Recent Posts

Launching your college student, 5 Tips for getting to the BIG Move-In Day

If you’ve got kids then the familiar sight of notebooks and pencils in aisle one of your local store is a gentle reminder that the start of school is close.  However, it’s a different story if you’ve been preparing a child for their first year of college because that process lasts all summer long.  

From the moment they finish the waltz across the stage in their graduation robes, the non-stop decision making about school begins.  Decisions ranging from roommate selections, whether they will prefer a double, a triple, or a quad, which placement tests are needed to what meal plan is best.   But, we’re not done yet! There’s student orientation to attend, class selection and finally, like Christmas, the date to check the housing portal for dorm assignment arrives.  

This is the fun part – your student gets to envision where they will be living! This is the start of a whole new and exciting chapter in their young adult lives. They are taking their first independent steps away from the nest. Who knew that living in tight quarters with people you don’t know could be so anticipated!

Once the move-in packet is available, the frenetic pace of college prep gets even more frenetic so fasten your seatbelt! There’s a practical aspect to the transition, deciding what to bring or not to bring. And, depending on the child, that can lead to gathering and/or purchasing a lot of “stuff” for the big move-in day. Thankfully, the question of what to bring and not to bring is itemized in the move-in packet along with a handy shopping list. Getting that child ready for that actual first move-in, though? That’s all on you! Since my third child is going off to college this fall, I’ll share some tips worth considering as you go through this, uh, great adventure!

Pack items from home before shopping


In order to keep from overspending on unnecessary items, I recommend having your student gather their own items for packing first. Take an inventory against the college check-list and then decide what is necessary to shop for. Preparing a packing pile early will also give you a good idea of whether you will need a moving truck or van, two cars or one, and how many family members you will be buying lunch for in return for some muscle power on move-in day.

Reserve moving trucks and vans early

374021-PBCHXM-424 (1)

Especially, (and I repeat) especially if you live near or around other colleges.  If you and your child inventory early in the summer you should have a good idea if everything is going to fit in the family car.  Don’t make the mistake I made one year by deciding last minute that we needed a van. Of course, because we live just outside of Boston, there wasn’t a single van or truck available for rental.  Luckily we were able to borrow a friends pick-up. The unlucky part? The pouring rain that day!

Make decisions about the childhood bedroom

woman jumping on the bed

Maybe you’ve been dreaming of a home office or a place to do yoga every morning, a vacant bedroom might just be the extra space you need.  But, if your household has a few young adults you know that they are frequently in transition. While one is packing to go another comes back just as quickly, and that perfectly describes my household right now.  To keep the peace in a transitional household we made decisions early this summer to prepare for my daughter’s return home and into her brother’s much larger bedroom.  

Since he was already organizing and packing for school, I had my student make hard decisions about his “leave-behinds”. Books and other precious items he wants to keep but doesn’t need were boxed and the remaining possessions I discarded as I saw fit. I also had him take inventory of all of his clothing. Clothing going to college was packed, and the rest was separated for donation or kept for visits home. I wish I had done this with my first two children – my attic wouldn’t be popping at the seams!

Skateboard?  Scooter? Bike? Car?


Find out the policy before bringing these types of items. Ask questions like what kind of storage is available for bikes and scooters.  How will they be moved to campus? Is a permit required? If your student wants to bring their car, ask about on-campus parking policies.

My student is traveling across the country with his favorite skateboard that wouldn’t fit in a carry-on or his luggage.  It was the last thing we thought about during the packing process!  He was convinced that we would not be allowed to take it on the plane but we had already packed his moving boxes 3-weeks prior to us leaving. The night before flying we had to decide whether to take it or leave it.  We took a flyer (pun intended), and it flew in the overhead bins. If your student loves their bicycle and needs it on campus make sure you leave room for it, arrange to ship it or check with the airlines on packing requirements.

Don’t panic if you didn’t pack it


Let your kid experience the fun of going off on a shuttled shopping expedition to the store – they’ll probably have lots of company and it’s a great bonding experience!

Finally, whether your child is planning a minimalist or extravagant (or anywhere in-between) dorm room there are just a few things I would suggest they include:

  • Swiss Army knife – for putting together storage cubes on move-in day or cutting cheese for a late-night snack.
  • Noise-canceling headphones – dorms are loud places and neighbors sometimes stay up really, really late.
  • Ice breaker games – getting to know everyone couldn’t be more fun and what a good way to fill time during those awkward first few weeks
  • First Aid kit – Just because they were smart enough to get into college doesn’t mean they will always be so smart…

Good luck college freshman!  And to all the freshman parents, get ready, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Blast OFF!

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer and has worked at Julianna Rae in graphics and customer service, she now writes lifestyle pieces for the blog at