Rice attended Stanford University, where she received a Truman Scholarship, and graduated with a B.A. in history in 1986. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, Rice attended New College, Oxford, where she earned a M.Phil. in 1988 and D.Phil. in 1990. The Chatham House-British International Studies Association honored her dissertation entitled, "Commonwealth Initiative in Zimbabwe, 1979-1980: Implication for International Peacekeeping" as the UK's most distinguished in international relations.
Rice's classmates and professors OF Oxford included advocates of the role of the United Nations and international law (Sir Adam Roberts, Benedict Kingsbury), of global economic governance and international economic cooperation (Ngaire Woods, Donald Markwell), and of a firm stance against Russian authoritarianism (Michael McFaul).