Michelle Obama offers advice to college students at surprise event

The First Lady of the United States joined TV personalities Seth Myers and Nick Cannon to welcome freshmen to Howard University
September 5 2016

First Lady Michelle Obama offered advice to college students during a surprise appearance at a welcome event for freshmen at Howard University in Washington DC on 1 September.

Ms Obama joined late-night television host Seth Myers and actor Nick Cannon, who is enrolled as a freshman at the university.

All three emphasised the importance of working hard at university and stressed the impact college can have on careers.

Ms Obama said: “College is probably the most impactful thing I have done in my life, other than becoming the First Lady and having kids and marrying Barack Obama.”

“It built my confidence for one. It taught me that I could leave home and be successful away from home.

“It taught me how to open up, how to try new things that are scary, how to buck expectations and beat the odds. All that good stuff.”

The famous personalities told many personal anecdotes about their time at college and had advice for the incoming students on topics ranging from hygiene to time management.

Nick Cannon, who is juggling his studies alongside a variety of jobs while raising children, advised students that studying should always be their first priority.

He said: “It’s all about time management. I’m sure we have some athletes here with all the extracurricular activities, and I consider all my jobs like extracurricular activities, but school comes first so I’m building my [work] schedule around my classes.”

Ms Obama agreed that there’s always more than enough time to fit in everything, as long as students do not procrastinate.

However, she also advocated a very busy social life to supplement classes, saying: “As freshmen you should not be spending time alone in your rooms, unless you are studying.

“When you’re not, get out there. Push past your comfort zone, meet people, introduce yourself to people.

“Don’t think that people are going to come to you. I wish I had known that because I think I would have taken a few more risks.”

One of the most practical tips Ms Obama offered was that students should endeavour to take internship opportunities, even if their financial situation made that difficult.

She explained: “I couldn’t afford to do free internships because I had to earn money. But I would urge you all to do internships, even if you have to earn some money.”

Ms Obama and Mr Myers both said that internships give students the opportunity to try new ideas, gain practical experience and build up their resume. Mr Myers also assured students that everyone notices the hard work of interns, even if they think that they are invisible.

Asked why he chose Howard University, Mr Cannon said, to cheers: “This is Mecca.”

“Why do you think this is such a prestigious institution? I’m a huge fan of some of the alumni, like Paul Laurence Dunbar and so many people that have really been impactful in our community throughout the years.”

On a slightly more ominous note, Mr Myers shared advice of his own for college students, saying: “Embrace this time. When you get out of college no one gives you time any more.”

Michelle Obama’s advice for college students

  • Don’t procrastinate. Focus on time management
  • Try new things
  • Take the initiative and have an active social life
  • Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone
  • Hold on to your authentic self
  • Stay confident
  • Choose a major that you are passionate about
  • Look for internship opportunities during the summer breaks
  • Failure is part of success. Don’t hide from your failures
  • Seek help when you are struggling
  • Ignore the doubts and just do the work

Watch Michelle Obama, Seth Myers and Nick Cannon in full at Howard University's welcome event:

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