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There’s a lot of advice out there about managing move-in day with your new college student. I've crowd-sourced these tips from family and friends to help you not only survive but also savor this transition in your student’s life — and in your own.
When it comes to moving a student to college, it’s not just about big vs. small campuses, local vs. distance moves, etc.
The real variables come from our personalities and family dynamics. When the day itself finally arrives, you may find yourself fighting back tears all day, or you might not cry until you get home, or you might not cry at all. Your student may be subdued and clingy, or they may dismiss you quickly. No matter how your emotions express themselves, they are large and new, for both of you.
Move-in day is about your student and their new campus community. Your last special time together as a family can happen at home, beforehand.
Talk to your student ahead of time about move-in day and how it will unfold. Look at the schedule together so you agree about where and when “goodbye” will happen. This will help both of you feel more prepared for that moment.
Remember that your student is also saying goodbye to high school friends and sometimes a girlfriend or boyfriend. They may not be around much the last few days.
If your student is parting from a serious significant other, you might gently suggest that they plan ahead for handling this, including deciding when and how to be in touch. A friend's son spent his whole move-in day texting his hometown g.f. and as a result missed out on a lot.
If possible, make sure younger siblings aren’t lost in the shuffle. Their lives are changing, too, and they may be way sadder than they appear.
Instructions and schedules for move-in will have been mailed and emailed to your student, along with lists of suggested items to bring to the dorm as well as lists of forbidden items. Find dorm shopping tips here.
Whether driving or flying, if time and budget allow, arrive a day or more early. This gives you time to pick up pre-ordered items at Target or Bed Bath & Beyond, do other needed shopping, open a banking account, etc. It’s great not to feel rushed.
If you intend to add a day or two in the area after move-in, make sure you are doing this for yourself and not to linger near your student “just in case.” If they feel lonely and know you’re still nearby, they may want to be with you rather than engage in the welcome activities on campus.
When packing, keep in mind that you will need to unload quickly — most likely you'll pull your car up during a scheduled time slot and need to move right along (student volunteers will be there with carts to help). So things should be neatly consolidated (suitcases, boxes, plastic bins), easy to lift, and labeled. If using trash bags to pack, tie the bottoms and tie/tape the handles of hangers together.
Have all necessary start-of-school paperwork in a separate envelope or folder that’s easy to access. Make sure your student also has their driver’s license or passport, health insurance card, prescription information (if taking regular medications), and banking information.
It's also recommended that you discuss and sign a HIPAA (health information) release form and store scans on your phones and laptops. You can learn more about HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) here. Your health care provider or insurance company should have release forms; they can be found online and often on the college website as well.
Finally, it’s a good idea for your student to photocopy all the cards in their wallet (front and back) and leave this at home with you in case of theft or loss.
Important Health Forms for College Students >
From a parent in New York: "Kids are nervous and it can cause them to be cranky. Remain calm and don't take anything they say too personally!"
Your student's college life has begun...and you're starting an exciting new chapter, too. Congratulations!