We officially have a kid at college. I don’t think that you can ever be fully ready for this reality.
I’m passing along what I learned so that I can hopefully save you time, money and reduce your stress for the big day.
I learned what to pack and dorm move-in tips from my own experience along with a bunch of tips from other parents in the dorm chatter Facebook group.
Thanks again to Visit Las Vegas for hosting our visit. This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase something we have recommended.
Schedule As Many Memories as Possible Before Move-in Day
This is a tricky one. They don’t want to be overscheduled with family stuff but if you don’t schedule some things… they just won’t happen and you’ll run out of time.
We tried to sit down and look at the calendar for the last two weeks. It was important to try to keep his weekend evenings open for friends.
There was also the delicate balance of wanting to do fun things together and also doing not-fun things together.. like shopping for essentials.
A Few Ideas For Your Final Weeks
- A day where you spend a few hours going through their closet to see what they really need
- Shopping day for clothing needed- We love the Dillard’s Clearance Center for dressier clothes
- Make a list of their shoe size and clothing size in the notes on your phone along with their clothing needs
- Time scheduled with grandparents, mentors, extended family
- A few fun adventure days- We did a waterpark day at Kings Island, a local lake day, and mini golf with the grandparents the night before he moved. Be on the lookout for great deals on Groupon.
Find Out What Their Roommate is Bringing
This is important for items that you don’t need to duplicate. We were told that most students prefer to have their own mini-fridge versus sharing one. My son and his roommate talked about using one mini fridge for food and the other for drinks.
Other bigger items to discuss prior to arrival:
- Large Area Rug
- Game system/video games
- Couch/larger additional furniture
- Color Scheme- probably more important for girls
College Move-In Packing List
There are several purchases that you need to plan ahead in advance.
I would recommend purchasing a mini-fridge with a separate door for a freezer ahead of time.
You don’t want to be in a situation where the local store is out and you don’t have one.
- Plastic storage container with drawers
- Shoe rack
- Mini fridge with separate freezer door (no defrosting)
- Extension cord
- Air pods/ wireless headphones
- Power strip
- Extra cell phone charger/ extra long cell phone cords
- Shower caddy
- 3-inch mattress topper twin xl
- XL twin sheets
- Mattress protector
- Box fan
- Garbage can
- Bed risers (if their bed doesn’t already rise or if they want a few extra inches)
- Tension rod/ curtain for the closet (only if they will realistically want their closet covered)
- Mini ironing board
- Command hooks/ Command strips
- Shelving/bedside shelf
- IKEA Fratka bags
- Laundry detergent/dryer sheets
- Toiletry Items
- First aid kit
- Travel mug/ water bottle
- Baby wipes
- Family pic in a frame
- Paper plates/ bowls, utensils
- Cleaning supplies
- Garbage Bags
- Reading pillow/bed wedge
- Regular pillow
- Dry erase markers
- Scissors – easier to cut boxes
- Protein drinks/ protein bars
- Bottled water
- School supplies
- Car emergency kit
- Dorm room rug
- Ultra slim hangers (fit more clothes in a small closet)
- Dress clothes ( Our student-athlete needed to bring a tie, dress shirt, etc)
- Bed rails– Only if your student is raising their bed and the school doesn’t supply them. Some students use the rails at the head of the bed if their room configuration doesn’t allow them to have a headboard or wall to lean against.
Packing Tips for College Move-in Day
Ikea Frakta bags with zippers are amazing and make moving their clothes into the dorm super easy. They hold a lot and can be used for laundry later.
If you can’t make it to an IKEA you can purchase them or the Amazon knock-off storage bags.
The garbage bag trick around all of the hanging clothes was also super easy for carrying in his clothes.
Try to help them put away and organize as much as possible before you go. It can be intimidating to try to figure out systems in their new space.
We learned that the foam pad on top of his mattress was technically supposed to be out of the wrapper for 48 hours to unsmoosh. Oops!
Also, don’t forget to wait 24 hours to plug in your mini-fridge if you laid it on its side to transport it.
Buy the New Towels for Yourself
When was the last time that you bought new towels for your house?
If you are like us you’ve probably held onto the same towels for YEARS. I read this article from the LA Times about not buying new towels for our college students and it was actually really freeing.
We did buy new washcloths at the store for him with some other additional purchases after drop-off.
Instead of sending them with regular towels, you might want to consider beach towels. We had a TON of beach towels at home and let’s be honest, no one really fits in a regular towel anyway.
A beach towel allows them to cover their whole body if they have to walk to a shared bathroom down the hall.
We also bought a new iron for ourselves and sent him with our old one.
Rearrange the Dorm Furniture
We arranged some of the furniture a few times during our brief time in his room.
If you have bed risers, you can use the space under their bed for a mini-fridge, short dresser, and additional storage. Realistically they will rearrange things again after you leave as they acclimate to their new environment.
You’ll Forget Stuff And Make Last Minute Purchases Anyway
It’s also fun to buy their fav candy and a random bag of chips that says “Rap Snacks” …just because you can.
Bring an Extra Key to Their Car
We brought my son’s extra car key so that we could run to the store and drop off the items while he was at football practice.
It was nice to be able to load him up with extra goodies including a few surprises.
Wait to Buy Their Books
This advice was given to me by a parent and one of our tour guides during a college visit. You don’t want to buy all of their books before school starts.
Wait until they get their class syllabus and their professor assigns them. You may also be able to download some of the books from Amazon Kindle.
Important Documents to Bring to College
(Make copies of anything you send with them)
- Drivers license/ photo ID
- Car insurance card
- Health insurance card
- Bank information
- Vaccine/ immunization information/ vaccine card if they have one
Talk About Their Preferred Method of Communication
As a mom of boys, I’m used to short answers and limited communication. So I asked him ahead of time what he would prefer for how we communicate. I know that he will have a busy schedule with practices.
It’s a delicate balance of letting him know that he is loved and thought of while also wanting him to get settled and feel more independent.
So far texting has worked really well. If he doesn’t answer right away I know he is busy. Texting is also easier than calling or Facetiming because he is sharing a room.
Don’t get me wrong, I would love to hear his voice and see his face, but I would rather have any communication with him vs. none at all or risk annoying him.
If You Forget Anything, Use Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime makes it easier to send your college student packages without the pain of shipping or having to go to the post office.
Make sure that you have them find out their mailing address.
Other options are sending gift cards or Venmo, Paypal, or the Cash app if your student needs cash quickly.
Have Your Meaniful Talks Before You Get to the Dorm
Once you arrive at the dorm it’s really busy and everyone is trying to unload and set up as quickly as possible. There is also a good chance that their roommate’s family will be in the room as well when you arrive.
Our family had a special time at the house with hugs, meaningful words, prayers, and tears before we drove to college. I also took advantage of the time in his car while his dad drove our car.
Having the time together as a family really helped make it easier to say goodbye later.
It’s going to be an adjustment for our family with part of our heart living away but we know he has great things ahead of him.
His growing up is our growing up too.