Planning for College Move-in Day--Getting There is Half the Fun
Getting It Together
These days, the internet makes college shopping a breeze. Many stores offer a college checklist page that even includes a registry--kind of like when you got married, only towels and sheets for one. You can even shop at home and pick up your stuff close to campus, or shop online and have your order shipped directly to the dorm. As an added bonus, many places offer free shipping if you spend over a certain amount. This Gen whatever the letter grew up on the internet so, for them, any other way of getting ready for college would seem odd.
If your kid wants to shop in person, your first stop needs to be someplace for large bins--an assortment of sizes, so you can leave some there (find out what the under-bed clearance is; storage is at a premium) and re-use them on move-out day. (College students move a LOT, if you've forgotten.) Label the bins with masking tape, again so they can be used again.
Packing clothes is unique to your situation, not a one-size-fits-all approach. Some parts of the country have a fairly consistent climate, where winter means a heavy jacket and lasts about three weeks. Some campuses are large and students walk a lot, others are compact and urban. Your child's college might be across town, so swapping out a wardrobe is easy. Or, it might be a thousand miles away and everything for the year goes at one time. Regardless of how many suitcases you pack, leave just a duffle bag and maybe a hanging bag there--space is tight, and you can bring all the bags back in May.
Getting It There
Again, every situation is unique, but there is one constant. Unless you happen to live across the street from campus, you've got to get all that stuff from home to school. Here are a few options for longer distance moving, feel free to mix and match.
- Driving Yourself--if you have an SUV or two and your distance is no more than a few hundred miles, you can probably load up and go. If you've ordered the essentials online and they're coming to the dorm, you might be able to get away with one car. The downside to driving a long distance is that means time off from work for you, and hotels along the route. It can also mean babysitters for younger siblings, or pet boarding, so be mindful of expenses you'll incur.
- Flying--some kids are independent and are happy to be dropped off at the airport. Flying may work for some families, and you can ship all their stuff ahead of time so it's there when you arrive. Checking bags runs into serious money, so shipping is really the only thing that makes sense with air travel.
- Hiring Movers--may seem extravagant, but in the long run might be a really expedient solution. If you've got that Prius and are looking at renting an SUV and all the expenses that accompany a long road trip, hiring professional movers could save you time and money. Hop in the Prius and meet the movers at the dorm--and you'll have help actually moving the boxes.
Now that you've settled on the logistics for moving Junior into the dorm, start your checklist for the real move-in. Many colleges move in on a weekday (the better to mess with parent's work schedules), so the first thing you'll need to do is confirm the date and take the time off. Here are some other things to consider.
- Student Help--Most colleges have student volunteers to help you unpack and move boxes, and set up any furniture (if you're doing a loft, confirm they'd be available for that). These kids are great resources for places to eat, too.
- Stairs or Elevators--If you're lucky enough to have a building with an elevator, get ready to wait in a long, long, line. Chances are good you'll have to contend with stairs instead; possibly up three or four flights.
- Check-in--Student Housing offices tend to be a fair distance from the actual students and their housing. Before you snag a parking spot in front of the dorm and start unloading, make sure you can get into the building. Schools vary on check-in policies--some have staff at the dorms handing out ID cards and keys, others, you have to stop by the office to let them know you're there and get started.
- Cleaning Supplies--College dorms are not known to excel in cleanliness. They are cleaned between residents, but not to five-star hotel standards--and might not get vacuumed again until May. Bring along some wipes and a dry mop to dust the surfaces and floor, and a small caddy of basic cleaning supplies to leave. Some colleges have housekeeping, but most don't and teenagers haven't gotten a lot more conscientious about cleaning in the recent years. (Some things never change.)
- Rentals--Find out the cost to rent a mini-fridge and microwave from the college, and determine if it's cheaper than buying. Factor in things like repairs and transportation to and from home when you make your decision--they're both cheap to buy, but then, if something goes wrong, it's your problem.
- Parent Programming--Find out what sorts of activities are planned for parents on moving day. If you're going to a large state university, there won't be a whole lot offered unless your child is an athlete or in the honors college or something along those lines. Smaller schools are more apt to offer coffee and muffins and a little hand-holding.
- Bring Snacks--If you're the parents who show up with bagels and doughnuts for the student help, they will love you and put in a little extra effort with your boxes. Pack a cooler with water and snacks for yourselves, too. It's going to be a long day.
- Be Comfortable--Wherever you are, moving in day is the hottest day of the year. Unless it's the rainiest. Wear loose clothes and comfy shoes, but try not to embarrass your child with dad socks and sandals.
- Allotted Parking--Find out if there are allotted parking spaces near the doors, and if so how long can you stay in one. You'll probably have 20-30 minutes to unload, then go park in another lot for the box hauling and set up.
Once you've unloaded and unpacked, it's time for you to go. Give yourself a few minutes to say goodbye and leave with your head held high and your sniffles under control until you're out of the parking lot.
An old custom of leaving small notes tucked in pockets is a good one--just a line to let your freshman know you're thinking about them is a nice gesture, and it's up to you how serious or funny you want to be. However you communicate, just keep doing it.