, but my balance of that combined with my academic achievements is what ultimately got me admitted. I worked hard and I know that... I have the right to be proud of myself."
She's probably not eligible for financial aid
Harvard is a great school, but it's also an expensive one and it looks like the family will be paying for all, if not most, of it out of pocket. While TLC doesn't disclose how much they pay their reality stars, The Squander estimates that the Jennings family makes around $10,000 per episode. They estimate Jennings' personal net worth at $200,000, and the family's net worth at $5 to $10 million. This total also includes the estimated $300,000 per year her dad makes as an attorney.
The cost of attending Harvard is just under $75,000 per year. The school offers generous financial aid packages with roughly 70 percent of Harvard students receiving some sort of aid. However, the school's net price calculator estimates that, based on the Jennings' family income, she won't be eligible for aid through the school.
This doesn't mean, though, that the Jennings family is necessarily footing the bill for her entire education. Given her impressive academic record, it's quite possible that she has scholarships that haven't been disclosed to the public.
She won't be able to join a sorority, but it's not for the reason you think
One thing many people look forward to when going off to college is joining the Greek system. Unfortunately, Jennings won't be able to join a sorority. While it's not unheard of for sororities to ban trans women from joining their organizations, the reason Jennings won't be able to join a sorority isn't because of discrimination. It's simply because sororities no longer exist at Harvard.
Beginning with the Harvard class of 2021, members of single-gender organizations are banned from leadership positions in students groups and ineligible for endorsement for fellowships and scholarships. "Although the fraternities, sororities, and final clubs are not formally recognized by the college, they play an unmistakable and growing role in student life, in many cases enacting forms of privilege and exclusion at odds with our deepest values," wrote the school's president, Drew G. Faust, in an email to students (via The Harvard Crimson). "The college cannot ignore these organizations if it is to advance our shared commitment to... making Harvard a campus for all of its students."
It took a couple years for all the groups to give in to the pressure from the school, but in 2018 the school's last sorority re-formed as a co-ed group.
She'll have at least one famous classmate
Harvard is known for attracting people from all walks of life, and that includes celebrities and their kids. The Ivy League school boasts one of the strongest alumni networks in the country. Jennings won't be the only famous face on campus when she starts school. She'll join current Harvard students with celeb status such as Malia Obama, daughter of Barack Obama, as well as actress and activist Yara Shahidi on campus.
Jennings will also have at least one famous person joining her in the class of 2023. Fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons announced in March 2019 that her daughter, Aoki Lee Simmons, will be attending Harvard as well. "She's on her way to #Harvard!!" the proud mom wrote in an Instagram post. "We are sooo super proud of YOU!! Such hard work and only 16," Kimora added. "You did it! It took years of super dedication and lots of tears! But HERE YOU ARE!!! GO GIRL!!! Enjoy the journey! We are excited to see the great things you will do! Sorry I'm one of those SUPER LOUD MAMAS! She also got into Dartmouth, Vassar, Barnard etc!"
Her school will stand by her
Jennings is a strong, brilliant, and accomplished young woman, but sadly there are still a lot of bigots who discriminate against trans people. Fortunately, she has picked a school that stands by its trans students. "If you are exploring what gender means to you, and you think you might benefit from chatting with someone in our office, we invite you to reach out to us," reads Harvard's page for the Office of BGLTQ Student Life.
In the city of Cambridge where Harvard is located, as well as in nearby Boston, ordinances are in place that protect a person's right to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender. That same rule is in place on campus. That's not the only way that Harvard is trying to make the school an inclusive and supportive place. Harvard also offers gender inclusive housing which allows students to room with people of any gender. Health insurance obtained through the school covers gender affirming surgery. There is also a thriving LGBTQ community on campus, and there are several student organizations dedicated to meeting the needs of the community.
Harvard has ample mental health resources if she needs counseling
College can be an incredibly stressful time for anyone. Jennings is going to be leaving home and moving to the other side of the country. This, combined with her studies (not to mention her celebrity status) means that she has even more pressure put on her than the average Harvard freshman. Fortunately, Harvard offers mental health services to its students that are provided at no cost.
Jennings has opened up about her binge eating disorder in the past. "The past few months have been very difficult for me. Ever since I got my license, I've had more freedom to go to restaurants and, you know, I order in food through those apps that like deliver to your door," said Jennings in a YouTube video in 2018. "I don't know why those exist. They're so dangerous."
Considering that Jennings blamed easy access to food for her weight gain, having access to mental health resources on campus will be a great help to her if the many food options on campus trigger her eating disorder.
She might join one of Harvard's organizations for Jewish students
The Jennings family is Jewish, and Jennings previously attended a Jewish day school. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best experience for her as she was subjected to discrimination on campus. Her parents had to convince the school to allow her to attend the school while presenting as a female, although it would be years before the administration let her use the women's bathroom.
At Harvard, Jennings will not only be able to connect with the LGBTQ community but will also be able to get in touch with her Jewish roots in a welcoming environment if she chooses to do so. The campus has many resources for Jewish students, including several Jewish organizations. Jennings will be able to celebrate Jewish holidays with Harvard Hillel and join one of the prayer communities on campus; there are a few, each one catering to a different branch of Judaism. Jennings might also join the Jewish Women's Group or BAGELS, a group for students who identify as Jewish and gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans.
She'll probably have to use her legal name
As fans probably know, the name Jennings is not the family's legal name. The Jennings clan adopted the moniker to protect their true identity as much as possible when you're an internationally recognized family. "Jennings is our pseudonym, to sort of make life easier," Jennings' mom told the Miami Herald. "We try to hide our real last name as much as possible. Our last name is a very Jewish, long last name. We found it easier at this point."
Harvard requires students to enroll under their legal names, although faculty and staff call all students by their preferred names. It won't be necessary for Jennings' full name to be spelled out on her ID, although it does have to be some variation of her legal name, such as her initials instead of her full name. This is because Harvard needs to be able to verify a student's legal identity, which requires them to use the name on their government records.
Will she join one of Harvard's many a capella groups?
One of the lesser known facts about Jennings is that she is an amazing singer. She hasn't shared a lot of this impressive talent, but a YouTube video of her singing the opening lines of "And I Am Telling You" prove that she has some serious pipes even though she does make light of her singing for most of the video. The reality star has talked about her love for singing before, telling Us Weekly, "I sing constantly, and my song choices often reflect my current mood. When I'm not singing, my family knows something's up."
While music isn't one of the areas of study Jennings is considering, she'll sill be able to make use of her talents. Harvard has a plethora of a cappella groups, and it's possible that we might see Jennings join one of them. While these groups are student run, there are also a number of singing groups led by faculty members that Jennings can take for college credit.