Move-in Advice for College Freshmen


We know, we know… We're the website about applying to college. But we've also been around the block a couple of times when it comes to getting to college. So here are some tips for surviving move-in as you head off to campus -- courtesy of the school of experience.

While students come from many different backgrounds and circumstances, our advice here should have something for everyone.  And keep in mind that the particulars of the colleges' residence halls -- room size, built-ins, etc. -- will differ. We hope you get air conditioning and good lighting. If not, we have some suggestions:


·         IMPORTANT:  Label every box, suitcase, bag, etc. with your full name, residence hall and room number. Colleges sometimes have "move crews" of upperclassmen. They make move-in much easier, but you also may not be handling all your own boxes and suitcases. In any case, this is important in the event something gets delivered to the wrong room or you leave it temporarily in a hallway or lobby.

·         Try to keep all suitcases, boxes, etc., small and a reasonable weight as it will be much easier to handle them.  Don't use gigantic packing boxes that you cannot possibly lift alone. Think about whether the box or item can be moved by one person.  Remember the residence hall room may be on the third floor with no elevator.  If possible, use the office file boxes that have handles to pack the majority of your personal items.  They are easy to maneuver.  

·         Set aside one bag/box, clearly marked and kept in your hand (not passed on to any volunteer students who might be helping with move-in) that has your move-in tools.  You want immediate access to:  DRINKING WATER, scissors, duct tape, clear mailing tape, screw drivers (flat head and Phillips), pliers, power strips, extension cords, paper towels, cleaning spray, disinfecting wipes, sharpie pens, pencils, pens, paper, a box cutter and large trash bags.  

·         It makes it easier if all electronics are within one box. Pack any computer accessories (cords, software, etc.) and other cords, chargers, etc. in the same box, if possible. That way, if you are bringing anything even minimally complicated, the chief technology officer in your family (whoever that may be) can get started on the wiring ASAP during move-in.

·         Include in a box or suitcase, which you have control of, a small expandable file with: medical insurance information; drug allergies; copies of Rx's; emergency contact information; and any credit card and bank information.

·         Think strategically if you will have lots of items to remove from packaging or to assemble. You may want to assemble what you can before you head to campus. You could find you have little room to work on anything with two or more students in the midst of unpacking.

·     In most residence halls, the rooms are small (though you'll be surprised at how much a student can pack in!). Wait and check out the layout of closets and desks and the space under the bed before purchasing any storage containers.  If you purchase storage items that don't fit, you'll be heading back to Target and the Container Store to buy more.

·         Usually tape is not allowed for use on the walls and won't work anyway.  Use mounting putty to hang photographs or magazine images on the wall.  

·         A plastic 3-drawer storage container that can be mounted on wheels is a great idea.  They actually hold quite a bit and can be used as a side table for alarm clock, cell phone, etc.  

·         Bed risers are essential if the beds are loftable, since many people find it critical to use the space under the bed for storage.

·         It is helpful to have a small desk lamp.  The lighting in the rooms is usually horrible. Lots of students also use a SMALL desk fan.  It does help (particularly on move-in day when it will of course be 90 degrees).

·         Bring hangers and plenty of them.  

·         If you are lucky enough to be bringing a TV, bring a LONGGGG cable cord as you don’t know how far the TV will be located from the cable jack.   Duct tape can be used to tape it down so that the cable will not be in the way.  

Advice for parents: Help your student get unpacked and online, then say your goodbyes and take your leave. It will be difficult on all sides, so move on gracefully. Allow your son or daughter to move into their new role with confidence and optimism. 

With special thanks to parent Ellen Michelson who originated this list and excellent advice.


And if you have some further wisdom, please share it with us at

Add comment