College, Education, Independence, Raising Teens

How to Survive College Move-In Day


The day has finally come! Everyone is excited and maybe a little nervous. But they are ready and you are ready. It will be a long, busy day and all things may not go as planned, but here is a list of 10 tips to help you survive college move-in day. Our daughters are about to start their senior and junior years at JMU, so this is not our first rodeo. We hope our experiences will help you navigate this day with ease.

Wilson Hall, James Madison University. (Photo credit: JMU Facebook page, public photos.)

10 Tips for Surviving College Move-In Day:


Car # 1 is loaded. (Aug. 2018)


1) Wear tennis shoes!

No need for cute sandals or flip flops – let’s be practical here! You will be doing lots of walking, probably up and down many flights of stairs and you need comfortable shoes. You also want toe protection – a dropped storage bin on exposed toes will not feel good! Stubbing a toe on furniture hurts way less in tennis shoes than flip flops.

2) Bring a cooler with drinks.

Pack a small cooler with water bottles, Gatorades, and sodas to keep you hydrated. Carrying lots of boxes up and down many flights of stairs will be draining and an ice cold drink will help you power through. A light snack might also be a good idea to have on hand to tide you over until lunch.

3) Bring a small toolbox.

You never know what the day will hold in terms of room set up and putting small furniture items together, so it’s a good idea to have a small toolbox – with the basics- with you. We have found that a rubber mallet comes in handy when raising and lowering beds.

It’s all in! Now let’s unpack! (Aug. 2018)

4) Borrow a dolly or rolling cart.

If you have access to a dolly or rolling cart of some sort, by all means bring it! Of course this is only helpful if the dorm has an elevator. This allows you to load up many items at once, saving on extra trips from the car to the dorm. Many freshman dorms have upperclassman volunteers to help on move-in day and if you’re lucky you may only have to carry up one load of items yourself! Sometimes dorms have large rolling bins that you can borrow to bring your things up, but it may take a while to get your hands on one.

5) Make the bed first!

Pack all of the bedding together and make sure it is unpacked first. Go ahead and make up the bed right away. That way if nothing else gets accomplished during the day at least your student has a comfy bed to sleep in the first night! Tip: save the zippered bags that the comforter and mattress pad come in to store them in again when they come home at the end of the year. Take these home with you at the end of the day, can’t guarantee their survival if they stay with your student all year!

At least she has a place to sleep! (Aug. 2018)

6) Stock up on Command strips.

These will be a life saver when it comes to decorating the walls! Purchase them in various sizes as the size determines the weight it can hold. Do not be surprised if you have a hard time getting them to stick on cinder block walls on move-in day, with doors being open so much the humidity can cause problems. Trust me, once the air inside the dorm cools they will stick just fine – I know from experience because it happened to my oldest in her freshman dorm. If the dorm is not air conditioned, it may take a little longer.

These were the only Command strips that stayed up on move-in day. (Aug. 2016)


Took a week or so, but everything was finally hung up…and staying! (Sept. 2016)

7) Buy surge protector power strips.

Most dorms do not allow extension cords nor provide enough electrical outlets, so you will need to buy surge protector power strips – 2 should be enough. They should be 6-9 feet long to be flexible enough to accommodate the furniture configuration. Note: most dorms do not allow lamps (or similar items) to have an outlet in the base as it functions like an extension cord.

8) Bring lots of patience!

College move-in day is stressful and emotions run high. It’s crowded and everyone has the same agenda. You will have to wait your turn at times, you will have to wait in line, you will have to share space with lots of strangers. You will have to have patience – lots and lots of patience! If you do, the day will go much more smoothly.

9) Take cues from your student.

Remember – this day is all about them, not you. It’s their room, their college experience. Let them dictate how much or how little you help with. Some may want help with everything, others may be more independent and only need you for the essentials and want to do much of the unpacking and decorating themselves. How will you know? Just ask them. You can make suggestions, but let them make the decisions.

Mostly done! (Aug. 2018)

10) Leave.

Yes, you read that correctly. You have to leave. After the unpacking is done, the decorations and string lights are hung, and you have gathered anything that needs to go back home, it’s time to leave. Say your goodbyes, give the hugs and kisses, and turn and walk down that hallway. Besides, your student will be whisked away for freshman activities at any moment anyway (it happened to us).

There will be tears. And that’s okay. There may even be ugly crying in the car on the way home, and that’s okay too. You have prepared them well for this day. They are ready. And you must leave.

If by chance you get a call from your student 30 minutes after you get home (only two hours away), saying this “college life isn’t for me” and “please come get me”, stay strong; they will be fine and you will be too. Again, this happened to us (daughter #1, 2016)… and is a topic for a whole other post!

Wishing you the best of luck with your very own college move-in day! You WILL survive! I am living proof!


Freshman roommates and best friends from day 1! (Daughter #1 on the right) (Aug. 2016)
First visit to our college freshman (on left), she’s smiling but she wanted to come home with us! (Aug. 2016)
Saying goodbye to daughter #2 at JMU. (Aug. 2018)


You may also be interested in this post,  Are You Campus Ready?






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