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Packing up & moving out

Suzanne Shaffer

The end of the semester and the school year is quickly approaching. It won’t be long before your college student returns home for the summer. But before you head to campus to help them move out, there are a few things you both need to do.

Take care of business.

Make hotel and travel reservations if necessary. Many families will be helping their students vacate campus; waiting until the last minute to book travel and hotel rooms can increase costs significantly or leave you without a place to stay.

As for your student:
  1. They should respond to any emails from the college regarding their student account balance, residence hall move-out procedures and returning library materials.
  2. Outstanding fees should be cleared, and receipts obtained before leaving campus.
  3. They may need to make an appointment for a residence hall check-out inspection. They should follow instructions provided at the beginning of the school year or ask their RA for clarification on check-out procedures.
  4. Regarding textbooks, they should return the rentals and sell back the ones they purchased (but no longer want or need) to the campus bookstore or online. The sooner they do this the better — bookstores purchase a limited number of textbooks and pay less as their supply increases.

If your student will move out on their own or transition to off-campus housing during the summer, help them secure moving help or temporary storage if necessary (more on storage below). If they’re signing a lease, ask if you can read it and offer counsel if necessary.


Begin to clean and pack.

Your student shouldn’t wait until the last day of school to start packing. Experts recommend starting by making three piles: keep, discard and donate. They should separate items that can be stored from those that need to come home for the summer.

Items your student no longer wants can be offered to fellow students (the campus may have a “free or for sale” website) or donated to a local charity. Throwing them away should be a last resort; that said, there will be lots of trash, and it's a good idea to start removing it early as bins and dumpsters will be overflowing on move-out day.

It’s also helpful to start cleaning early. Dorm rooms are often left dirty because students don’t leave enough time to clean or just don't bother. If the room is damaged or especially filthy, you might not get your dorm deposit back. My daughter lost many a dorm deposit because her roommates left their rooms in disarray.

As school winds down, your student will be emotional, as well as busy with finals and other activities. Preparing for the end of the semester before it arrives will remove some of the stress and assure a smooth transition from school to summer.

Make preparations for moving out.

I’m sorry to break it to you, but moving out can be more work than moving in. Your student’s dorm room may look like a tornado tore through. The excitement of moving in is replaced with the dread of having to gather up all their stuff and decide what to do with it until next school year.

If you live far away and the prospect of carting their belongings home and then back again seems overwhelming, there are options you might consider: pod storage, store with friends or hiring a pickup and store service.

Pack and store, or ship

If your student's stuff won't fit in your car or you simply don’t relish this job, paying someone to handle the work could be appealing.

  • Collegeboxes is a student storage and shipping provider. They offer boxes, packing supplies, pickup, storage, delivery and shipping (national and international). They will also store belongings for summer or winter break: boxes, bikes, TVs, refrigerators, rugs, luggage, trunks, beds, futons and anything else a student might have accumulated.
  • Dorm Room Movers offers full-service moving, storage and shipping services for college students around the nation both on and off campus.
Pod storage

When my daughter was in college, we lived 2,400 miles away. We found a service that delivered a pod to her campus before move-out day, picked it up after it was filled, and then stored it until fall semester when it was delivered on the date we requested. To save money after the first year, she shared a pod with other students.

SMARTBOX, for one bundled price, will deliver a storage unit to campus that your student will simply load and lock. Smartbox will pick the unit up for summer storage and return it to your student in the fall for unloading.

Store with a friend

One year, my daughter stored her belongings in a local friend’s basement. We rented a UHaul, loaded the contents and delivered it to the friend's house. Your student may be able to find someone willing to offer unused space for storage.

Check the college website to see if they maintain a list of local companies they recommend for these services.

You might also need help with the heavy lifting and moving. Bellhops is a great service if it’s available in your student’s college area.

Arriving on move-out day

Dress comfortably and come prepared to work. Inevitably there will be cleaning to do, trash to gather and dispose of, and last-minute packing when you arrive. Bring cleaning supplies with you along with large trash bags. They will be needed. If help is available from campus services, use it. Many colleges offer student help on move-in and move-out days.

As school winds down, your student will be emotional, as well as busy with finals and other activities. Preparing for the end of the semester before it arrives will remove some of the stress and assure a smooth transition from school to summer.


Suzanne Shaffer counsels students and families through her blog, Parenting for College. Her advice has been highlighted on Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News College and TeenLife online and she has written for Smart College Visit, College Focus, Noodle Education and Road2College. Her articles have also been featured in print in TeenLife, UniversityParent and CollegiateParent publications.

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