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College Move-In

• Planning for the Big Day •

If moving to campus will require a flight and/or hotel, make your reservations early! Keep in mind that thousands of other students and their families are doing the same thing on the very same day, and hotels near campus may book up fast. It’s never too early to make plans for the trip to campus. Once you know the move-in date for freshmen, you can begin to plan. 

Here are some of the logistical questions we had concerning move-in day and our answers based on our personal experience. 

Should we go with our kid to move-in day?

The short answer is a resounding YES!  If you can swing it financially, you will be happy you made the trip (although we suggest leaving siblings at home so you can focus on the one making the move). Seeing one’s almost adult child go off to the next phase of life is quite moving.  One mother said it was as poignant as the day her son walked for the first time.

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Consider writing a letter to your son or daughter over the summer that you can leave with them to read after you’ve dropped them off at school.  The letter could express all the things that are sometimes difficult to relay verbally — your love for them, your hopes and expectations about how they will embrace and balance all that’s ahead, that kind of mushy stuff. 

 When should we arrive?

For the actual move-in, many schools assign students a move-in time so they can manage all the cars and students. Check the school website for details. If you are not assigned a specific time, we recommend getting there early so you can get settled and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

You may also want to arrive a day or so before move-in day to shop for those last minute items, pick up the stuff you ordered from Bed Bath & Beyond, and explore the area around campus.  If your kid’s college is in a big city, you might have fun getting to know a new city.  We recommend you check out or the Visitor and Travel Bureau for that city.

Where should we stay?

Most colleges have a list of nearby hotels on their websites and many offer special student/family discounts on rates.  Some are quite detailed and even tell you how many miles they are located from campus. Go to the college’s website to find specific information about Visiting Campus. Make sure to check on local transportation options which may impact where you stay.

Will we need a car?

If you plan to pick up items from Bed Bath & Beyond, run out for last minute items, or shop for certain items locally, then a car would be extremely helpful.  If you have most items shipped directly to campus, and the city where the school is located has good transportation options, then maybe not.  Be aware that many hotels, particularly those in big cities, charge high parking fees.

What actually happens on Move-In Day?

Some schools plan a variety of events for parents and students on move-in day. Picnics, receptions, matriculation ceremonies and lectures are great ways to welcome freshmen and their parents. You’ll no doubt receive a schedule of events from the school over the summer so you can plan your day. Other schools simply welcome the students to the dorms and use the day for moving in and getting settled before you say goodbye. Very often, upperclassmen are stationed at the dorms to help unload cars and carry stuff up to freshmen dorms. Really helps to speed up the process!

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Dress comfortably for hauling boxes and wear shoes you can really walk in. (Many dorms do not have elevators so prepare to walk up lots of stairs!) Stay for the school events – they help give you and your kid a real sense of the place they are going to call home for the next four years. Do not wear out your welcome. Know when it is time to say a quick goodbye and leave. The sooner you leave, the sooner your kid can start feeling settled in their new surroundings. 

For a personal account of letting go on move-in day, see Move-In Day: A Room of Their Own

For some tips from college students on what parents can do on move-in day that is helpful, and what is not so helpful, check out our video: Move-in Day.

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