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5 Tips for College Move-in Day

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parents and kids moving into college dorms

College move-in day is something every parent dreads and every student looks forward to. Parents are excited about their student attending college, but dreading the inevitable “empty nest” feeling. Students look forward to college experiences and independence from parental authority.

Here are just a few tips to help prepare you for college move-in day.

Pre move-in day preparation

Before move-in day you and your student should do some pregame preparation.

Purchase dorm essentials

It goes without saying that your college-bound teen is going to need dorm furnishings and supplies. There are numerous sites that provide parents and students with dorm essential lists, Check out the resources provided by Bed, Bath and Beyond for a campus checklist. There is also a service (Dorm It Up) that provides online purchase and delivery directly to your dorm room.

Connect with future roommate

Once your student knows who the roommate or roommates will be connect with them. Discuss what you will be bringing to the dorm room and what your roommate will bring. This avoids any duplication of the larger items like a mini-fridge, microwave or television. These first few conversations help you get to know the person which alleviates awkwardness on move-in day.

Talk about expectations on move-in day

Don’t hang around when you’re not wanted. If your student wants you to help them move-in, help and then leave. Some parents take their student to dinner after move-in and then say goodbye. Don’t embarrass them and let go when it’s time.

Move-in day

Unless you were raised in a jail cell, your dorm room is going to seem way too small for storing all your stuff. Upon moving in, you’ll inevitably find that your closet is too small and that you have to make hard decisions about what will actually fit in your dorm room. Here’s a nifty little tool that might help you prepare: Design Your Dorm.

Every student regrets over-packing when preparing for move-in day.

But once you arrive, you should also avoid making these five mistakes:

1. Leaving furniture as is

By far, the biggest mistake you can make on move-in day is to leave the furniture where it is. You are totally allowed—with your roommate’s blessings, of course—to move it! And don’t be shy about trying out a few different arrangements. Often, there is a better way to position your furniture to at least give the illusion of more space and even privacy. Typically, pushing your bed and desk against the walls leaves an open area in the center of the room. Pushing bureaus back to back can create private nooks for dressing or sleeping.

2. Not using vertical space

The sky is the limit when you are organizing your room. Even if your desk doesn’t come with shelves, you can pick up cost-effective shelving units at places like Kmart and Target. Be sure your shelves are durable enough to support the considerable weight of your textbooks or whatever else you plan to keep on them. If you have room, a full-out bookcase is great for storing groceries, cooking supplies and other dorm miscellanea. Or opt for wall shelves, which free up floor space but might not be as sturdy.

Hint: Buildable cube shelving gives you sturdy flexibility and can be recycled for whatever space you find yourself living in next year. And you can shove a single cube at the bottom of your closet or on your desk for additional organization.

3. Overlooking under-the-bed space

Don’t underestimate the amount of stuff you can store simply by cramming it under your bed. Baskets, plastic drawers and crates may help with organizing, but your best investment by far is a set of bed risers (aka sturdy stilts for your bed posts). These raise the bed so you can have additional storage space.

4. Keeping a messy closet

Accept that you will not have sufficient closet space, especially if you go to school in a climate where bulky layers are necessary. With this in mind, mess management is a must. First, get a shoe rack. Your best bet for a shoe rack is one that hangs over the closet door. Stuff it with shoes and other random items like hats, gloves and toiletries. With shoes and accessories off the floor, you may be able to fit an extra bar for hanging or a small shelving unit for folded stuff.

5. Bringing big stuff

Be flexible about bringing larger items like couches and bikes. These are nice amenities but may find a better home in your parents’ garage. If you’re able—and your roommate is willing—to bunk beds, some larger furniture may fit. Some schools let you loft your bed above your desk—an ingenious way to conserve space. If you’re looking into a loft, however, find out how high and sturdy it is before buying so you know it will fit and won’t fall. As for your bike, keep it locked outside on a bike rack.

Set some ground rules with your roommate. You should discuss each of your expectations about staying up and waking up, partying, having guests over, cleanliness and borrowing each other’s things. (These are the most common conflicts, but they might not be the only ones.) There is no better time than the present to voice your opinion or strike some compromises, even if it results in early head-butting. It’s better than letting issues build up later, which can lead to heated arguments and uncomfortable passive-aggression.

Post move-in day

Saying goodbye is never easy, but it’s important to prepare in advance for the eventuality of separation.

If you wish to hover over your student while he or she is in the water, that’s fine. Let them learn how to sink or swim. Allow them to float or drift. You only need to lower the lifeline if your son or daughter is drowning.It’s important that you not become like this parent:

A man’s daughter attended college in a neighboring state. He said college had live video feeds from different parts of campus. My friend knew his daughter’s class schedule and the route she took to classes each day. He would check the video feeds to watch his daughter go to class and leave class EVERY day for EVERY class that brought her in range of the cameras. If she missed class or he didn’t see her on the feed, he made a call or sent an email. He proudly shared this tale with me and you could have knocked me over with a feather.

Expect the feeling of loss to arrive the minute you wave goodbye. But if you’ve set some ground rules for communication and planned to attend parents weekend, it will make the separation bearable.

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