Learn what to expect on college move-in day from two moms who’ve been there! We share our 16 tips & tricks to make move-in day go smoothly!

lofted bed with desk under bed. boy sitting at desk girl standing next to boy

College tours. Filling out applications. Waiting for acceptance letters. Deciding where to go. High school graduation. Freshman orientation. They’re all the steps leading to a really big day for your student and your family: college move-in day. We’ve both been there, and have compiled some tips to help you have the best move-in day possible!

1. Get Rid of Packaging

Before you begin packing, remove everything from its packaging. You’ll be shocked at how much time this may take! Plus, everything will take up much less space when you pack it. This also means much less trash to worry about on move-in day. And you can give those new linens a wash too!

2. Cleaning Products

Dorm rooms can be dirty…yup even when you move in…so bring along some cleaning supplies to wipe down surfaces before unpacking. Clorox wipes, a roll of paper towels, and your favorite spray cleaner will all come in handy. Maybe even a few Swiffer wet pads for the floor? You may as well start the year with a clean room! And don’t forget to bring some trash bags.

3. Tool Kit

Buying a small tool kit that your student can keep in their dorm room is a great idea. Be sure to include zip ties and scissors. You’ll definitely need these tools on move-in day.

Put all the cleaning products and tools in a bucket or a bin and pack it in the car so it can be one of the first things you move in.

4. Hanging Clothes

One tip that saves a lot of time with packing & unpacking is to leave clothes on hangers when moving. Just put them in a trash bag and tie around the base of the hanger to keep the clothes clean. Make moving those clothes even easier by hanging those bags on a pole so you can carry them all in at once. Easy!

5. Storage Bins

Plastic storage bins are an easy way to pack necessaties for move in day. Then they can serve double duty as storage all year in the dorm! Label the bins to make unpacking easier.

6. Arrive Early

Most colleges and universities will assign a block of time to move in.  Arrive early!  There are often long lines at the elevators.

7. Wear Practical Clothes

This isn’t the time to look super cute, Mom!  Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.  Remember tip #2?  Dorms aren’t the cleanest places.  Today is the day to be practical…wear comfortable clothes & shoes.

8. Bring a Fan

You’ll be moving into the dorm in August or early September.  Most likely it will be hot so bring a fan with you.  Your student will likely need one for their room anyway! Be sure to put it somewhere in your vehicle so you can bring it in on the first trip. Then go ahead and plug it in and stay cool! Or at least cooler… 😉

9. Dolly or Cart

If you don’t own a dolly or a cart you may want to consider borrowing or even renting one for move-in day. Most colleges will have some carts available for you to use while moving your student in. But often there’s a wait to use one so it’s super helpful if you bring your own. And bring along some bungee cords to be sure everything stays securely on that dolly.

10. Snacks & Drinks

Bring a cooler with some cold drinks and snacks for move-in day.  No one works well if they’re thirsty or hangry!  It may take some time to move-in and get unpacked.

11. Shopping

Plan to make a trip to a local store for anything you may have forgotten. If you’re traveling by plane to move-in, take advantage of in-store pick-up options available at many home stores. (Bed Bath & Beyond, Walmart, Target, etc…). Some colleges even offer services where you can order ahead and pick up your gear on campus!

12. Label, Tape and Secure Items

As you pack each bin, box, tub, etc., make sure you add a label with your student’s name, dorm name, and room/suite number. Some universities have you unload your vehicle in one place and items get delivered to the dorm. While you’re at it, be sure to tape storage bins and organizing drawer towers before leaving home. Nothing is worse than pulling a plastic storage tower with drawers filled with school supplies out of the car the wrong way and everything dumping out all over the parking lot!

13. Door Stop

A simple doorstop will come in handy to keep those dorm room doors open while moving all those bins and stuff into the room.

14. Command Strips & Hooks 

Bring a variety of command hook styles.  The small poster size strips are great for hanging posters and pictures,  larger command strips will hold bulletin boards, and the hooks are helpful for hats, coats, and towels.  Make sure you bring a bottle of rubbing alcohol & some cotton balls to prep the wall surface for command hooks! It makes all the difference in them staying adhered.

15. What to Unpack First & Last

Making your bed first helps you move the mattress toppers, comforters, and pillows out of the way. Then you have a place to lay everything else while unpacking. Leaving wall decor for last gives your student the opportunity to complete that task after you leave to make their new space feel like their new home.

16. Saying Goodbye

Move-in day is an emotional day for everyone. Parents may be feeling sad and students are both anxious and excited. We’ve heard from many parents the number 1 tip is to say your goodbyes at home. Then when you leave your teen at school you can just say a quick goodbye.

We both wrote our sons a letter and tucked it under their pillow to find and read later. Another meaningful idea that we both gave our sons was a Wanderer bracelet with the coordinates of their homes.

If you’re a mom reading this blog post we get it…this is hard…we know…we’ve both been through it. But we promise it will be okay. This is what we’ve prepared our children for, so give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. And here’s a virtual hug from us!😘

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8 Comments on What to Expect on College Move-In Day

    • You are SO WELCOME! We know how overwhelming it all can be the first time around! If we’re being perfectly honest, it’s been overwhelming but in different ways each year we’ve moved our kids back to college since they’ve lived in different settings each time. Stay tuned for packing lists and move-in tips for first apartments and fraternity/sorority houses soon… Best wishes to you, and BIG HUGS to you.

  1. Thank you for all the great tips for move in day. I love your reminder That this is what we’ve prepared our children for and to give ourselves a pat on the back.

    • Hi. We saved your article because of the wonderful tips in it as well as the inside info in thIS comment section. We move on Friday and I pulled up the article to make sure everything was covered but the comments with the extra info are hidden. Could you show them or email them to me? Taken with your article is was GREAT info that I have been waiting to use on move-in day.
      Thank you so much.

  2. Thank you so much. I hope you don’t mind but I took screen shots because I couldn’t possibly remember it all. Its so overwhelming….but I’m so happy for my babygirl. I became choked up and cried a bit at the end with your virtual hug. Thank you!!!

    • Hi Johanna! I’m so glad you found this helpful! This whole process of sending them to college is so hard. If it helps at all, I found that the anticipation of my son leaving ended up being worse than him actually leaving (if that makes any sense!). You’ve got this! And the best part is that when they come home you can begin moving towards the phase where there’s more friendship and less parenting. Best wishes to you all!

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