Heading to college for the first time can be a scary experience. Even if you have watched older friends do it and received advice from every well-meaning adult who once went to college too, nothing can prepare you completely for the unexpected challenges you will face… but the fun times will help make up for the disasters. These are some of the questions new freshmen really need to know the answers to.

1. Why should or shouldn’t I live in a dorm?

Every new freshman has struggled with this at one time or another. After all, most colleges sell the experience of living in a dorm as something you simply have to have. On the other hand, some people say it’s unnecessary.

There are pros to living on campus if the option is available. Classes are much closer and you can sleep in or show up in your PJs if you want. Your friends will likely be a few minutes’ walk away at the most, and you don’t have to worry about snow days, traffic jams, etc. There’s a whole community surrounding you when you feel lonely or want to socialize, and it’s easy to meet up with study groups, if you’re in any. Meeting new friends is a breeze, and you’re likely to feel involved with your community, as many residences offer events frequently.

The disadvantages of living in residence include the expense, as residence costs more than your own apartment or living at home in most cases. It’s often loud at nights, particularly on Friday or Saturday nights, and if you have roommate, you might have a nightmare experience. You might not have much privacy, particularly if you have a roommate, and sharing space with others is hard if they aren’t considerate and mature.

You should make the decision on whether or not to live in residence based on your own unique situation, and what you need out of your living environment, rather than other people’s experiences and opinions.

2. How can I get the most out of my college experience?

You’ll receive a lot of unsolicited advice about getting the most out of your college years. In the end, as long as you’re satisfied that you got your money’s worth and enjoyed your college experience, rather than going through it to satisfy someone else, you’ll have made it worthwhile.

Some people advise signing up to clubs and extracurriculars whenever possible, while others advise working part-time, volunteering, taking many classes or just a few… all these options can certainly be both fun and educational, as well as putting good references on your resume, but you need to choose the right ones for you.

Consider your goals and your reason for going to college as you decide how to make it worthwhile. If you want to get a job, focus on improving your resume and networking. If you want to learn as much as possible, focus on studying and seeking out new learning opportunities. If you just want to survive, focus on working enough to be able to pay tuition while not failing classes. Everyone’s focus is different.

3. Is there such a thing as too much or too little partying?

There definitely is such a thing as too much partying, and there’s probably such a thing as too little partying, too.

Having some fun time is important, because you’re undergoing a lot of stress. Deadlines pile up, teachers are unreasonable and demanding, but when you have fun with friends, your stress levels will decrease significantly.

On the other hand, particularly when alcohol is involved, partying can take away from your studying time, wreck your health, and waste your money. An excess of just about anything is unhealthy, and partying is no exception.

It’s up to you how you balance your time at college, but remember this: long after you forget about the parties, the amount you have learned and grown from your experiences will be what matters.

4. How can I learn to be independent when everything is changing at once?

This is a challenge for just about every college-bound freshman. Some young adults are more sheltered than others, making the transition to adult life even more abrupt and hard to handle. Being suddenly on your own is scary and intimidating.

If you have some time before your year starts, try to gradually assert more independence from your parents. For instance, you can help with grocery shopping, drive yourself places, and take responsibility more and more around the house.

If you’re at school already, it’s going to be an awkward first year as you learn to handle your own independence and everything that has to get done. Don’t let your parents interfere too much and keep you from ever attaining independence, however – you’ll never learn that way.

5. How do I handle my relationship with my parents afterwards?

Your relationship with your parents is never going to be quite the same, of course. You’re now an adult, and their role has shifted from that of being a parent to that of being a friend and guide without overwhelming you or influencing your own decisions too strongly.

It’s hard for parents to make this transition, so it will probably be hard for you, too. If your parents become bossy or treat you like you’re a kid again, try gently reminding them that you’re an adult now and would appreciate being treated as such.

Every family relationship is different, so maybe you are already being treated like an adult. If so, keep up the maturity and let your parents see how well you’re doing on your own.

There are a lot of things to learn in college that aren’t covered in any classrooms. People write guidebooks, give advice to their kids, and preach what should be done to make your freshman year easier, but in the end, it’s all up to you.

If you are determined to have a rewarding and wonderful first year of college, you will likely have one.