By Sierra Aceto

You heard all your high school teachers preach about how college will be “different.” And sure, it is different — I don’t have to wake up at 6:00 a.m. anymore and I’m not stuck in one building for seven hours every day. I do, however, have to read several hundred pages of text every week and occasionally write a 15-page paper in a couple nights.

While some of these differences are more preferable than others, the adults in our adolescence definitely made college seem scarier than it is. And while it may not be all that scary, there’s definitely more to it than you might think.

Transitioning into college is more than just school work and new sleep schedules. It’s experimenting with your identity. It’s testing your limits and pushing yourself beyond them. It’s being in charge of every part of your existence and being able to play with that responsibility, as well as struggle through it. It is so much more than majors, grades and GPAs.

So while entering college may feel like the time to step up your game and grind harder than you ever did in high school, don’t forget to live your life, too. Some of the most amazing opportunities won’t be the result of high grades or hours of studying. The best experiences and memories you’ll have from college will be the most unexpected moments. Don’t miss out on them because you locked yourself in your room to study every night.

The classes you take may be more demanding and the time management more tricky to finagle, but ultimately college shouldn’t be about adding more pressure to your life.

Many grade schools try to hammer into our minds that we always have to go above and beyond to be successful. But, who said success should always be the end goal? What if instead we chose to strive for knowledge, for peace, or for confidence? What if we shifted the purpose of higher education from a pursuit of success to a pursuit of expanding our minds and challenging our beliefs?

In short, your college experience can be whatever you shape it to be — the key point being that you alone have agency over your life at school.

Ultimately, you can do whatever you want with your time here. But, coming from someone who’s lived through my fair share of time at college, I hope that you give yourself the opportunity to explore all of the things that college can be for you. It can be more than just an education, it can be a whole life lived in a short four year window (or five year window, for all you super-seniors out there). Make it worth your time.