The photo, shared with PEOPLE, shows the former first lady at Princeton University in 1983.
“I can still remember the mix of excitement, hope, anxiety, and fear that accompanied me everywhere I went during my first year of college,” Obama, 56, said in a statement. “If I could tell the girl in this photo one thing, it would be to slow down and take a breath — you’ve got this. And that’s exactly what I want to say to all of you out there who are just starting college. You’ve got this, and I cannot wait to see where your journey takes you and everything you learn and achieve along the way.”
Obama’s new series, A Year of Firsts, chronicles the journey of five college freshman while the former first lady shares advice for new students along the way.
The show, which she announced last month in partnership with the media company ATTN:, will air six episodes between now and June following the students along their first year in college.
“As Mrs. Obama highlights in each episode, there are many hidden challenges to making it through college,” said ATTN: co-founder Matthew Segal last month. “This series will meet many students where they live—on Instagram—and share candid perspectives about how to overcome barriers.”
In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey for the Oprah’s 2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus tour, Obama said that she believes her post-presidency calling is to help inspire younger generations and foster a better future for children across the world.
“My hope is that I want to empower young people,” she told Winfrey on Saturday. “I want to empower the next generation of politicians, and community activists, and teachers and doctors and lawyers. I want to be a part of laying out a set of values and principles that we can all be proud of, of this country.”
Both Obama daughters — Sasha, 18, and Malia, 21 — are in college themselves. She opened up to PEOPLE last year about the “emotional moment” she and President Barack Obama dropped off Sasha, their youngest, last year.
“It was of course a little emotional to drop Sasha off at college,” she told PEOPLE, adding that she and her husband “were there, just like most parents, helping her unpack and make her dorm room feel like home.”
She said then that “the tough part” had been “missing our girls,” saying that it would be an adjustment to only see their daughters on weekends or holidays.
In last weekend’s sit-down with Winfrey, Mrs. Obama also shared her hands-off approach to parenting college students, saying that they now she must let her daughters find their own grooves as young adults and make their own decisions.
“What I tell them is what I continue to tell themselves is that they have to walk their own walk,” she said. “They cannot define themselves by looking at each other or looking at me or their dad. They have to take the time to get to know themselves — give themselves a moment to figure out who they want to be in the world, not who they think I want them to be, not what the rest of the world says about them, but to really think about how they want to shape their lives and how they want to move in this world.”