Tips for Prepping and What to Buy for College Move-in Day

We officially have a kid at college. I don’t think you can ever be fully ready for this reality.

I’m passing along what I learned so you can hopefully save time, and money, and reduce your stress for the big day.

I learned what to pack and dorm move-in tips from my experience moving my son along with tips from other parents in the dorm chatter Facebook group.

I’m sharing more about tips to prep and what to buy for college move-in day.


This article contains affiliate links.

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 over the calendar for the last two weeks before move-in day. 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 doing the not-fun things together.. like shopping for essentials.

sand dial

A Few Ideas For Your Final Weeks Before College Move-in Day

  • 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.
college dorm room

Find Out What Their Roommate is Bringing to College

This is important for items that you don’t need to duplicate. Most students prefer to have their own mini-fridge versus sharing one. My son and his roommate used one mini fridge for food and the other for drinks.

Other bigger items to discuss before arrival:

mini fridge

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.

car packed for college move in day

Packing Tips for College Move-in Day

Ikea Frakta bags with zippers are amazing! The bags make moving clothes into the dorm super easy. They hold a lot and can be used for laundry later.

Ikea Fratka bag

If you can’t make it to an IKEA you can purchase them or the Amazon knock-off storage bags.

garbage bag packing hack

The garbage bag trick around the hanging clothes was also super easy to carry in his clothes.

Try to help them put away and organize as much as possible before you go. It can be intimidating for students to create systems in their new space.

mattress topper pad

We learned the foam pad on top of his mattress was supposed to be out of the wrapper for 48 hours to unsmooth. 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.

bath towels

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 really freeing.

We bought new washcloths at the store and 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 need to walk to a shared bathroom down the hall.

We also bought a new iron for ourselves and sent him with our old one.

college dorm room

Rearrange the Dorm Furniture

We arranged some furniture 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’ll rearrange things again after you leave as they acclimate to their new environment.

snacks at the store

You’ll Forget Stuff And Make Last Minute Purchases Anyway

Even if you packed everything, you will still most likely run to Walmart for more last-minute items….(protein bars, Body Armor, microwave popcorn, a rug, dry-erase markers, etc.)

It’s also fun to buy their favorite candy and a random bag of chips that says “Rap Snacks” …just because you can.

shopping bags in car

Bring an Extra Key to Their Car

We brought my son’s extra car key to the store so that we could drop off the items while he was at football practice.

It was nice to treat him up with extra goodies including a few surprises.

stack of books

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 be able to download some of the books from Amazon Kindle.

important documents

Important Documents to Bring to College

(Make copies of anything you send with them)

  • Driver license/ photo ID
  • Car insurance card
  • Health insurance card
  • Prescriptions
  • Bank information
  • Vaccine/ immunization information/ vaccine card if they have one
What to know, pack, and purchase before you child leaves for college.

Talk About Their Preferred Method of Communication

As a mom of boys, I’m used to short answers and limited communication. I asked him in advance what he would prefer for how we communicate. I knew that he’d have a busy schedule with practices.

It’s a delicate balance of letting him know that he’s loved and thought of while also wanting him to have space to get settled at his dorm 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’s 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.

Amazon Prime package

If You Forget Anything, Use Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime makes it easy to send your college student packages without the pain of shipping care packages yourself or going 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.

student in car

Have Your Meaniful Talks Before You Get to the Dorm

Once you arrive at the dorm it’s a bit chaotic. Everyone is trying to unload and set up as quickly as possible. There’s a good chance that their roommate’s family will also be in the room when you arrive.

Our family had a special time at the house with hugs, meaningful words, prayers, and tears, before we left for his college. I also took advantage of the time in his car while his dad drove our car.

Having the time together as a family before our arrival helped make it easier to say goodbye later.

It’s an adjustment for your family with part of your heart living away but know they have great things ahead of them.

Their growing up is your growing up too.

Leave a Comment