10 Tips for an Easy Dorm Move-In Day

Packing, Paperwork, and Planning Ahead

College student reaching in car moving into dorm

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You’ve done the dorm shopping; loaded up on towels, totes, and extra-long sheets but before you pack up your baby's belongings to send them off on the next leg of their higher educational adventure, to ease the transition, study these tips for streamlining the dorm move-in day process. They're designed to make life easier for students and parents alike—especially when you're facing a long-distance college commute.

01
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Check the Paperwork

College student volunteer working at orientation for new students

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Remind your child to reread everything related to housing that the residence office sent. Pay particular attention to check-in times, locations, and procedures for dorm move-in day. Some schools allow families to pull cars right up to the dorm door, while others make you park a distance away and take a number. Some colleges defer unloading and move-in until your child has gone through registration, had his or her photo ID taken, and has signed innumerable forms. Rereading the paperwork and making sure you have any necessary forms—health reports, or student ID number—will reduce the stress on move-in day.

02
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Pack Only the Essentials

Mother and daughter hugging near car

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If your child’s belongings don’t fit in the back of a minivan or average-sized car, he or she is bringing too much stuff. Dormitories supply the basic furniture but you'll need bed linens, towels, and toiletries, some basic school supplies, and clothes. With so much media available on laptops, tablets, and phones, having a television is likely no longer essential. If your kid insists on having a TV, pack it first and use soft items to protect it. Leave the least essential and items that can be easily shipped for last.

03
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Use Storage Bins

African-American mother helping daughter move

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It's much easier to pack a car with regularly shaped objects—boxes or large plastic bins—as opposed to trash bags or grocery sacks. Plus, boxes are much easier to lug up multiple flights of crowded dorm stairs, especially when the boxes have handholds. (Many dorms don't have elevators, and those that do will be crammed.)

Tip: If your child will be using under-bed storage boxes to hold spare towels and bed linens, pack those items in the bins before you load up. The bin goes straight from the car to underneath the bed—no unpacking necessary.

04
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Sort and Organize Groceries

College roommates with an armful of groceries.
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Your teen may want to just sling stuff into random boxes but he or she will settle in much more easily and quickly—and chips won't smell of detergent—if laundry supplies go in one box and food items go in another.

05
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Pack Seasonal and Casual

Two young women unpacking cardboard boxes in a room
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Students need plenty of casual, comfortable clothing, workout clothes, and a nice outfit or two. If the school has a Greek system and your child is interested in participating, add a couple of dressy outfits to the mix. If you’ve got a music major, he or she may need formal concert wear. While some schools still require floor-length black skirts and tuxedos or dark suits, dress codes in some colleges are changing with the times. Check to see what's currently required and shop accordingly. Your child won’t need heavy woolens in August. You can ship winter items later, or have your kid swap out seasonal wear when they're home for Thanksgiving.

06
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Bring Tools & Basic First Aid Supplies

Tool box
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A toolkit with a basic hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers can be lifesavers on move-in day. You may need to bunk the beds, raise or lower mattresses, or deal with minor repairs. Duct tape, zip ties, and cable ties often come in handy as well. Leave the toolkit when you go. Your kid will likely need it during the semester.

Another essential dorm item is a basic first aid kit that should contain at a minimum, disinfectant wipes or spray, bandages, sports tape, and an over-the-counter pain killer such as ibuprofen. Toss in a pair of tweezers and small scissors as well. Boo-boos happen. Your kid should be prepared.

07
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Don’t Forget Treasures

Friends moving
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Photos of friends and loved ones and soft bedding make for a more comforting, cozy environment. There won’t be much space, but you can impart homey touches into utilitarian things. For instance, a personalized photo mug or pillow with a picture of the family dog may help keep your baby from feeling homesick.

08
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Ship Items or Buy Them When You Get There

Mixed race mother and daughter using laptop together
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If you're not taking a car, you can ship your child’s belongings directly to the school, order items online to be sent to a designated holding area, or wait until you get there to shop. Just make sure to do a little homework first so you avoid some key mistakes—like the kind that leaves your kid sleeping on a borrowed towel for three days.

09
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Inspect the Room Before Moving In

Dorm Room with Storage Bed and Desks

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As your child moves into new digs, he or she will receive a clipboard's worth of things to inspect in the room, from chipped furniture to carpet stains. It's critical that students perform a thorough examination and mark off any problem areas. Otherwise, when dorm move-out day rolls around, you could wind up being charged for existing damage. Take pictures of any problems with your phone. In addition to checking off the boxes and filling out forms, be sure to check the bedding for rips, stains, and signs of bedbugs before you bring in any gear.

10
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Pack Tissues

Close-up of a tissue paper in a box

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Don't forget the tissues—for you. Packing your child off to school is an emotional undertaking. Expect to feel at least a little weepy, but try to wait until you get to the car before you open the floodgates.