Moving to College Guide Tips for College Students

Remote Learning
During the Coronavirus Pandemic
May 29, 2020
young woman packing to move to college

How to Move to College

Moving into a dorm room for the first time is probably going to be one of the biggest things most college students have ever done. There are many details to read and remember and many things to organize and plan.

Students will need to separate the things they can’t or shouldn’t take with them from the things they absolutely must have with them while they’re at college. And, knowing that most dorm rooms are about the size of a postage stamp, the amount of belongings you can take is pretty limited. On moving day, everything should be completely ready, except for putting everything into the car and then unloading it at your destination.

College Classes Resources


Preparing to Move


Students should receive letters and/or emails from the college’s Housing Office that are meant to help with the pre-move preparations. Read everything. You’ll need to know every detail so that, when it’s time to begin making decisions, preparing, and packing, you’re ready to take on the task. Not only are students moving out on their own for the first time, this might even be the first time you’ve moved at all, so it’s natural to feel nervous or even a bit scared.

You can go to discount stores and/or department stores to find what you need. It’s best to create lists for each important category such as bedding and linens, cleaning items, and health and toiletries.

  • Pay close attention to what the university tells you to bring. You’ll need to save space where little exists. If you live fairly close to home, it shouldn’t be a problem if you forget something or bring an item you won’t need. However, the farther away you live, the less you should pack.
  • Make plenty of lists. Not only do you need lists to make sure you get everything at the store, but you should also track tasks to make sure you aren’t having to do everything in the last week and you could track by priority some of the items you want to bring with you but might not need. Put these items in separate boxes so that, if it seems cramped in your new room, you can send that box back home.
  • As you are looking at the items you need to buy, remember to keep them small. You should consider making sure any larger items can fold up so they can be stored away.
  • Coordinate with your new roommate about who will bring what, especially if you need to furnish the room. There’s no need (or room) for two coffee makers or microwaves. You bring some items you can share, and they will bring the other items to be shared. Discuss decor as well, if you want the room to be decorated as a whole.
  • Weed out the clothing you’re leaving behind. Your closet is going to be small. Take clothing for late-summer and fall and consider leaving the rest home. You won’t need full winter clothing right away unless you live in a very cold climate and you can always switch out your clothes when you go back home. Additionally, you can probably skip the rows of fancy footwear you’ve collected for the time being. Unless you are going to a private school with balls and parties every night (Where are you going?), consider saving your closet space for something more practical.
  • As the big day draws nearer, you can start buying (or better yet, getting for free from the local Walmart or Kroger) moving boxes. Don’t worry about lugging heavy suitcases full of your clothing—gather your clothing on its hangers and wrap heavy rubber bands around the tops of several. Then slide a large trash back up over the clothing and tie the top around the hangers. Repeat for each batch of clothing you’re taking. If you’re looking for boxes, ask at the warehouse section or customer service of a local big box store; they’ll often let you pick some up on whatever their delivery day is.
  • Put together a kit with first-aid healthcare items. Depending on your family’s and your preference, take OTC medications or natural healthcare items with you. Your first aid items should include antibiotic cream, bandages, gauze, tape to secure the gauze, and bandages. Even if there’s a nurse on campus, you’ll save a lot of time dealing with small issues if you keep these items on hand.
  • Don’t forget to wash your new sheets and towels. Once you’ve washed and dried them, they will smell like home and they will also feel much softer.

What Not to Take


After reading the list of items you’ve been told to leave at home, you may be looking all around your room, wondering how you’ll live without your hardcover Little Women or Harry Potter books. First, it’s possible you won’t have much, if any, time for recreational reading. You love to create in whatever medium you’ve chosen but that box of oils or yarn for crocheting will likely have to stay at home. Again, you’ll have little time for crafting. And if you find that you can make the space and the time, you can always pick them up the first time you’re home.

You can use this list to really think about what you’ll need while you’re at college, but keep in mind – colleges are different in what they allow and what they already provide. If you haven’t read the information they sent you about what you need to bring or aren’t allowed to bring, you should do that now.

  • Pets :
    Not only will you usually not be allowed to bring more than a fishbowl into a dorm (and you’ll have to ask about that first), you also likely wouldn’t have the room or the time to take care of your cat, dog, or pet cockatiel anyway. Allow them to stay at home with your parents and siblings. They will take care of them for you.
  • Your desk :
    How can you leave it at home? It’s easier to leave at home than it is to pack in a small moving trailer. Many dorm rooms come with a built-in desk so that you can store school supplies and study. The same goes for your comfy office chair.
  • Microwave, toaster, mini-fridge :
    This largely depends on the school and the type of building you’ll be moving into. Check with the school first, but many dorms have specific rules for these items. Besides, you’re likely going to be eating in the campus dining hall.
  • Wallpaper or paint :
    Housing officials will pretty much always give this a big, “N-O”. The most you can put on the walls to personalize your half of the room would be pictures and posters. You can also buy specialty wall hangers (ask first if these are approved) that use a paint-safe adhesive that removes easily. No nails, thumb tacks, or staples will be allowed.
  • Curtains :
    Again, you would have to put holes in the wall to put the rod up if there isn’t one already. If you really want curtains, you should ask at the dorm’s front desk or at the Housing Office.
  • Iron and ironing board :
    You should be taking clothing that doesn’t require ironing. Your dorm room probably won’t have the room for an ironing board and you will have even less time to spend ironing than you do now.
  • Too many clothes :
    Resist the impulse. You likely won’t need them and you may end up not having room to store all the clothes you want to bring. Instead, pack strategically for events and the weather with an eye to bring as few things as possible. Maybe, if you pack carefully you can still take a few statement items you really love.
  • School supplies :
    First, you don’t know what any of your professors will require you to bring. Just take a binder or spiral notebook and a few pens or pencils. After you’ve gone to the first session of each class, you can go to the local discount store and buy what you know you need.
  • Too many dishes :
    If you and your roommate coordinate with each other, just bring the minimum of what you need: a coffee thermos, some pieces of silverware, and a few microwave-safe plates. You won’t need many dishes just to heat up a snack and, again, you’ll probably be eating at a cafeteria.

What to Pack and Take


Moving day is getting closer and closer. You’ve read the lists of things you need and have a mental list of what has to stay at home. You’ve been going to the store with one of your parents to buy what you need. You’ve even emailed the Housing Office to check on items you’re not sure of. There are excellent reasons some things, like toasters or candles with an open flame, may not be allowed (health and safety).

  • Clothes :
    You should be sure to take weather into account. If it’s hot and dry where you live, that’s one thing. If you’re going to move to a state where fall and winter are cold and snowy, consider this as you go through bedding, clothing, outwear, and shoes. Make sure you pack sufficient underwear, socks, pajamas, sweats, shirts and jeans.
  • Bedding :
    You’ll likely need sheets (check with the school for bed size; usually single or twin), a light throw blanket, and a comforter or lightweight quilt. These should be easy to wash. Remember to bring two sets of sheets and pillow cases.
  • Lights and alarms :
    If you use an alarm to wake up, you’ll want to make sure to take it with you. You might also want to take or get a small reading light, just in case your roommate wants to go to bed early when you still need to study.
  • Bath linens :
    Bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths should also be on your list—using a permanent marker, put your name on the tag. However, don’t take too many; you don’t need as many as your whole household, just enough to take a shower while 1 towel is in the wash.
  • Toiletries :
    You may be living in a dorm with a communal shower. This means you need shower shoes (you want to avoid getting athlete’s foot), a bathrobe and a shower caddy to store your toiletries. You’ll also need to include your grooming and hygiene items such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, bath gel, toothbrush, toothpaste, body lotion, and maybe a portable makeup kit. You could also use a shower cap for those mornings when you don’t want wet hair. Q-tips, mouthwash, eye drops, nail clippers, dental floss, cotton swabs and a shaving kit are also things you might consider including.
  • Medications and health items :
    If you take prescription medications, bring these, along with copies of your prescriptions so you can refill them. You might also consider bringing a heating pad, thermometer, and scale. You should already have a first aid kit made up. If you use an air purifier for allergies you should consider bringing this as well.
  • Laundry Supplies :
    A laundry basket or bag, detergent, dryer sheets, bleach, and stain-remover stick will help you do your laundry before you visit home. A few rolls of quarters for the washers and dryers will also be helpful.

Before Move-In Day


Now, you’re just days away from leaving home to go to college. It’s time to begin packing everything. Make sure you have permanent markets, packing tape, boxes, and scissors ready. You want the unpacking process to go as smoothly as possible, so you’ll need to be as organized as you can in your planning and packing. If you have already had a conversation or three with your new roommate, keep the conversations going. As well as being a good “get to know you” practice, you can spend part of your conversations deciding who will bring what.

  • Organize everything to be packed before you pack it. You don’t want your shoes packed with your linens, even though they may fit. Instead, organize everything according to how you will be using it; linens all together, shoes under a stack of socks and underwear, etc. You don’t want to dirty your just-washed linens by stacking your shoes on top of them.
  • As you pack, mark every box with its contents; bathroom/bed linens, for instance. Keep toiletries and health items together. When you unpack, you’ll know what you’re opening and where it goes.
  • Sit down with your family before you leave. If you don’t want them hovering over you, let them know in a loving way. The Housing Office may have them leave once you’re unpacked. Discuss how often you will call or text them. Let them know that, if you experience a situation you need help with, you will let them know.
  • That box of boots and winter outerwear: take them in a box you can leave them in, maybe and under-the-bed box that you can easily store until there’s bad weather.

Move-In Day


Today is moving day - it’s time to leave your home and family so that you can move into a small dorm room that houses two college students. You’ve probably been preparing for today for quite a while—it may feel as though you’ve been at this for years at this point. You’ve read the Housing Office letters; spoken to older siblings who have lived in the dorms; read blog articles and generally tried to glean as much information as you could.

After eating breakfast, you and your family load up the car and depart; here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Instead of waiting to leave on move-in day, it’s a better idea to time your departure so that you arrive somewhat early. You may even want to show up the day before move-in day is scheduled. If you live several hours away from the university, this gives you time to drive around the community with your parents so you can locate the stores you’ll need and familiarize yourself with the campus.
  • You and your parents should make sure to load the tools you may need to make your moving in easier: Paper towels, a doorstop, scissors, tools such as screwdrivers and a hammer, disinfectant wipes, duct tape, and permanent markers.
  • On move-in day, get to the dorm as early as you can. If you were given a move-in time, respect that by not arriving before the start. University staff members will be available to answer questions. Let your family park the car while you stay with your belongings. In your room, discuss preferences regarding room arrangement for your half of the room with your roommate if you haven’t already.
  • Pay attention to what you’re wearing, shorts or jeans and a T-shirt would work well. Sneakers are best for your feet as you’ll be carrying bags and boxes, possibly up a few flights of stairs. Because this is the beginning of the fall semester, it may be hot and possibly humid.
  • Allow time for a quick trip to the store. You may have forgotten a vital item or want to have a little food in the mini-fridge after your parents leave. Also, if you realize you don’t need something you brought, have your parents to take it back home. You can always get it later if you change your mind.