10 Tips for an Easy Dorm Move-In Day

Tackling packing, paperwork, and more

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 and now it’s time to pack. These tips on streamlining the dorm move-in day process and preparing if your child is moving more than a car ride away will help ease the transition.

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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 the residence life dean sent, paying particular attention to check-in times, locations, and procedures for dorm move-in day. Some schools let families pull cars right up to the dorm door. Some make you park at the bottom of a vast hill and take a number. And others don’t want you unloading anything until your child has gone through registration, had his or her photo taken, and signed innumerable forms. Rereading the paperwork and making sure you have any necessary forms—health reports or student ID number—will reduce the stress of the move-in day.

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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 all the basic furniture, but you'll need bed linens, towels, and toiletries, some basic school supplies, and clothes. Televisions and other electronics are a pain to ship—but to a teen, they’re absolute essentials. Pack them first and use soft items to protect them. Leave the least essential and items that are easiest to ship for last.

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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 hand holds. (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, for example, pack those items in the bins to begin with. The bin goes straight from the car to underneath the bed with no unpacking necessary.

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Sort and Organize

first day at university

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Your teen may want to just sling stuff into random boxes, but he will settle in much more easily and quickly—and chips won't smell of detergent—if all of the laundry supplies go in one box and snacks in another.

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Pack Seasonal and Casual

Moving house is exciting

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Your child won’t need heavy woolens in August. Ship winter items later, or have her pick them up at Thanksgiving. Students will 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 needs to check on concert wear. Some schools require black, floor-length gowns and tuxedos or tails. Others want black trousers and a black dress shirt.

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Bring Tools

Tool box
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A toolkit with a basic hammer, screwdrivers, and pliers can come in handy on move-in day. You may need to bunk the beds, raise or lower mattresses, or deal with minor repairs. Bring a roll of duct tape too for taping down extension cords as well as minor repairs.

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Don’t Forget Treasures

Six instant photos of two best friends

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Photos of friends and loved ones and soft bedding and pillows make for a more comforting, cozy environment. There won’t be much space, but you can incorporate photos into other, utilitarian things—a film-wrapped pencil cup, for example, or other dorm crafts.

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Ship It or Buy It There

two men carrying boxes on trolley

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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 for local pickup, or wait until you get there to shop. But do a little homework first so you avoid some key mistakes—the kind that leave your kid sleeping on a borrowed towel for three days.

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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 will receive a clipboard worth of things to inspect in the room, from chipped furniture to carpet stains. It's critical that students do this thoroughly and mark off any problem areas. Otherwise, when dorm move-out day rolls around, you'll be charged for the existing damage. Check off the boxes and fill out the forms, but also check the seams of the mattresses and other classic bedbug hiding spots before you bring in all your gear.

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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 wait till you get to the car or at least around the corner!