By the time you read this, chances are good that your college has already started classes, which means you’re already settled in your college residence. Perhaps your move-in day went without a hitch. I hope it did. Or perhaps it was an exhausting blur of dodging other overloaded people, cramming your stuff into an unfamiliar dorm room and attending the school-sponsored programs and activities that my family dubbed “mandatory fun.” Especially if you’ve never experienced move-in day before, the bustle of RAs, orientation guides, fellow freshmen, family members and returning upperclassmen can be overwhelming.
Two years ago, I weathered my own freshman move-in, and this year I helped with my younger sister’s. Since both went smoothly, I picked up strategies for moving in successfully. Whether you’re a current freshman dreading your next move-in day or a high school senior counting down the year left before your first, implementing these tactics should improve your chances of an easy move-in.
In my experience, lots of preparation is the best thing you can do before moving in. The first step, as obvious as it sounds, is finishing all the paperwork your school requires. If you don’t have all your forms turned in—especially health and vaccination forms—you might not be allowed to move in at all. While you’re at it, make sure there aren’t any other pre-matriculation boxes your school requires you to check. My sister’s college, for instance, made her take an online alcohol education seminar before she arrived on campus.
Speaking of arrival, don’t let move-in day be the first time you’ve ever set foot on campus. If you somehow avoided making an admissions visit, at least sign up for an orientation session that’s well before the start of school. You don’t need to add unfamiliarity with the campus to the list of distractions and confusions move-in day presents. With a feel for the basic layout, you won’t be as stressed trying to figure out which of the five freshman dorms is yours.
It’s also a good idea to figure out roughly when your roommate is likely to arrive. One of you should get there earlier so you’re not both rushing in and out of the room and unpacking five boxes apiece at the same time. The earlier arriver doesn’t have to help the latecomer move in; the important thing is that you don’t start off literally on the wrong foot because you’re tripping over each other (or each other’s parents).
The biggest chore you’ll have before move-in day is packing. Packing resourcefully takes longer, but it’s worth the time. Try to use a minimum of suitcases and boxes, so that there’s less bulk and fewer unnecessary containers to deal with. This may mean rolling your wrinkle-resistant clothes into cinnamon-roll-like cylinders so that more of them will fit in a bag, or using your laundry basket instead of a separate bag to carry your shoes. If you’re going to bring a stack of plastic drawers, fill them with bedsheets, towels or other items that take up a lot of space in luggage.
Packing light automatically makes packing easier. Think about what you’ll really need at school: Your entire stash of throw blankets? A dozen fancy-dress outfits? Ten backup toothbrushes? Probably not. Go through your closet, your bathroom and your bedroom and ask yourself what’s truly essential and what you can live without. Minimizing gives you more precious space in your dorm room as well as speeding up your move-in. It’s also a great excuse to free up your space at home by throwing away, recycling or donating the things you don’t use anymore but have hung onto for some reason. Obviously, leaving things behind will be easier if your school is close to home, but it’s not impossible even if you’ll be far away.
At least a week before move-in day, iron out all those little practical details about how you’re getting to campus and what you’ll do when you get there. The decision of whether you’ll be driving or flying to school should already be settled, but what time will you leave the house to make sure you get to the airport or the campus on time? Who’s coming with you? When do you want to arrive? Will you start hauling boxes immediately, or get lunch first? Having a plan for move-in day, even if you discover the plan needs changing later, makes the process more manageable. Then, on your actual move-in day, there’s not much to do except execute your plan. Simple, right? Well, with a bit of luck to help your plans, it can be.
On move-in day, planning well means making sure you have enough manpower to get the job done. You’ll need several helpers to carry luggage, hold doors, unpack and generally keep things moving. Some objects (like mini fridges) simply can’t be moved by one unassisted person, due to their size or weight or both. If your room isn’t on the ground floor, don’t count on getting to use the elevator for every trip. Assume you’ll need two people to carry each item if you’re going up the stairs. You should probably have at least three people along besides yourself, at least for a first-time move-in. When you know the drill better, you won’t need as many.
Equipping yourself mentally is also a good idea. If you expect the situation to be hectic and the job of unpacking and organizing to take a while, you’re less likely to get stressed if things actually are chaotic and time-consuming. Also, be prepared to forget things. It’s almost inevitable that, no matter how carefully you plan or how many lists you make, you’ll forget something. Usually it’s the things you use so often that you take their presence for granted, such as clothes hangers or laundry detergent. I left the charging cord for my cell phone behind one year.
A Walmart or Target is never too far from any college campus, so you can probably go shopping for whatever you forgot. If you’ve already got the items at home, or if they’re irreplaceable, get your parents to ship them to you once they get home. At the end of the move-in day, the best plan you make may be the contingency plan.