College Game Plan

Why Jenna Bush Hager choose UT Austin: Friends and A Place to ‘Make Mistakes’

Why I Chose UT Austin, from TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager 2:52

Applying to college is stressful to begin with. Now imagine going through the process while your father is campaigning for president.

TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager applied to college in 1999, the same year her father, former president George W. Bush, ran for office. After a long application process, Hager ultimately decided on the University of Texas at Austin.

“I think I was a Texas Longhorn fan for my entire life,” she told College Game Plan. “I always dreamed of going to Texas. It felt natural.”

In "Why I Chose," a new series from's College Game Plan, NBC News anchors, reporters and friends reflect on the college application process and share the moment they knew their alma mater was the one for them.

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For Hager, UT at Austin was the “safe choice.” Her twin sister Barbara attended Yale, but Hager wanted to attend a school where she had a loyal group of friends.

Going through college with a father in the White House was certainly unusual, but Hager insists her dad’s high-profile job did not have a strong impact on her experience.

“When you’re going to college, you’re kind of selfish,” she said. “You’re focused on what you want to study and what you want to become."

Though she said her college experience was mostly typical, Hager felt she had a little bit of a different experience when she woke up on campus on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I felt worried about our country and sad for the loss of life. And then, I worried about my parents,” she said.

Malia Obama, Barack Obama's oldest daughter, is currently going through the college application process, and Hager said she hopes Malia will find the right fit.

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“I’m sure she’s going to pick a place where she feels nurtured and safe,” she said.

A challenge Malia will face when she heads to college that Hager didn't have to contend with? Social Media. Hager is grateful she did not have to worry about Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms when she went to college.

“We weren’t perfect,” Hager said. “And I don’t think kids should be perfect. College is really a time in a safe way to make mistakes and explore who you are.”