While you were plodding through the college search, you (and your parents) wondered if you’d survive to get to the big moment: Move-In Day. But now that it’s almost time for your triumphant arrival on campus, you’re probably feeling less confident and more nervous than you imagined.
That’s totally normal. The truth is that the day you move into your dorm room can be one of the most overwhelming of your college career. First, consider that you’re not the only one moving in; most of your classmates are moving in, too. Second, you’re likely to feel a rush of excitement and trepidation: You’re finally a college student! Whoa. Third, everything around you is new: the people, the place and the expectations. That’s a lot of change for one day.
Don’t panic. The secret to surviving (and maybe even enjoying) Move-In Day is having a plan and knowing what to expect.
They should call it Marathon Day. Get ready for a long day. You could be hauling your stuff up six flights of stairs in 95-degree weather. Your dad could say something really embarrassing to your roommate. You’ll probably have to go get your student ID, buy your books, and go to a hall meeting or new-student orientation.
Don’t sleep late. Unloading your car takes longer than you expect, and it’s easier to get it done in the morning when fewer people are around and the air is cooler. Plus, if you’re the first one into your room, you get dibs on the best half. Make sure that you have a good breakfast.
This isn’t a land grab. Okay, you could just claim your space, but it’s a better idea to email your roommate ahead of time and ask if he has a preference or to convey yours. Does he want to sleep near the window or the radiator? On the top or bottom bunk? Bonus: You set the tone for a healthy living arrangement.
Help! At many schools, hall counselors, resident advisors and other upperclassmen show up to haul new students’ stuff from the car to the room. If someone offers to help, smile and hand him a box.
Check out your new digs. You’re not just deciding where to build your shrine to Lady GaGa. Pay attention to nicks in the furniture and scratches on the wall. Your resident advisor will come by to make a list of any damage in your room, and you should be sure the list is thorough. When the time comes to move out, you don’t want to have to pay for damage that was already there.
Stay on schedule. If you’re supposed to go meet your academic advisor or register for classes, go! You can unpack boxes later. Ask around to see if your hallmates are planning to go to dinner together; this time is a great chance to meet the people who will see you through homesickness, beer-induced table-dancing (and the morning-after embarrassment) and mid-terms.
Mom? Dad? Get to work. Send your parents to do things that they can: buy your books, find out about parking passes or grab last-minute necessities for your room. Trust us: They want to help, so give them something to do—before your mom starts telling stories about your first day of kindergarten.
Grocery shopping will never be this fun. Before your parents leave, ask if they’ll take you to the store, so you can stock up on essentials. They’ll probably spring for the biggest value pack of toothpaste you can find, along with other toiletries and non-perishable foods. Hello Ramen noodles!
Tomorrow is better. At the end of Move-In Day, you might still feel overwhelmed. That’s okay. It can take a few weeks before your room starts feeling like home. Until then, get to know your hallmates and spend some time decorating your digs. Before you know it, you’ll have finished your first year—and you’ll be schlepping your stuff in 95-degree weather once again.
Tips for Mom and Dad
Let your child take charge. This is her first day as a college student. Give her the chance to act like one. If she has a question, let her ask it. If she asks you to grab a cup of coffee while she unpacks, go.
Go to parent orientation. You’ll like the sense of camaraderie you feel, and you’ll get good advice on how to help your student make this transition smoothly.
Leave when it’s time. Many schools designate a “farewell time,” when students and parents say goodbye. Don’t linger. And if you have to cry, try to save it for the car. No child has ever wished his mom sobbed a little longer in front of his new classmates.