We recently made the 5 hour trek to our daughter’s university to move her into the dorm for the first time. The process of moving a college kid into the dorm that first time is a big rite of passage and there is a lot to think about and do in preparation. There are practical considerations as well as the mix of emotions that are bound to hit hard. After all, this is a significant time of transition. It helps to plan and prepare.

Before I began the process of preparing for the big day, I polled my pool of veteran parents on tips and came up with a list of recommendations from the wise ones who had been through it before me, I wrote this blog article in hopes this will be helpful to more parents facing this often overwhelming task.  Get ready to face this exciting-challenging-hot-chaotic-emotional day of transitioning your child off to college.

24 Tips for Moving a College Kid into the Dorm:

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1. Before you move one item in clean everything in the room.

Wipe everything down with disinfectant wipes (or if you prefer the natural route I recommend Thieves® essential oil wipes from Young Living or you can find a very good alternative that is less expensive here called Robber’s Relief (do not take essential oils internally by the way! For external use only says The Alliance of International Aromatherapists’s safety recommendations). 

2. Bring a tool kit. 

Apparently there may be a need to hammer, drive a screw or tighten a bolt. I will certainly be taking this advice to bring along a tool kit just in case!

3. Stock up on Command Hooks® 

Apparently the wise parents who have gone before we newbies say you must have lots of these nifty hooks to make use of vertical space for hanging towels, coats. jewelry, bags, and more. This is probably the one recommendation I received more than any other.

4. Stay hydrated and bring snacks. 

This was a close runner up on the most frequently recommended suggestion by parents who have been there. It’s typically hot on move-in day in most parts of the country and with all that lugging  make sure you are chugging your H2O and staving off the crankies with a store of snack items.

5. Let your college kid take the lead. 

It’s her big day. (Yes, I know. . . you’re feeling blue about saying goodbye to your baby but chin up! Don’t make it about you!). Ask her where she wants things. Ask her preferences. Don’t embarrass her.

6. Don’t hang around too long. Nix the helicopter hovering.

Some of the best advice I read and heard (which I completely agree with from my view as a child and family therapist) is to not hang around too long. Move her in, be sure she has everything she needs, hugs and tell her you’ll check in by phone later that night. It’s time for your baby to be away at college and you need to scoot out the door and go back home. Let her spread her wings. Time to fly.

7. Pack all hanging clothes ON the hangers.

Bundle hanging clothes on hangers in a big garbage bag with rubber bands to keep them intact. This apparently makes it super easy and fast to transfer into the closet. I like the space saving velcro covered hangers for this purpose.

8. Do not overpack.

One parent said if the vehicle is full it might not fit in the dorm room. Pack only clothes needed for later summer and fall. She can bring home summer wear at Thanksgiving and take back winter wear after the break. When deciding what to take and what to leave at home, consider what is really needed and lean toward efficiency.

9. Get the bed up off the floor to create storage space. 

Use risers designed for creating space between the floor and the bottom of the bed. The adjustable kind are the best apparently.

10. Create a Wellness First Aid Kit. 

I came up with my own collection of natural wellness items because that’s how we roll at our house but if you’re not a holistic natural nut like me, be sure to get a standard first aid kit for your college kid to have on hand and go through it with her before you leave so she knows what’s in there and what to use.

11. Pre-wash bedding and towels.

All those new linens might look nice in the package all folded but you don’t want her sleeping on scratchy new sheets! Get that laundry done before you head away from home.

12. Space Bags!

Veteran parents of college kids swear by these space bags. Organize clothing in these and save space moving it in and for storage of items she might not wear for a while.

13. Tuck away some $1, $5 and $10 bills for nice surprises later

One parent suggested hiding a little cash in her underwear drawer, desk drawer, shoes, make up case when she’s not looking. Big thrill for a kid to find a little money for the snack machine later.

14. One sturdy laundry hamper that couples as laundry basket. 

I love this  laundry score! It has all kinds of nifty features perfect for college laundry needs to make it more likely she will actually do her laundry herself and not bring it home over breaks.

15. Shower shoes.

Sharing showers with lots of other college students. Moisture. Need I say more? Get shower shoes and a tell her to hang them on the shoe rack to dry after using them. The ones in my college prep items store below are quick dry. Bonus.

16. Shower Caddy.

I found a 7 pocket mesh one  I like because the water drains out easily. Plus it looks cool.

17. Bathrobe.

If your college bound kid is like mine, she’s probably never worn a bathrobe so you might need to have a little talk about communal bathrooms, co-ed dorms and modesty. A good bathrobe will come in handy. Turkish cotton. Quality is important.

18. Bedside hanging caddy is essential

This handy dandy gadget allows your college kid to have everything she needs right there on her bed where she will likely be studying and writing her papers (who uses a desk anymore?).

19. More organizer options! Compartments.

These under-the-bed compartment organizers look to me like they will come in very handy for smaller items, socks and underwear, The larger one will be great for t-shirts and other foldable that don’t fit in drawers. Easy peasy.

20. The mac-daddy of extension outlets for all the plug-ins

I heard extension cords and power strips are important so I found this one that has 8 outlets, usb ports and surge protection created specifically for the dorm room.

21. Sewing kit for when she pops a button or tears her pants.

She may never have  thread a needle a day in her life but she may need to. This little kit has everything she needs for those sewing emergencies.

22. Be patient. 

Again, this is her day. And it’s a day of transition. A big transition. Plus it’s going to be hot and you’ll likely have a lot of people in a small space so crankiness is a risk (see #3).

23. A little sentimentality meets practicality.

I confess I cried when I saw this book. My husband used to read Good Night Moon to our girl every night at bedtime when she was little so when I came across Good Night Dorm Room: All the Advice I Wish I Got Before I Went to College I got a little sentimental.

24. Bring your sunglasses.

You’re likely to get teary when it comes time to bid farewell so be prepared to pop on your sunnies if you prefer her to not see you crying. And if that’s not your style, while it’s healthy to feel your feelings and let yourself cry, you don’t want to embarrass your college kid in front of her roommate so make the goodbyes quick and you can cry all the way home in the car.

Moving a college kid into the dorm is no small feat. Getting prepared far in advance is key. I did find one really great book I found helpful called When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parent’s Survival Guide — It’s a really good read.

As you prepare your college kid for greater independence, this article provides ideas and ways for college kids to earn money while also attending to academics and a healthy social life.