If you’re an incoming freshman, you’ve probably been thinking about move-in day all summer. You might have pinned a huge college shopping list months ago (because over 100,000 of you have pinned this one), and taken multiple trips to Target to pick everything up. But now, you have to figure out how the heck you’re going to move it all into your tiny little dorm. And trust me, packing for college is much more stressful than figuring out what you need in the first place!
I only live 30 minutes from my campus, so moving everything to my dorm wasn’t nearly as difficult as it might be for some of you, but that also made me pretty careless. I made at least 10 trips to and from my dorm during freshman year move-ins because I was constantly forgetting something, or just didn’t buy it in the first place. There are so many things to know about, like lofting your bed and figuring out your parking situation, and if you don’t go in with a plan things can get chaotic pretty quickly.
I’ve gone through two dorm move-ins now, and the second time was definitely more smooth thanks to all the tricks I learned the first time around, which are what I’m sharing with y’all today!
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Picking A Time Slot
If your campus has designated time slots that students can move in during, make sure you sign up early to get a good time! Here are a few things you should consider:
- The weather – nothing’s worse than moving in at 3pm during the month of August in Texas, and I did exactly that my freshman year. Depending on where your campus is, the afternoon might be the perfect time to choose, but if you’re anywhere that gets over 90 degrees, I’d recommend moving in after sunset if possible.
- Traffic – if your school is in a big city, the morning and late afternoon time slots will be competing with work traffic. Avoid these times for a less stressful experience!
- Whether you need extra help – if you’re moving in by yourself (without family and friends), you might benefit from moving in during the day so move-in volunteers can help you out with taking things to your room. If you feel like you’ll have a lot of questions the day of, the volunteers are also there to answer them! But if you think you’ll be fine without the extra hands, avoid the crowds and sign up for an early morning or night-time slot.
- Your parents’ work schedule – if your parents will be accompanying you to move-ins, make sure you pick a time slot that doesn’t interfere with their job!
If your school offers it, I would absolutely recommend moving in during a midnight time slot, specifically on the first night available. I did that my sophomore year and it was the quickest, most peaceful move-in you could imagine. If you get a later night, make sure your roommate hasn’t already moved in so you don’t interrupt their sleep!
Some campuses have fantastic parking areas, and if that’s the case for your campus, you don’t have much to worry about. My campus had one small street reserved for 7 dorms worth of students moving in, so things weren’t quite as easy.
Your best case scenario is finding a parking spot on a street right next to your dorm’s entrance. You might need to get a parking permit from inside your dorm that will allow you to stay parked along the street for a certain amount of time. If it’s short (less than an hour), you should just unload your car entirely, leave a family member or friend with your stuff for a few minutes, and go park your car somewhere else (like a parking garage) with a longer time limit. Then you can take multiple trips to your room until everything is moved in!
I noticed that if you move in during a less popular hour, you can often renew your permit for another hour or so, meaning you don’t have to move your car at all. Take advantage of this if possible, but know you’ll have to be moving in early morning or late at night!
If a close spot isn’t available, you’ll have to find a nearby campus parking garage or lot. For this reason I definitely suggest bringing your own foldable cart if you have room! Carts inside the dorm go quick, so if you don’t have your own, make sure you get in line for one asap. Otherwise, get strategic with your carrying skills so you can take as few trips as possible to and from your car!
Don’t move in at the same time as your roommate. There will not be enough room, I promise. I admittedly had stuff all over my roommates bed (she hadn’t moved in yet) because of how cramped things were. That’s why I prefer being the first to move in!
Once you find out who your roommate is (if you didn’t already know), get in touch with them and let them know when you’re planning to move in and how long you think you’ll need. Overestimating is okay! Give yourself at least three hours so you don’t feel rushed.
You should also coordinate who’s bringing what in terms of shareable items like TV’s, microwaves and coffee makers. Try to balance things out as much as possible so you’re not having to pack too many large items!
I can’t speak from the perspective of flying in, but if you’re driving to your campus, you have a few options for what to pack in. I found that a combination of small plastic tubs and sturdy tote bags worked best!
Whatever you use, keep things small and reasonably lightweight. If you end up having to carry everything into your dorm by hand, you won’t want to end up with three ginormous tubs that weigh as much as you! I mainly used reusable grocery bags, which made things easy to carry and limited how much I could put in them.
Things To Bring For Move-Ins
Most students don’t think about bringing stuff for the actual purpose of moving in and setting things up, but there are several things you should have handy:
- A rubber mallet – if your dorm bed is loftable, you’ll need a rubber mallet to change its height. Your dorm’s front desk will have one on hand, but everyone else there will be wanting to use it too, so don’t count on it being available.
- Cleaning supplies – there’s a good chance some dust has collected on your bed and desk over the summer, so bring some cleaning wipes to freshen things up.
- Scissors – opening boxes, cutting zip ties, just trust me you’ll just need them.
- Wall mounting strips – with the limited space in most dorms, you’ll probably need to hang some stuff on the walls or the side of your bed. Bring a few 3M strips and hooks of different sizes for hanging things like towels, pictures, and jewelry.
- Trash bags – you’ll be opening tons of stuff, so have a few trash bags handy for all that plastic wrap and cardboard. They’re also helpful if you get caught in the rain! Cover all of your stuff in trash bags as you wheel it over to your building so everything stays dry.
- A cart – like I said earlier, carts are hard to come by in large dorms, so having something with wheels is incredibly helpful. You’ll feel like the smartest person in the world speeding by everyone lugging 10 bags on their arms.
Basically, just don’t count on borrowing anything from your dorm’s front desk.
In the end, there are a lot of things you’ll want to bring, but a few things you definitley need to bring. Make sure you check your school website before shopping though, because some schools already provide things like microwaves and mini fridges, or might not allow things like extension cords and string lights.
Don’t expect your dorm bed to feel like your mattress at home. Mine was solid as a rock, and I don’t think I could’ve slept without a mattress pad. While you’re at it, I would also recommend getting a mattress and pillow protector, especially if you deal with allergies!
Before buying anything for bedding though, make sure you know the size of your mattress. Most dorms have twin xl beds, so you might have to shop online to get more options!
Dorm temperatures are also very unpredictable. My room was freezing at night, but hot during the day, so bring an extra blanket just in case.
Unless it’s already cold where you live, leave your winter clothes at home. They take up tons of space that you won’t have, both in your car and your room. Instead, bring a comfy jacket and a sweater for the occasional cold front. Worst case scenario, you can always go shopping near campus if the weather gets crazy!
Have a business-casual outfit on hand just in case. You never know when you’ll end up with an interview, and career fairs usually start in the fall!
As for pants, t-shirts, socks, and basically anything else, reusable bags are the way to go. Fold them up and pack as many as can fit/you can carry.
Bring shower shoes!!! Even if they’re just flip flops (which is what I used), please don’t be that person walking around the community bathroom barefoot.
Bring one or two swim suits for the occasional lake trip or pool party. You most likely won’t need more than that.
If you have a laundry hamper, make sure you have a laundry bag too for taking clothes to the laundry room.
You’ve probably seen pictures of people lugging trash bags full of clothes to their dorms, and I definitely agree that it’s the best way to pack them. Just cut a hole in the bottom of a bag for the hangers to go through, and lift your clothes into the bag. Don’t pack too much into one bag though, or you’ll end up dropping some of the hangers!
You don’t need ten bath towels, but bring at least two. That way you won’t be needing to do laundry every week, because you definitely won’t want to.
Bring lots of feminine products. Campus stores are totally overpriced, and you might not have time to take the bus to a grocery store!
If you don’t have a laptop yet, you should really get one before heading to college. Being able to write papers and do homework from your dorm (or anywhere else on campus) will make your life much easier, and some majors make it almost impossible to do well without one.
Power strips are a necessity in some dorms, where each side of the room only has one outlet.
Extension cords are a huge help, but make sure you’re allowed to bring them!
I honestly don’t think a TV is necessary in a dorm. It takes up a ton of room, and if you mainly watch YouTube or Netflix, all you need is a laptop!
Bring headphones!! Living with someone else is great until they want to go to sleep while you’re about to start a new episode.
Don’t pack anything that requires refrigeration. You can always stop by a local grocery store once you’ve arrived at your campus!
Buy your favorite dry foods, but don’t go much further than that. You most likely won’t be eating much in your dorm because cafeterias exist.
Bring plastic cutlery and paper plates/bowls. You’ll get tired of washing reusable stuff after the first week.
Having a reusable water bottle will save you time and lots of money. Your dorm will most likely have a water fountain nearby, although I also suggest bringing a water filter to save you all those walks down the hall.
Keurigs are wonderful things and save you lots of money!! Making your own coffee in the morning means skipping the urge to walk into the campus Starbucks, which could save you quite a bit of money depending on how much of a coffee lover you are. It also means not having to worry about how much time to budget for a line, so you can sleep in a bit longer.
I love the look of string lights, but not all dorms allow them (aka mine). Check with your RA or look at your school’s website to find out if you can bring them!
A first aid kit is a total necessity. Bring basics like allergy meds, cough medicine, stomachache reliever, pain reliever, and any other medications you tend to use at some time of the year. Throw in some bandages too. I ended up using almost all of mine on my heels during career fairs because of all the walking I had to do in uncomfortable flats.
Things To Leave At Home
T-shirts – bring a few favorites, but leave the rest. You’ll get tons of new t-shirts for free during the first few weeks of school (and really all year long).
Anything sentimental that won’t fit on a bulletin board – you might feel the need to bring all of your yearbooks and picture frames and gifts from your best friends, but they take up tons of space. Take flat things like pictures and notes to hang on your walls instead.
Decorative pillows – I know they’re cute, but in the end they just get thrown on the floor so you can sleep.
A vacuum – you’ll only need to clean your floors every once in a while, and there’s a good chance your dorm’s front desk will have one to rent out. The same goes for brooms and common tools.
DVD’s – I personally never use DVD’s, but I saw several people bring a box full of them. Netflix is a thing, and even if your favorite movie isn’t on there, you can always discover new favorites!
A printer – unless you know you’ll be printing a lot every day, the library printer is all you need. Some dorms even have printers in their main lobbies or computer labs, along with buildings throughout the campus.
Move-In Day Tips
Bring a few water bottles and some snacks. Moving in is surprisingly exhausting, and if you have a long drive to your campus, you’ll definitely need some food to get by. If you’re moving somewhere hot, even one trip from your car to your dorm will leave you thirsty!
Remember anything you were told to bring by your RA or school, like a school ID. It’s usually required for getting your key! Write down any usernames or other information that could possibly be useful.
Be patient and stay calm. Nobody really knows what they’re doing, or where anything is, and everyone will be just as stressed as you. Go in knowing that, and your day will be much smoother!
Disinfect everything. Who knows how well the last person in your room cleaned up, if at all. Wipe down the sink, desk, chair, fridge, microwave, basically the whole room.
Loft loft loft. Make your bed high enough that you can fit a good amount of storage underneath. For reference, check out this post to see how much I fit under my bed. I lofted it all the way the previous year and fit my desk underneath too, which is perfect for extra small dorms, but I wouldn’t recommend going that high if you don’t have to. It’s gets exhausting having to climb up every single night!
Wear something comfy! Nobody is going to look cute lugging five bags up the stairs, I promise. Sneakers are a must, and just dress for the temperature from there.
Try not to bring more than three people with you. It’ll be hard to fit any more than that in your room, and more people just mean more space taken up in the car.
Take pictures! Despite how stressful things might get, this is still a pretty big moment in your life, so don’t get so overwhelmed that you forget to enjoy it. Take before and after pictures, selfies, and all the embarrassing pictures your family insists on getting.
Don’t try to make everything perfect on day one. Spend a few days adjusting things until it feels right.
If you think something is missing from this list, feel free to let me know in the comments!