When I was growing up, the idea of college was just a futuristic fantasy world that I read about in cheesy young adult novels about coming of age and romance. I saw it as a faraway place, where teenagers become adults, where you meet your future bridesmaids and create lifelong memories. I saw it as this mystical place that was shown in movies, where friends partied all night long and had life-changing moments where they figured out what they were going to do for the rest of their lives. Of course, after completing two semesters at Binghamton University, I can assure you that although overdramatized, many of these tropes are true. I have made friendships that feel like they will last a lifetime and I’ve made some amazing memories. But truly, college is so much more than that. College is a time to reinvent yourself and leave being old school stereotypes, molds and masks.

If you’re like me, you’ve always stayed in the social bubble from your hometown. You made friends with people similar to you, who played the same sports as you or who liked the same TV shows. You had a friend group that was probably a lot like you, and never changed. Unlike all those ’90s teen rom-coms showed, there probably wasn’t much movement on the social tiers in your high school. People fit into stereotypical boxes that have plagued us for years — jocks and nerds, geeks and freaks, popular kids and loners. Sure, these might seem natural in society but studies show that these molds are unhealthy and force people to “succumb to their place” in this world. Although “High School Musical” states otherwise, high school jocks don’t tend to perform on stage in school musicals. Kids seen as “delinquents” aren’t given a chance to compete with the math team. They never have opportunities to expand horizons and experience new things. But in college, these imaginary socially constructed walls fall away.

When you first drive through that main entrance on move-in day, you have a shot — a shot to be someone new. You don’t have to be whatever you were in high school. College lets the high school football star join the board games club. College lets the girl on the robotics team join a sorority. There’s no more popular kids or bottom cliques. When you walk into your dorm building for the first time, everyone is on an equal playing field. You can be friends with anyone, no matter what sport they play or what TV shows they watch. When you’re away at college, your friend groups are mixes of all different personalities and stories. Sure, friendships still form over common interests, but they form over differences as well. Girls that were super popular in high school can become friends with the less outgoing, and nobody would blink an eye. There’s no group that’s “too cool” for you to join, or “too low” to be seen with. Even in groups built on social aspects like Greek life, there are no “tiers.” No matter what people tell you, I promise you, nobody thinks better or less of you depending on what club or organization you join. Everyone is where they want to be, there are no more imaginary walls keeping you out. Plus, if you don’t enjoy something, or it isn’t what you hoped for, leaving is perfectly acceptable. There are no limits on movement and what you do is up to you. College is free rein when it comes to social standards.

So in other words, go try everything. It doesn’t matter if you’re not the stereotypical sorority girl or the classic knitting club member. Try something new and become the person you’ve always wanted to be. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, make it. This is your time to shine. Don’t waste it. Good luck class of 2024, I can’t wait to see you on campus!

Nicolette Cavallaro is a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience.