After all of the months, and years, of preparing, it’s finally here! As college move-in day approaches, parents recognize the reality of having their student actually head off to college. Somehow, you know your student will eventually get packed, you will manage to fit everything in the car, and your student will finally end up settled in his room. But the process may seem daunting.
Move-in day will go more smoothly if you have prepared well at home. You can help your student be organized about packing and preparing for the big move. However, no matter how well prepared you are, move-in day will be a new experience for all of you.
Your student’s college may send you some information ahead of time, and they will probably do everything they can to help you navigate the day, but here are some suggestions that may help to make the day – and the transition – go more smoothly.
Move-In Day Arrives – Getting In
- Be early. Whatever time you are told to arrive for move-in, try to be on time or just a bit early. As the day progresses, parking becomes more difficult and lines become longer. However, don’t arrive too early. If the school has assigned you a specific time, you may end up sitting in your car waiting for your arrival time.
- Be prepared for a chaotic and confusing day. No matter how conscientiously the college prepares for an organized move in day, it will be confusing and exhausting. Be prepared. Be flexible. Be patient.
- Be prepared for high tensions. This is a difficult day for everyone. Try to be patient with one another.
- Your student will need to do multiple things in addition to physically moving his belongings into his room. He may need to check in, pick up keys, have ID pictures taken, fill out paperwork, turn in forms, buy textbooks, set up his computer.
- Ask students or staff members what the procedure is. They may have carts or bins available for moving things. They may ask you to pull up and unload your car onto the lawn and then park somewhere else. They may even have an army of students available to help unload and carry things. They have given a great deal of thought to the most efficient process – listen to them and follow directions.
- Let your student take the lead in dealing with issues and questions. If he needs to check in and pick up keys, stay in the background and let him do the talking. If a question arises, let him find his Residence Assistant to get the answer. Give him this opportunity to take charge of his new life.
- Encourage your student to do anything involving lines first. If he needs to check in or get a picture taken or go to the bookstore, do that before unpacking. Lines get longer as the day progresses.
- Delegate anything that your student doesn’t actually need to do. Does he need an ethernet cord or extension cord from the bookstore? Anyone can buy that. Does someone need to go to the store or snackbar to buy some lunch? Let a parent or sibling do that.
Move-In Day Arrives – Settling In
- Help your student think about choosing his bed, closet, or side of the room. Often, the first person in the room will make the first choice of the best bed and closet (if it makes a difference). Your student may want to wait until her roommate arrives to discuss this. Be careful that she doesn’t alienate a roommate by taking over initially.
- Take time to introduce yourself to your student’s roommate and her family. You may want to exchange contact information. It may be reassuring to know that you can contact someone else if you ever have trouble reaching your student. (Promise that you will use this sparingly.)
- Make sure your student asks about completing a room damage form and that he does it carefully. This form asks your student to report any damage that he sees in the room as he is moving in. This might include chipped paint, broken light fixtures, damaged furniture, nail holes, or scratches on the floor. When your student moves out, someone will check the room. Your student will be charged for damage that has occurred while he was living in the room. He needs to report any prior issues.
- Don’t set up the room for your student. Let her make her own decisions – probably with her roommate. This will be her space. Let her work at making it hers.
After Move-In – Leave taking
- Be prepared for some awkwardness. This is an important moment and neither you nor your student knows what to expect. Don’t put too much pressure on this moment by giving a last lecture or expecting your student to react in any particular way.
- Don’t plan on taking your student out to dinner. If you would like a final, celebratory family dinner, plan on doing it the night before. Once students have moved in, they will need to begin to make connections with their new roommates and dorm mates. Sharing a common meal – in the dining hall or by going out together is a great time for them to make those connections. Let them have this time for that.
- Don’t linger. Many colleges actually have a “farewell” ceremony of sorts to help define the moment of leaving. If your student’s school has a planned event, take the hint and leave afterward. If the school does not do something official, use your judgment, but once she is moved in, plan to head out so that she can settle in on her own.
- Remember that your student may be dismissive and seem nonchalant about your leaving. This may be his method of dealing with his emotions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t care.
- Be patient with yourself and your student. It’s an exciting – and an emotional – time for everyone.
Move-in day is a big step on your college student’s road to independence. If you can remember your student’s first day of kindergarten, you may be experiencing many similar emotions. Once you’ve done all that you can to help him make the transition, you’ve done your job. Now you can focus on being proud of him – and on your own transition.