How Parents Can Help Make College Move-in Day a Success

As you and your student navigate your way through the summer before college, you will have many ups and downs.  There is much to be done, and tensions may run high at times.  It is a summer of excitement and emotion.  There are several things that you can do throughout the summer to help to ease the transition to college.  However, as the actual move-in day approaches, there are some specific things that you, as a college parent to be, can do to help the move go smoothly.

Preparing for the move to college

  • Be informed.  Read all of the material that you have received from the college.  Don’t be caught off guard at the last minute because you’ve forgotten something urgent.  Know college policies.  Can your student bring a microwave or refrigerator?  Are pets allowed?  Can he bring his own bed or mattress?  How much extra furniture is allowed? What paperwork will he be expected to bring with him?
  • Check specific information about arrival time. Some schools designate a specific time for you to arrive.  If they tell you to come at noon, don’t expect to be allowed to move in at 7 a.m.
  • If you are a long distance from the college, consider traveling the day before move-in and staying overnight.  Early arrival for move-in day is helpful and it can be an exhausting day.  It may be easier on everyone if you do your traveling the day before.  If you plan to do this, make arrangements early.  Local hotels may fill early.
  • Help your student make a checklist of everything he needs to pack.  Use this checklist as you pack the car.  Do the thinking ahead of time when everyone is more relaxed rather than at the last minute.
  • Gather all important paperwork in one place and leave it accessible.  If your student knows what residence hall he will be in, have that information.  If he will need to turn in health forms or financial forms, etc., make sure that they are packed on top.
  • Try to help your student not to become overwhelmed.  (This means you shouldn’t become overwhelmed!)  Take things one step at a time.
  • Remember that your student will be able to buy some things once he is at school.  It may make sense to wait to see what may be needed or to check with a roommate once he arrives.  You may take your student to a local store — or he will go on his own.  You can also bring some things next time you come to campus. Chances are, he may not need snow boots or skis until after Family Weekend.
  • Be prepared to be ”dismissed” by your student.  It may be important to him that he prepare and pack on his own.  Step back from the process when necessary, but be prepared to help out if asked.
  • Be patient with procrastination.  Packing may seem overwhelming.  And packing makes the whole prospect of college and leaving home finally very real.  Many students wait until the last moments to actually pack.  Be patient.  You are not alone.

Somehow, students always manage to get packed and fit everything in the car or van and get on their way.  Remember that it will get done, and that your relationship with your student throughout the process is important.  Be patient with your student — and with yourself.

Move-In Day Arrives — Getting In

After all of the months, and years, of preparing, it’s finally here!  But the process may seem daunting. No matter how well prepared you are, move-in day will be a new experience for all of you.

Your student’s college may send you some information ahead of time, and will probably do everything they can to help you navigate the day, but here are some suggestions that may help to make the day — and the transition — go more smoothly.

  • Be early.  Whatever time you are told to arrive for move-in, try to be on time or just a bit early.  As the day progresses, parking becomes more difficult and lines become longer.  However, don’t arrive too early.  If the school has assigned you a specific time, you may end up sitting in your car waiting for your scheduled arrival time.
  • Be prepared for a chaotic and confusing day.  The college prepares for an organized move in day, but it will still feel confusing and exhausting.  Be prepared.  Be flexible.  Be patient.
  • Be prepared for high tensions.  This is a difficult day for everyone.  Try to be patient with one another.
  • Your student will need to do multiple things in addition to physically moving his belongings into his room.  He may need to check in, pick up keys, have ID pictures taken, fill out paperwork, turn in forms, buy textbooks, set up his computer.
  • Ask what the process is.  There may be carts or bins available for moving things.  They may ask you to unload your car onto the lawn and then park somewhere else.  There may even be an army of students available to help unload and carry things.  The college has planned an efficient process — listen to them and follow directions.
  • Let your student take the lead in dealing with issues and questions.  If he needs to check in and pick up keys, stay in the background and let him do the talking. If a question arises, let him find his Residence Assistant to get the answer. Give him this opportunity to take charge of his new life.
  • Encourage your student to do anything involving lines first.  If he needs to check in or get a picture taken or go to the bookstore, do that before unpacking.  Lines get longer as the day progresses.

Move-In Day Arrives — Settling In

  • Help your student think about choosing his bed, closet, or side of the room.  Often, the first person in the room will make the first choice of the best bed and closet (if it makes a difference).  Your student may want to wait until his roommate arrives to discuss this.  Be careful that he doesn’t alienate a roommate by taking over initially.
  • Take time to introduce yourself to your student’s roommate and his family.  Exchange contact information.  It will be reassuring to know that you can contact someone else if you ever have trouble reaching your student. (Promise that you will use this option sparingly.)
  • Make sure your student asks about completing a room damage form and that he does it carefully.  This form asks your student to report any damage that he sees in the room as he is moving in.  This might include chipped paint, broken light fixtures, damaged furniture, nail holes, or scratches on the floor.  When your student moves out, someone will check the room.  Your student will be charged for damage that has occurred while he was living in the room.  He needs to report any prior issues now.
  • Don’t set up the room for your student.  Let him make his own decisions — with his roommate.  This will be his new home.  Let him work at making it his.

After Move-In — Leave taking

  • Be prepared for some awkwardness.  This is an important moment and neither you nor your student knows what to expect.  But don’t put too much pressure on this moment by giving a last lecture or expecting your student to react in any particular way.
  • Don’t plan on taking your student out to dinner.  If you would like a final, celebratory family dinner, do it the night before.  Once students have moved in, they need to begin to make connections with their new roommates and dorm mates.  Sharing a meal together — in the dining hall or by going out together – is a great time for them to make those connections.  Let them have this time.
  • Don’t linger.  Many colleges actually have a ”farewell” ceremony to help define the moment of leaving.  If your student’s school has a planned event, take the hint and leave afterward.  If the school does not do something official, use your judgment, but once he is moved in, plan to head out so that he can settle in on his own.
  • Remember that your student may be dismissive and seem nonchalant about your leaving.  This may be his method of dealing with his emotions and it doesn’t  mean that he doesn’t care.
  • Be patient with yourself and your student.  It’s an exciting — and an emotional — time for everyone.

Move-in day is a big step on your college student’s road to independence.  If you can remember your student’s first day of kindergarten, you may be experiencing many similar emotions.  Once you’ve done all that you can to help him make the transition, you’ve done your job.  Now you can focus on being proud of him — and focus on your own transition to your new role as college parent.

Related articles:

Talk to Your Student About Preventing Theft in College

Send Your Student to College with a “Comfort Pack”

Cheering Your College Student On from a Distance

There’s an Upside to Sending Your Student to College

Parents, Is Your Student Off to College? Here’s Some Homework for You

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1 thought on “How Parents Can Help Make College Move-in Day a Success”

  1. We spent two days moving our boys into housing. However, the real important, often overlooked detail is roommates! We have had to move three times to find decent roommates. Males are so inconsiderate and ill prepared for being by themselves that we find it surprising! It’s as if they are lost or finding unrestrained freedom and it is just party time! The word clean and respect somehow has been removed from their brain. Good luck for your new male students


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