The more I think about it, the harder it is to believe that, two weeks from now, I will have finished my first year of college. The changes that I knew I was going to be facing in life were incredibly daunting, but I came to learn that taking a leap and making a huge change in your life can actually be a good thing in the long run. College counselors, teachers and your parents will try their best to prepare you, but the only way to learn is to experience it for yourself. That being said, here are a few things that I have learned in my first year of college:

1. If someone asks how you are, tell them the truth

Nobody will look at you any differently if you complain to them about how overwhelmed you are. In fact, they’ll probably admire your honesty and openness. I never wanted to rant about life for fear of making myself even more frustrated and stressed than I already was. Now, if someone asks me how I am, I don’t sugarcoat things because I realize that we’ve all been there. Venting makes you feel a thousand times better.

2. Naps

Twenty minutes. That’s all it takes. Any longer and you feel like a sloth for the rest of the day.

3. Keep in touch

Call your friends from home. Yes, CALL. Even if you’ve never heard their voice over a phone before, do it. There’s nothing like a long talk with a close friend that’s going through the exact same transition that you are.

4. Treat yourself

Whether it’s with a really good dessert from the dining hall, a movie marathon or a walk downtown (when you really should be studying), do something to relax once in a while. Self-care is one of the most important things to do during your busy college life.

5. It doesn't mean I'm lonely

Don’t be embarrassed when your roommate brings a few friends by the room late at night, and you’re curled up in bed watching TV on your computer. I’m all about new experiences and friendships, but taking time to yourself is important. Also, I'd much rather have a couple close friends that understand my need for space than have superficial relationships with a ton of people.

6. Independence is a good thing

Yes, I know everyone says that they become more independent in college. Of course you have to learn how to do things without your parents or anyone you know being there to explain it to you. But learning how not to rely on those around you is one of the most important and challenging elements of life at college.

7. Empathize

College is full of people who have life stories completely different from yours. Empathizing is an important way to create connections with people. I’ve learned that sometimes this is hard to do, but you become a more open-minded and accepting person for trying.

8. Find your peak time

If you have a ton of work to do, plan the rest of the day around the few hours when you’re most productive. DO NOT waste this precious time.

9. Home is a feeling

I keep saying that I’m ready to go home. What I’ve learned is that you miss the day to day life with those you love more than your physical house. Now that it’s almost summer, I am looking forward to spending time with family most of all.

10. Starting is the hardest part

It will take forever to build up that dedication to start a daunting essay or project. However, once you get started, you get in the flow, and it becomes natural. You just have to begin.

I know that I am not alone in having realized these things, and I hope that whoever reads this finds some comfort in knowing they're not alone either. College is the beginning of a new chapter in your life, and while it may be scary, the lessons you learn outside of the classroom will undoubtedly be some of the most important ones that you learn in your whole life.