In a new interview in the latest issue of Seventeen magazine, on newsstands April 19, the first lady shares the college advice she's given her daughters, Sasha, 14,and Malia, 17, with young women and men across the country.
"The one thing I've been telling my daughters is that I don't want them to choose a name," she says. "I don't want them to think, 'Oh I should go to these top schools.' We live in a country where there are thousands of amazing universities. So, the question is: What's going to work for you?"
Tom Schirmacher / Seventeen
She would know. Despite doubts from her high school counselors, the first lady attended Princeton University, graduating cum laude in 1985, and went on to earn a degree from Harvard Law School in 1988.
"When it was time for me to apply to colleges there were some counselors who said, 'Maybe, with Princeton, you're reaching a little high,' " she recalls. "And I thought, 'You really don't think I can do it?' "
"But here's what I did: I decided to ignore the doubters. I plunged ahead and I got in. I went on to Harvard Law School and every step of the way I used those doubting voices as motivation."
President Obama has given similar advice to his eldest daughter, Malia, who will begin college in the fall. (The 17-year-old's choice of school is still unknown.)
"One piece of advice that I've given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college," Obama previously said. "There are a lot of good colleges and universities out there, and it's important, I think, for everybody here to understand you can find a college or university that gives you a great education.
"Just because it's not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn't mean that you're not going to get a great education there. So one is, lower the stress levels in terms of just having to get into one particular school."