Transition from High School

7 Tips to Prepare for College Move-in Day

By Joanna Nesbit

Move-in day is approaching, and you’re probably feeling a combination of trepidation, excitement, and some garden-variety blues about saying good-bye. These feelings can create a potent energy for over-doing and over-buying for your child. Here’s what to know.

Do your research.

Before you and your student start collecting things over the summer, check your college’s website. Every institution posts a list of what is and isn’t included in the room or common area, such as microwave, mini-fridge, or safe, as well as what isn’t allowed, like candles, thumbtacks, and cooking appliances.

Room configurations vary by building— single/double dorm, suite, or apartment-style—and may have different features, such as regular or extra-long twin beds. Most beds are extra-long, but be sure to confirm before buying XL sheets. Suites might require bathroom cleaning supplies and toilet paper.  Read the website carefully for specific building details.

Coordinate with your roommate.

Once you determined what’s provided, your student can touch base with their roommate so they don’t double up on one-off items. When my daughter went to college, she provided the fan and her roommate brought the humidifier for their arid Colorado campus (minifridge and microwave were provided).

Consider seasons.

If your student is heading to a locale with rain or snow, they can probably plan to take extra coats, boots, and more sweaters after their fall break or Thanksgiving.  Or you can ship a box once they’re situated and know better what they need. My daughter and her roommate packed way too many clothes and couldn’t fit them all in the three drawers of their dressers. The closets were small too. They both took clothes home at Thanksgiving.

Where and when to buy.

If your student is a flight away, decide whether to shop when you arrive or carry from home (I recommend the former). Arrive a couple days early to shop without crowds. If you’re driving your student to school, decide what works best—packing the car or picking up items after you arrive, or a combo. Don’t plan to shop day-of if possible because the orientation schedule might not allow for it. Your child will likely be heading off to activities soon after moving in, and you’ll want to focus on the parent orientation. Once that’s over, colleges typically want to shepherd parents off campus.

The less-is-more list.

Remember, your student isn’t going to Antarctica. Things can be purchased after the fact. For extra convenience and great value, the all-in-one Complete Campus Value Pak pack by OCM offers 47 customizable designs of bedding, bath supplies, and storage solutions with improved quality for 2018. Check out our ultimate packing list for overall guidelines and then tailor it to your student’s specifics. Check if your student’s college allows shipping directly to campus—OCM partners with more than 900 colleges and universities.  

OCM’s Complete Campus Pak includes 24 items:

  • 2 extra-long flat sheets
  • 2 extra-long fitted sheets
  • 2 standard pillowcases
  • 2 extra-fluffy machine washable pillows
  • 1 extra-long reversible comforter
  • 1 extra-long quilted mattress pad
  • 1 extra-long egg crate pad
  • 1 extra-long microplush blanket
  • 2 all-cotton bath towels
  • 2 matching cotton hand towels
  • 2 matching cotton wash cloths
  • 2 oversized bath sheets
  • 1 laundry bag
  • 2 underbed storage solutions
  • 1 bedside storage caddy

My own kids’ preference is to move in with bedding and bath basics, along with known preferences like a desk lamp, bedside storage, and hangers. Many extras can be determined in time as the need becomes clear. To guide your student’s list, help them evaluate their habits and preferences. Nearly every dorm list includes a sewing kit, but if your student has never sewn a button they’re not likely to start now. Skip the ironing board if they don’t iron. Extra furniture is tricky as dorms are small. Bed risers? Check about lofting capabilities first. Review campus printer availability and research where TVs are located in dorm common areas (most students watch Netflix on their laptops). Above all, consider the year’s end. Will your child be paying for storage or schlepping things home? Do you want your hard-earned dollars landing in a dumpster or being given away? There’s a very good chance they will because packing up is hard.

Move in-schedule.

Ensure you know the details about your student’s move-in schedule before arriving: dorm address, day, time-slot, whether older students help with bins, or moving equipment you might need, if any. Make sure your student has their proper student ID with them. They may need to upload a photo to the school website before arriving.

Day-of tips:

Bring bottled water, be sure to eat ahead of time, and bring a pair of scissors for troublesome packaging.

This is a special time in your family’s life. Remember to breathe and stay in the moment. Good luck!

7 Tips to Prepare for College Move-In

7 Tips to Prepare for College Move-In

About the Author

Joanna Nesbit

Joanna Nesbit

Joanna Nesbit writes about college, education, personal finance, and the nuts and bolts of transitioning to adulthood. These days, with a daughter off to college, she’s developed a focus on higher education, college finance, and Millennial topics. She’s passionate about parents and kids alike being smart about money. Follow her on Twitter at@joannanesbit or learn more at

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