08/21/2014 01:36 pm ET Updated Oct 21, 2014

An Open Letter to the Class of 2018

Dear Freshman,

You've made it. Three months ago, you walked across the stage at your high school either crying over the end of an era or vowing never to set foot in the school building again. Your family and friends cheered as you tossed your cap, and that day, you downloaded a countdown app that could tell you just how many hours there were until your move-in date at college.

By now, you've received your housing assignment, followed your roommate on social media, and decided who was bringing a mini fridge and who has the microwave. You've talked about all the crazy parties you'll throw in your dorm room with all of your new friends and you've bought posters that you hope will make you seem cool.

Your family will drop you off at school, and you'll be caught in a whirlwind of "what's your name again," "where are you from," and "what's your major?" You'll forget some names more than once, and soon enough, class will start and you'll settle into some semblance of a routine.

Over your first weekend, you'll spend way too long getting ready for some party a friend of a friend heard about, as if the state of your eyeliner will determine how many friends you make in your four years of college. You'll take as many posed pictures as you can and upload them to every social media site you know. You'll want to show those people who teased you in high school that you've made it to the promised land: college.

The thing no one tells you about your first year of college is that it is sometimes hard. It's wonderful, fun, and will go by in the blink of an eye, but it will not always be easy. You'll laugh, sing a fight song, and dance until your feet hurt. But you might also cry, feel alone, and stress out beyond belief.

You will survive your first semester, complete with projects, finals, and marathon shifts in the library. You'll have had some bad nights, burned some bridges with your first week friends and made some new ones. You'll probably have cried on the phone with somebody at home, but you'll pretend it never happened. When you run into the parents of some high school acquaintance over winter break, you'll tell them that college is wonderful, your friends are great, and your GPA is through the roof.

What you won't talk about is the time you had to cry softly so your roommate wouldn't hear, or about how you made a mistake at a party and can't bear to look certain people in the eye. You won't talk about how stressed you are about money or grades, and you won't mention how you fell out with the people you thought were your friends.

What no one tells you about the "promised land" of higher education is that it is wonderful, but it is not always an easy place to navigate. Moving away from home for the first time is scary, and it is okay to be scared. Having a fight with someone you thought was a friend is hard, and it's okay to be sad. Leaving your family and friends behind can make you feel alone, and it's okay to miss them.

College is a time to embrace freedom and make memories, and it certainly can be the best four years of your life, but it is also a time to discover what makes you different, to make mistakes, and to challenge yourself. Don't feel ashamed if you have a rough time with something. It doesn't mean you're "doing college wrong;" it probably means you're doing college right.