The Reach Higher Initiative is Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to inspire every student in the U.S. to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.

WHY: Today, to achieve the “American Dream” more students must take on education past high school.  Not only do three-quarters of the jobs in the 21st century require education and training beyond a high school diploma, but the average worker with a bachelor’s degree will earn approximately $1 million more than a worker who only has a high school diploma over the course of a lifetime. Once first in the world in college completion, the U.S. has fallen to 13th finding itself falling behind in the race to educate our children and its ability to be competitive in today’s global economy.

WHO: Through a combination of this college completion challenge and former First Lady, Michelle Obama’s personal experience as a first-generation college student, in 2014 Mrs. Obama stepped in to launch the Reach Higher initiative to inspire every student, especially first-generation and low income students, to take charge of their future and complete an education past high school.  

HOW: Reach Higher seeks to help every student navigate the college-going process by: (1) reaching students where they are at and celebrating their success on social media and through flagship events like College Signing Day; (2) raising awareness about helpful college access tools like FAFSA and Up Next and resources; and (3) enhancing student support systems by building the capacity of the school counseling profession.

Why School Counselors?

Studies show that students who met with a school counselor to discuss financial aid or college were 3X more likely to attend college, and are nearly 7X more likely to apply for financial aid. With a national average of just 1 school counselor to every 490 students, Reach Higher made a commitment to elevate the important work of school counselors and further enable them to provide the best support possible to their students.

As of 2017, Reach Higher leads a national coalition of school counselors, college access professionals, researchers and policy folks who are gathering in their state and at Reach Higher state, regional or national convenings to explore evidence-based practices that can help them increase postsecondary success.

Mrs. Obama continues to demonstrate her commitment to the work of school counselors through her participation in the School Counselor of the Year ceremony and celebration.


In 2015 Reach Higher launched Better Make Room, its student-facing campaign designed to reach students where they’re at through social media, events such as College Signing Day and the Beating the Odds Summit, and UpNext a free college access tool designed to notify students and their advisors on all things college.

The Reach Higher Initiative is now part of the Common App, enabling its ability to continue its important mission. Demonstrating her ongoing commitment to student success, Mrs. Obama serves as the Chair of Reach Higher’s Advisory Board


Join the movement to inspire every student across the country to take charge of their future by obtaining a postsecondary degree.

Visit our Get Involved page for more information on

how to bring this initiative to your school or place of work.


For questions about partnerships and collaborations contact us at:

[email protected]

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