Dates & Events

Surviving move-in day

By Suzanne Shaffer

Emotions run high on college move-in day. Parents anticipate letting go of the child they’ve nurtured for 18 years; students are excited but also nervous and self-conscious.

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All these emotions — yours and theirs — require patience on your part. As move-in day approaches, knowing what to expect should help you and your student survive with minimal fall-out.

Arrive prepared.

Arrive early (get a good parking spot!) and prepared for the day. Bring the necessary equipment: dollies for heavy items, cleaning supplies, and comfortable shoes and clothing (it’s going to be a long day). Label boxes when packing to facilitate unpacking. Be prepared to navigate steps and carry heavy objects. Don’t count on elevators being available — everyone else will be using them, too.

Do your research before you arrive on campus, and make a list of required tasks: a trip to the bookstore, a stop at the Financial Aid or Student Accounting Office, a visit to a bank to open an account. Leave time for shopping but don’t overdo it — your student won’t need every single dorm furnishing item the first day or even week of school.

Take a step back.

Allow your student to take the lead. When checking into the dorm, let her do the talking while you stand by to help if necessary. The sooner your student takes ownership of even mundane aspects of the college experience, the better. Let it start from the moment you arrive on campus.

Expect the unexpected.

College move-in day is like any other move-in day — there will be unexpected incidents. Did your student just drop her brand-new laptop and crack the screen? Did your spouse forget the checkbook? Did the roommate get there first and grab the “good” half of the shoebox-sized dorm room? Roll with the punches and don’t overreact. When you take a deep breath and calmly trouble-shoot the situation, you’re modeling good problem-solving skills for your student (your last chance to do so for a while).

Don’t overdo the last-minute shopping.

In the words of UniversityParent writer and mom of recent college graduates Lucy Ewing, “Move-in day is like the day before Christmas. You suddenly see a ‘need’ for so many things in the dorm so you run around like crazy and drop hundreds of dollars at Radio Shack near campus. In retrospect, I should have just given the kids a little more cash (or a gift card) to buy what they decided they really needed after they’d been on campus for a while. We could have taken a more leisurely pace back at the dorm instead of spending precious final hours running around packed malls.”

Don’t overstay your welcome.

At some point in the day, you do need to say goodbye. Many colleges build in a send-off ceremony to signal that it is indeed time for the freshman class to come together and for parents to head home. Whether there’s an official goodbye event or not, don’t linger just because you fear leaving. Your student will be fine…and so will you.

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter and purchase the Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year for additional tips, insight, and to help your college student succeed. You may also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our Community Forum and College Parents’ Facebook group.

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