Tips for Moving College Students into Dorms - 2 Dads with Baggage

Tips for Moving College Students into Dorms

With two kids moving into college dorms this fall, we will soon be empty nesters! Ava is off to her freshman year of college in Northern California, and Sophia is starting her sophomore year in Colorado. It’s a weird and wonderful time as parents, getting them ready to go off to college and preparing ourselves for a (much) quieter house. In the process, we’ve learned a lot about moving college students into dorms and we’ve got some tips to share.

Some things we’ve learned the hard way. For example, overestimating how much we can fit into the back of a compact car. However, we’ve been through this more than once now. We’ve amassed some good advice and tips of moving college students into dorms successfully. Hint: it’s all about organization and simplicity.

Sophia at CMU
Getting Sophia ready for college, we’re helping her organize and make lists.

Going Off to College is a Big Step

As parents prepare for moving college students into dorms, it’s easy to over compensate. We want our kids to be comfortable in their new surroundings, and not feel their environment is so different that they remain unsettled. All parents want their college-bound kids to acclimate to their new lives. Part of that is creating safe haven in their dorm rooms. Giving them some sense of peace and a touchstone to the safety of their room at home is important.

At the same time, this is a chance for college kids to branch out and feel their new independence. If they are anything like me when I was that age, I could not wait to flee the house and my parents. I wanted to be in charge of my own life, my own destiny. Once I had a taste of all that independence, however, I started to miss the comforts and conveniences of home.

They Will Want to Bring EVERYTHING

Believe us – if our girls could have brought every single thing in their bedrooms, they would. As it was, when Sophia cleared out for her freshman year her room looked like a barren wasteland. Everything was taken off the walls, and all her personal effects had been packed for the move. Her closet and drawers were the cleanest (and emptiest) we had ever seen them. It was dramatic.

You are going to have to be the strong parent(s) in this equation. Encourage them to take only the necessary items for this first round, and leave some behind. There is no way they can bring it all. Yet it’s probable that your college-bound kid has no sense of size or space. They don’t realize all their stuff will not fit into a small dorm room. (Let alone if they are sharing it with another student.) The closets are tiny. Really tiny.

SUV hatchback full of luggage and ready for a road trip
When getting your kid ready for dorm life, overpacking is the biggest challenge.

Tips for Moving College Students into Dorms

This set of tips for moving college students into dorms is only half the equation. The other half is emotional and mental, as they prepare themselves for an exciting new direction. Even so, these tips will help keep your family organized so that the dorm move-in goes smoothly. Read on for our learnings and suggestions.

1.Make a list and check it twice.

Create a list of all the things you will need, organized by category. Bedding, bath, desk, closet, decor, etc should all be listed separately so you can create an approach to shopping for what is needed. This way, you can work down the list and feel some sense of accomplishment as you spend all that hard earned money.

2. Get a layout of the dorm room.

If you can visualize how big (or small) your kid’s space will be, it will help prevent over-buying and over-packing. It’s shocking how little space each kid is allotted, especially if they are sharing a room with another kid. Plan on working with the furniture provided, and play with the layout to maximize space. Allow your kiddo to participate in this process so it feels like home to them. Feeling familiar with the space in advance of getting there will ease those first-day tensions.

3. Connect with the new roommate(s) early.

Most colleges make roommate assignments in the spring, allowing the kids to connect in advance of moving in together. Allowing them to build a friendship in advance will help with those early jitters. From a practical standpoint, it will also help determine who is bringing what. For example, we needed to decide who was bringing a mini-frig and who was supplying a microwave for our daughter’s shared room.

Helping the kiddo move into the dorm room is a balance of helping and gentle suggestions.
4. Schedule move-in time slots in advance.

Colleges have specific times for moving students into dorms, and students can sign up for a time slot that suits them. We highly recommend choosing an earlier time,. This way your kid can choose which bed they want and settle into their space. Getting things unpacked and put away will help ease tensions and avoid both kids trying to move in at the same time. Most dorms have limited access via elevators and stairs, and things can get pretty hairy if everyone is trying to move in at the same time.

5. Less is more.

When packing up belongings, think about bringing only what is needed for the first couple of months. For our kid moving to Colorado in August, we did not bring cold weather clothes at first. All sweaters, jackets, parkas and snow boots were left at home, making way for lighter clothes suitable for summer and fall. When she came home for Thanksgiving break, she brought home her summer clothes and left them. She filled her empty suitcases with winter clothes and took them back with her after break was over.

Pack more than enough suitcases and bring some empties back home with you.
6. Check the dorm rules.

Most colleges have lists of things for moving students into dorms, and things they cannot bring. Our daughter learned this the hard way, when she insisted on bringing her scented candles to put by her bedside. No candles or open flames are allowed in her dorm buildings, and these had to be tossed in the dumpster outside. She was not a happy camper. Other rules might be specific about how things are affixed to the walls, such as no picture hangers or nails, etc.

7. Order online and manage delivery times.

A friend shared this important tip for moving students into dorms. Whatever you can order online and arrange for delivery, do it. If the dorm accepts deliveries in advance, do it. Can you order online and have it held in the store locally? Do it. Arrange for it to arrive a day or two after moving in? Absolutely. All of this can be done to avoid the massive packing, schlepping, carrying and carting of stuff halfway around the world.

Buy the smaller things at home, and leave the bulkier purchases for when you get there.
8. Shop for stuff locally.

You don’t have to buy everything in advance. Most college towns have plenty of stores that cater to students and their parents, so you don’t have to bring everything with you for the move. However, if all college students have the same idea and plan to shop locally when they move in, some items may be out of stock.  Flexibility and patience are key to a happy experience moving students into dorms.

9. Seek parent forums and groups.

We found a parents group for incoming freshman on Facebook, and joined immediately. Although some of the worry and angst expressed by a few parents was not helpful, we did learn a lot about how other parents at our daughter’s college were preparing.

10. Get the lay of the land.

If you have the luxury of arriving a couple of days early before the dorm move-in date, we highly recommend it. This way you can help your kid acclimate to their new town. You can find their favorite stores and restaurants, and show them how to navigate the streets. This way, when you leave them on their own your kid will have a sense of how to fend for themselves.

Make a list and start shopping early to avoid the last minute rush.

Keep a Stiff Upper Lip

This is hard stuff. No doubt there will be a lot of emotions flying for everyone in the family when moving students into dorms. Your kid is scared/excited to start this new life, and you are happy/sad to see them off. For us, it was hard to let go but also a proud moment to see our daughter begin this next stage in life. And yes, as we drove away from the dorm there may have been a few tears.

Your kid needs your love and support, and they also need to know you believe in them. You trust them to be on their own, and are confident they possess the skills to take care of themselves. After all, they just moved into a building of kids who are in exactly the same boat as them. They are all excited and scared and sad and happy, sometimes all at the same time. It’s been amazing to watch them come together, support each other, and grow into adults in the process.

We love spending quality time with our family in Los Cabos.

Other Tips for Moving Students into Dorms & College Advice

If you are seeking other tips and tricks about prepping for college, here are a couple of additional posts:

Smart Ways to Save for College Admission

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of College Visits


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