Michelle Obama Talks Money, Food & Confidence to College Freshmen

Michelle Obama took the opportunity to pass on to college students the same practical and invaluable advice she's given her own daughters.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama had some wonderful advice for 100 first-generation college-bound students, continuing the Reach Higher initiative she started in the White House

Going off to college for the first time can be a challenge to any young person, many of which will have to deal with the responsibility of handling their own finances for the first time - and their freedom.


Michelle, who graduated from Princeton University in 1985, had plenty of helpful tips for the members of the Reach Higher project which endeavors to offer underrepresented and low-income students the possibility of a college education.

Michelle spoke at length to the 100 students who will be starting college this fall and gave them practical advice on how to avoid the common pitfalls of college life.

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This is Darius Wesley, who I first met at a #BeatingTheOdds Summit back in 2014. Back then, he’d just graduated from North Lawndale College Prep in my hometown of Chicago. Growing up on the west side of the city, Darius lost friends and family members to violence and drugs. In high school, he was forced to uproot his life when his mother faced a series of health issues. At times, Darius told me, he just wanted to give up. But he didn’t. He couldn’t. It’s not who he is. Five years later, he’s channeled the lessons he learned while overcoming those obstacles into a marketing degree at Cleveland State University—becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college. I could not be prouder of this young man. Looking back, Darius said, "I appreciate those challenges-–they caused me to reach back and remember the support system that I have in the back of my pocket. All of the teachers and coaches that believe in me as a player, as a student, as a person. My mother, sisters, and brothers are all looking for me to just do better." Next Tuesday, Darius will once again join me in DC for our 5th anniversary #BeatingTheOdds Summit with @ReachHigher—one of the most inspiring days of the year. And in the meantime, I want to hear from all of you: Who's a young person in your life who is #BeatingTheOdds? Share their stories with me in the comments below. #ReachHigher

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Hardest of all to deal with for Reach Higher students is the scholarship money or student loans.


Michelle told the students not to be intimidated by the more confident.-seeming and bold fellow colleagues they will meet on campus. 

“You always think that somebody else knows more than you do. I’ve been at probably every powerful table there is to be at. I have been on boards with some of the top CEOs. I’ve had dinner with the frickin’ Queen! I’ve been to the summit of world leaders. … They’re not smarter than you,” Michelle told them.

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This resilient and hardworking young lady is Anta Nije. I first met Anta back in 2015 when I spoke at King College Prep’s graduation on the South Side of Chicago. Three years later, I caught up with Anta in Atlanta while talking to a group of college students during my #IAmBecoming book tour. A first-generation college student, she graduated just last month from @Spelman_College where she studied political science and journalism. While at Spelman, she hosted a podcast, mentored first-year students at Morehouse, joined Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and became Miss HBCU. Now with her degree in hand, she’s taking her next step by interning at a fashion company in Paris and with a dream of one day building her own fashion brand. I’m so proud of the person that Anta has become. She’s a terrific example of the many bright young people in our country working hard to lift up themselves and their families through education. Now, I want to hear from you. Let’s give some love to all of the inspiring #Classof2019 graduates out there -- shout them out by tagging them in the comments below! #ReachHigher

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Michelle cautioned the students about losing sight of what is sensible in a sudden rush of feeling they can do whatever they want, and losing their focus.

“You get to college and it’s like, ‘I’m just going to eat chips, French fries and ice cream because  — you know, you’re free! And you’ll say the dorm food isn’t all that good,” she said.

Michelle alerted the students to the possible pitfall of homesickness and depression.

“In order to have good mental health, it’s not just counseling. It’s trying to live a balanced life. Whether you’re getting exercise really does matter. [Ask yourself] am I walking enough? Am I moving around? Am I just sitting in my room in the dark and I’m not getting outside and breathing in fresh air?” she advised

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Today I’m headed to @Howard1867 for our 5th annual #BeatingTheOdds Summit, where I’ll be reunited with some of the students I’ve met over the years. One of these is a resilient young woman named Rachel McKenzie Scott—and her story, like so many of those we’ll be celebrating today—couldn’t be more inspiring. For much of her life, Rachel felt like the world was working against her. She lost her mother when she was 12 and not long after, her father left their family. She and her siblings became wards of the state of Washington and her two younger siblings entered foster care. She’d go to bed at night wondering where her next meal would come from, and she’d wake up in the morning worried that she wouldn’t have clean clothes for school. Every day, she worried about her family’s safety, and she often thought about dropping out and giving up. But Rachel bet on herself. She asked for help and leaned on her mentor, Melissa Repp, to get through high school and college. At the University of Washington, she found professors she could open up to, friends she could relate to, and a trusty support dog, Blu, who was always there when she needed her. Today, she’s a graduate from the University of Washington, about to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an oceanographer. But that’s only part of the story—I’ll let Rachel tell you the rest. Check out my Instagram Story today as she takes it over and gives you a behind-the-scenes-look at today’s Summit.

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Hardest of all to deal with for Reach Higher students is the scholarship money or student loans.

“This is a tough thing to talk about and it’s a pressure that a lot of first-gen kids have because it’s that pressure from home. When you get your loan check — they’re going to give you a check — it might be $10,000, it might be $15,000, and it’s tempting to think that money is yours and that you can use it to help everybody,” she said.

She went on to explain in no uncertain terms that the money is for their education, to help the family back home, or bail anyone out of trouble.

“You cannot help folks back home until you are done with you,” she said.

And of course, one piece of advice Michelle gave to the students was...Enjoy yourself, but don't party too hard!


Former First Lady Michelle Obama is passing on the values and strengths she herself received from an extraordinary woman, her mother Marian Shields Robinson.

She took the opportunity to pay tribute to her mother in a post on mother's day and to thank her for her love and support.

"From an early age, she saw that I had a flame inside me, and she never tempered it. She made sure that I could keep it lit. Mom, thank you for kindling that fire within me, and for your example as a mother and a grandmother to our girls. We would never be who we are today without you. #HappyMothersDay, Mom. Love you. ❤️" she wrote.

Marian was the fourth of seven children and her mother's grandfather, Dolphus T. Shields, born in 1860, was the son of a slave.

This strong-willed and courageous lady was a huge influence on the woman who would grow up to be the First Lady of the United States, and an inspiration to millions around the world.

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