How do you prepare for your child’s college move-in day?

Thinking it all through ahead of time can make moving into the dorm much easier.

Planning Ahead

  • Carefully read all the paperwork the college sends, and make sure you know when you can check in, and what the procedures are. Can you pull up to the door, or do you have to park in a remote lot? Does your child need to go through registration and sign forms before you can unload? Should you have any particular information on hand, such as the student ID number, upon arrival?
  • Ahead of time, find out what the dorm room already has, and which items are not allowed. Can students bring a coffee maker or electric kettle? Microwave? Extension cords? Do they need a desk lamp?
  • Coordinate with the new roommate, so both students don’t bring a mini–fridge, for example.
  • Think ahead: if your child is coming home for Thanksgiving, he or she can take winter clothes back with them then.
  • Create a master list, so your son or daughter doesn’t overpack.


  • It’s common to try to pack too much. Don’t. There’s not much space in a dorm room, and most students won’t know exactly what they need until they are there anyway.
  • Consider packing in boxes or duffle bags, rather than suitcases—there probably isn’t room to store luggage. Even better, pack in under-bed storage containers, if you are sure they will fit under the bed. Tape them shut while moving them. Later, stack them under the bed to store winter clothes, extra toiletries, and towels.
  • Nest smaller items into larger ones.  Think socks inside shoes, etc.
  • Make “garment bags” by covering hanging clothes with white trash bags, so the clothes stay clean during the move.
  • Don’t forget things that make a room cozy, such as soft, comfy blankets. Will your child use a backrest pillow for propping up and studying in bed, and a reading light that attaches to the bed? Tuck in photos of friends and family.
  • Pack two or three extension cords and power strips with surge protectors, if allowed, as well as a desk lamp and light bulbs. Your student may not need a printer as many schools require papers to be turned in electronically (and school libraries have printers, in case one is occasionally required).
  • Pack the same brand of laundry detergent and dryer sheets you use at home for comforting, familiar smelling clothes.
  • Don’t pack anything that will melt or be damaged in late summer high temperatures.
  • If your child’s belongings don’t fit in the car, he or she is taking too much. Rethink.

Moving Day

  • Borrow or buy an inexpensive hand-truck from someplace like Home Depot.
  • Have a compact toolkit with a hammer, screwdriver, and pliers on hand, in case you need to raise or lower a bed or do other minor repairs. Throw in some WD40 and duct tape, for things that squeak or move when they shouldn’t.
  • Bring cleaning wipes in case you find drawers or shelves that aren’t clean.
  • Dress for the (probably hot) weather. Remind your child that moving day is not the time to dress to impress. Wear clothes that are comfortable and cool enough to move in, and then your child can shower and change afterward.
  • Bring a cooler with lots of cold drinks and snacks. The day will be much easier if no one is hungry or thirsty, and sharing may make your child some new friends, too.
Leslie Lang