Learn what to expect on college move-in day from two moms who’ve been there! We share our 19 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 (eight times between the two of us and counting!), and have compiled some tips to help you have the best move-in day possible!

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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 dry or wet Swiffer wet pads for the floor?

You may as well start the year with a clean room! And don’t forget to bring some extra trash bags.

3. Tool Kit

Buying a small tool kit that your student can keep in their dorm room is a great idea. You’ll definitely need these tools on move-in day.

You might want to bring a rubber mallet to help with lofting or unlofting beds.

Be sure to include zip ties and scissors. Zip ties are fantastic for bundling up cords, attaching cords to bunks, etc.

Put all the cleaning products and tools in a bucket or a bin and pack it in the car somewhere that 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! A broom with a telescoping handle is great and you’ll put the broom to use once you’re in the room too.

5. Storage Bins

Plastic storage bins are an easy way to pack necessities for move-in day.

Best part? They can serve double duty as storage all year in the dorm!

Label the bins by slipping a piece of paper inside with the contents listed to make unpacking easier. Which brings us to another helpful tip.

6. Pack Like Items Together

Make unpacking more efficient by putting similar items together.

One tub for bedding and linens.

Another tub for desk items.

A tub for toiletries.

You get the idea!

7. Protect Make-up & Jewelry

Placing a cotton round, cotton ball, or thin layer of foam in make-up palettes will help prevent it from breaking!

You can use Press and Seal wrap to keep your necklaces from getting tangled into a knot. Simply place your necklaces on a piece of cardboard and secure with the Press and Seal wrap.

8. Arrive Early/Coordinate with Your Roommate

Most colleges and universities will assign a block of time to move in. 

Arrive early! 

There are often long lines at the elevators. 

Or, consider arriving at lunch-time when there’s often a lull on the action.

Coordinate with your roommate so that only one family is moving in and unpacking at a time: dorm rooms are small!

9. 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.

10. 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! This one is great and doesn’t take up much space which is great in tiny dorm rooms.

Be sure to pack 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… ?

11. 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. This foldable cart works as both a hand truck and a dolly!

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.

Also bring along some bungee cords to be sure everything stays securely on that dolly. They can be handy for securing things in the dorm too!

12. 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! 

After all, it may take some time to move-in and get unpacked, and you don’t want to lose your parking space to leave for lunch.

13. 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!

14. Label Everything!

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 then items get delivered to the dorm.

15. Tape Lids and Drawers Closed

Be sure to tape the lids onto your storage bins before leaving home.

Then tape closed your organizing drawer towers!

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!

16. Bring a Door Stop (or 2!)

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

If you’re in a suite-style room, you may want to doorstops: one for the suite and one for your room.

Just be sure to check with your suite-mates before leaving the suite door open.

17. Command Strips & Hooks 

Bring a variety of command hook styles. 

The small poster size strips are great for hanging posters and pictures,  these tiny hooks work for string lights, 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 or a stack of alcohol prep pads to prep the wall surface for command hooks! It makes all the difference in them staying adhered.

18. What to Unpack First

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.

You’ll also want your rug to be one of the first items you bring in.

19. What to Unpack Last

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.

20. 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!?

We’d love to hear from you about your move-in day experiences! If you have any new suggestions, email us or leave a comment below.

Be sure to follow us over on Instagram and Facebook so you don’t miss any of our tips, tricks, or stories!

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17 Comments on 19 Essential Tips: How to Prepare for College Move-In Day

  1. Thank you for these great tips. I have 4 children my son is the first to go to college as a mom im a nervous wreck.lol
    I’ve never been away from any of my children for more than a couple days.. hes going to be 19 hrs from home!! But with prayer I know God has him and he will be just fine.. i definitely will be crying when its time to say see you later, never goodbye. Thank you for the letter idea, I’m definitely going to do that ?

    • Awww, Tori. Sending you some big mom-to-mom virtual hugs! Watching as our kids stretch their wings is so bittersweet, isn’t it? But you’re right. God’s got this and with you praying for him from home he’s in the best hands. Congratulations to you for raising a confident young man!

  2. The best part of this blog post was the last bit of advice for mom’s reading this…I got to it and the tears just started to fall. This is the part of parenting you can never be prepared for. Saying see you during the holidays and not see you tomorrow is hard. Thank you so much for all your tips. I will use them as I move my first born into college next weekend.

    • Awww, Taisha. Sending you a big virtual hug. You’re right that there’s nothing about how to do this in those “what to expect” books. It is hard. But, if it helps at all we’ve both found that the new relationship you will start to form where you become less authority figure and more friend is pretty amazing! Hope all goes well with your move in day and your first born has a fantastic semester!

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