Freshman year of college. You’ve been daydreaming about what this time of your life will have been like since you were in high school, and if you’re like me, probably even before that. You’ll have pored over every college brochure and Seventeen magazine article (or whatever young teen magazine you prefer) for anecdotes on what goes on behind those mystical walls. You’ll develop and subsequently deny your growing addiction to blogs like College Confidential. You’ll have done all this thinking and preparation on this moment and yet you still will never fully be ready when your stuffed into your parents’ over-packed car, finally parked in front of the dorm you will call home the next few months.

One of the first emotions that will likely be the most odd-feeling will be the amount of independence you now possess. You’ve been craving it since you hit puberty at 13 and now that you’ve finally attained it, it’s ironically hard to appreciate. On one hand, you’ve got the freedom to choose when and how to do your laundry, when and how to study (if ever), and when and how to choose whether to go out with your friends that your parents likely don’t know at all, and that’s exhilarating. On the other hand, you’ve got the freedom to choose when and how to do your laundry, when and how to study (if ever), and when and how to choose whether to go out with your friends that your parents likely don’t know at all, and that’s terrifying. You’ll spend more time than you ever did worrying on whether you picked the right classes, major, or friends. But what you’ll eventually learn is that is that no matter the outcome is, your decision will hopefully be all your own for one of the first times in your life, and even if you don’t see it now will help you become a more confident person down the road.

And in between all of those college folk tales you’ve heard of how wild the parties are and awful the dining hall food is, they may have forgotten to mention one more crucial thing: that you still will have schoolwork to do in school. And for some of you, the coursework will be a blip in your daily life. But for most of us, particularly towards the final weeks, the work will seem like an overwhelming load that you’ll never be able to complete by the deadline. The essays alone will be more in quantity and page requirements in one semester in college than from a year in high school. But remember that you will be able to get it done. And when the semester is done with and you’re sleeping for what seems like the first time in months after breaks, you’ll appreciate how the challenging work better informed you to pursue your field down the road.

And of course, even after months of completing applications, tours, and deposits, you may still doubt your choice of school from time to time. You might have a hard time finding your calling socially or academically, and may even consider transferring. College, even if you go to a small liberal arts school like me, can be confusing and scary, and you’ll have lots of bad days when all you want to do is curl up in your bed with nothing but a pint of Ben & Jerrys and never get up again. It’s always hard to start over someplace new. But most times if you stick it out and face the next day, you’ll find someplace or someone who will share your old and new interests. And if you decide to transfer? No shame in that. You only get a few chances in life to fully engross yourself in college, so do what works to give yourself the next best few years you can get.

You’ll learn all of these lessons and probably many more on the bumpy rite-of-passage transition to college. And though it may be one of the most daunting years of your life, you’ll find that it was probably one of the most interesting and challenging years of your life as well.