Tips to Make College Move-In Day a Breeze

Sep 22, 2023 / Alyssa Duranty

College can be a time of exciting new experiences, learning (we hope!) and, for most students, the first taste of adulthood. But before all of that, undergrads have to first make it through college move-in day.

There’s a lot to know and do before, during and after moving into college dorms to make sure the experience is a wonderful one, according to our experts – a college junior with two years (about to be three) of dorm-living know-how and a mom with two kids who are headed to on-campus apartments.

Nothing can prepare you 100 percent for college life, but these tips should at least help make the start organized and as easy as possible!

Before College Move-In Day, Start Prepping!

public storage large moving box easy to packing clothes to your dorm room

Our student expert, college junior Sally Stunkel, suggests undergrads start packing two weeks before college move-in day. First she tackles clothes she won’t be wearing soon, and she goes slowly, spending about 30 minutes each day.

“Once it’s finally time to go, you won’t have a huge to-do list,” said Stunkel, who offers tips for students on her then blog Sweetly Sally.

Be sure to pack things like a tool kit, extra batteries and extra-long sheets for the dorm-sized twin mattresses. And get school supplies before you get to college.

“Otherwise, everything will be sold out, and you won’t be prepared for your first day.”

Our parent expert, Molly Gold of GO MOM!, is a college-move veteran, and this year is sending her second child to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where her oldest is a junior.

She starts shopping a full month ahead, when all of the stores have college-sized stuff in stock but have already started offering coupons.

“If you buy it too early, you’ll buy more than you need,” Gold said. “Less is more, and savings is king!”

During Your Move, Make Sure the Students Take Charge

Once you’ve prepped, shopped and packed the car to the gills, it’s time to head to campus and unload as fast as you can because some colleges have set time frames when you are allowed to move.

Bring a dolly, and make sure to pack things in trash bags and clear plastic storage bins that can be repurposed later.

“Look ahead of time to know where you need to be and time it,” Gold said. “You got to plan for traffic, and reviewing the campus directions are key. You got to do it exactly how they tell you to do it.”

Though many students bring family to help them move, Gold warns to keep the numbers down to avoid it getting too chaotic. Many schools have clubs with students assigned to help freshmen unload. And let your kids take charge.

“The greatest gift you can give you child is to let them organize and just be there to help,” she said. “Don’t take it over. It’s not about you.”

And once everyone is moved in, don’t linger, Gold suggests to parents.

“Drawing out that goodbye is never a good thing,” she said. “It’s like kindergarten: you got to drop them and go. You’ll cry all the way home, but they’ll be fine. Unless it’s your youngest, then you’ll give them a high five and head on vacation!”


Once You’ve Settled in Your Dorm, Stay Organized

Stunkel’s best advice to new students is to leave your dorm-room door open so you can meet new friends. She also said that keeping your room organized and clean will make your new living experience a better one.

“Most people that I know schedule a day for cleaning,” she said. “My roommate and I have the same schedule, so we clean up and tidy together, which makes it more fun. We get to listen to new music and bond while cleaning.”

So, make sure you pack some cleaning supplies. Perhaps some lucky students may not have known these existed before the days of dorm life.

And students: don’t forget to text and call your parents.

“We text every morning and night, I like to know my kids are alive,” Gold laughed. “But you don’t want to be constantly calling.”

If you’re about to be a freshman and want more tips before college move-in day, check out college advice YouTube videos.

Now that you’ve moved in, read these tips to stay organized and clear the clutter. Organizing and managing finances can be daunting for college students, read our 8 must have finance tips.

Last two photos courtesy of Sally Stunkel.

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