It’s been a long road from that first dream of attending college, through the preparation, the applications, and the final decision. Then came the busy summer of getting ready, and now it’s finally here – Move-In Day!
Who’s in charge on college Move-in Day you may ask? The short answer is, “It’s not you.”
Amidst all of the hustle and bustle of the day, the seeming chaos and confusion, it may feel as though the most efficient thing you can do to help your student is to take charge and keep things moving in the right direction. This isn’t necessarily the best approach.
There are three players engaged in this move-in process – you, your student, and the college. So who’s in charge? First the college, then the student, – and then the person who’s actually along for the ride – that’s you. Everyone has jobs to do, and it’s important that you know what your jobs are – and what they aren’t.
This may be your first Move-In Day, but the college has conducted Move-In Days many times. As chaotic as the day may seem to you, the school has had plenty of practice over the years and has developed an efficient system that they know works. It’s important to listen and follow directions.
Your instructions may begin with your arrival time. Many colleges plan a staggered schedule so everyone isn’t trying to pull up to the dorms at the same time. Arrive when you’re told. There will be plenty of college employees and volunteers showing you where to go and what to do. Pay attention.
The college will make this as painless as possible, but there will be lines and lots of moving parts. Encourage your student to follow directions, ask questions, and be patient. You’ll need to be patient, too, and step back and allow things to unfold.
Your student really is the star of the day. This day marks the true beginning of their new independence and their life as a college student. The college may be in charge of providing the structure for the day, but it is up to your student to step up and take charge of what they do.
Your student’s first task may be simply to see that all of their belongings wind up in their new dorm room, but they have several other tasks to complete as well. There are logistical tasks like checking in, turning in paperwork, picking up room key or swipe card, perhaps having an ID picture taken, and completing room damage forms. But there are also the tasks of getting to know a new roommate, meeting others in the dorm, finding and getting to know their Residence Assistant, and setting up their room.
It’s important not only to allow your student the space to complete these tasks, but to encourage them to do them on their own. Although you may be tempted to ask questions of the RA, stand in the paperwork line for your student, or offer your creative suggestions for how to rearrange the room furniture, it’s time for your student to take these essential steps toward owning this college experience as their own.
Parents, no one said this day was going to be easy. If you’re exhausted at the end of the day, it may be more from holding back and all of those things you don’t do than from all that you do contribute.
Family (yes, you)
You may not be in charge on Move-In Day, but you are still an important player. You may be stepping back and allowing your student to take ownership of their experiences as they follow the college’s directions, but you have a few tasks of your own to complete.
- Steel yourself for a potentially emotional day. It’s a big step. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed, or sad, or excited, or nervous, or all-of-the-above. Be prepared.
- Encourage a timid student to step up and take the lead.
- Carry lots of stuff.
- Make your student’s bed if it makes you feel better. (It’s a ritual that satisfies many a parental need.)
- Take time to get to know and connect with other parents. You’ll probably see them again at Family Weekend.
- Take a break and go get a cup of coffee or go for a walk if/when things get tense.
- When it’s time, leave, don’t linger. Give that last hug or word of encouragement, then turn and walk away. Your student needs now to take on the tasks of settling in, making connections, and starting their new life.
- Be incredibly proud of your student and what they have ahead of them.
Move-In Day can be a stressful day for everyone, but reminding yourself that you’re not the driver now, you’re a passenger along for the ride, will help you and will help your student. Whether you spend the ride home weeping or celebrating, you’ve passed another milestone – and you have a new road to travel as well.