Opening my acceptance letter to my current university was one of the greatest moments of my life… but it was also one of the most terrifying.

Up until that moment, I had lived my life in a bubble of security. I knew my small hometown like the back of my hand, and I had gone to the same school with the same kids since kindergarten. The idea of heading off to a huge school made me so scared; scared that I would never fit in, scared that I would hate my major, scared that I would flunk all of my classes and become a huge failure.

While that may sound slightly ridiculous and majorly cliche, it’s true. I found out that almost every incoming freshman feels the same way. I had dreamt of going to this school for so long but I was also beginning to dread it.

My mom received an email about Pre-Orientation Programs; programs that cater to freshman and incoming transfers to help ease the transition to college life, and she pestered me to do one until I caved and signed up, and I will never be able to thank her enough.

There were numerous programs offered to first year students; whether they were based on religious beliefs, military training, community service, or hiking trips to the area around the school. Regardless on what you picked, the concept was pretty much the same; hang out with a bunch of people in the exact same boat as you, while also hanging out with upperclassmen who can answer every single one of your 100,000 questions.

I walked in on the first day of the program knowing no one, and I walked out knowing 60 new first-year students and a dozen upperclassmen. The entire week we stayed up into the early hours of the night talking about classes we were taking, our high schools and life in general, ignoring the fact that we had to wake up early for a day full of activities. I had begun to understand that being thrust out of my bubble meant that I could get to know so many amazing people whom I would have never gotten to know otherwise and that I constantly wanted to mingle and get to know them before the week was over.

I realized that I wasn’t supposed to have all the answers, or even act like I did because the fact of the matter is that no one has the answers, or can even come close. I realized that college is about finding the answers through experience, guessing and even failing. The people that I met during my Pre-Orientation Program have become my best friends to this day, and I am almost two years into my college life.

Coming into college after a week of nothing but amazing experiences and amazing people made everything so much easier. I had people to support me, and the upperclassmen had helped me understand the ridiculously complicated Orientation week to come.

Having 60 new friends on campus to grab dinner with, explore campus with, come to events with, and talk to when I felt overwhelmed made my entire first semester amazing.

If I could say anything to an incoming college student, it’s this, see if pre-orientation programs are offered at your school. It will start your college life with more treasured memories than just laying at home an extra week, I promise.