How to Prepare for College Move-In Day

how to survive college move-in day

If you’re a freshman, you’re probably a bit anxious about moving to college. You might have thought a hundred times about what you should bring with you and you have even taken a few trips to Target to get everything. Now you’re probably stressing out about how you’re going to fit everything into your tiny college dorm room. I get it, I’ve been there: the worries, the stress… preparing for your college move-in day can be even more difficult than getting everything you need.

I live 1 hour away from my campus, so moving wasn’t as difficult as it will be for some of you, but it didn’t make it any less stressful. It took me more than 5 trips to multiple stores to get everything I needed for my dorm room because I always forgot to bring something from home or to buy it in the first place.

There’s a lot of stuff you have to remember and know about, and things can get a bit messy if you don’t have a plan.

During my college journey, I’ve gone through 2 dorm room move-ins, so I can say I have some experience in the field. The second time was much easier thanks to the tricks I learned the first time around, and today I’ll be sharing them with you!


Making a List

Make a list in advance and note down all the essentials. Hang the list on the wall or your fridge, wherever it’s easier for you to find it. This way, you can always come back to it if you need to write down a new item. You can also just make a list on your phone using the notes app so you will have it on hand. Before starting your list, make sure to check your campus rules just in case there are any restrictions. Some campuses don’t allow you to bring certain items but offer other services, so this can help you to start building your list of needs.

Picking The Best Time Slot

First of all, you should check if your campus has designated time slots for students to move in. If that’s the case, make sure you sign up early to get the best time for you! Here are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • The weather – you’ll probably move to college during August. This means it will likely be really hot outside, so you should be careful with the weather. If your campus is in a hot area, try to avoid the hours of maximum heat to move in. I’d recommend doing it after sunset if possible, you’ll avoid lots of sweating and stress.
  • Traffic – if you’re going to a big city, be wise when picking the time slot to move in. During the morning and late afternoon, the road will be full of work traffic. Try to avoid these times for a less stressful drive!
  • Whether you’ll need help – moving in can be a lot of work, so you should consider asking for help. It’s okay if your parents or friends can’t help you, you’ll find move-in volunteers on your campus that can help you out. To benefit from this you should move in during the day. Otherwise, if you think you can handle it all by yourself, sign up for an early morning or night-time slot so you can avoid the crowds.

You have to pick the time slot that works best for you, but I highly recommend moving in when it’s less crowded possible. I find that moving in during midday is the best option for me. I get to avoid traffic and crowds and it makes things so much quicker and comfortable.


If you’re lucky, your campus will have a great parking area so you won’t have to worry about that. This hasn’t been the case for me yet since parking spots are almost always full and it’s really hard to find a good spot that’s also near the dorm’s entrance.

The best thing that can happen is finding a parking spot right next to your campus. You will probably need a parking permit that will allow you to stay parked along the street while you carry all your stuff inside. If you can’t stay there for a long amount of time, you should unload all your things and leave a friend or family member waiting while you go park your car somewhere else with a longer time limit. Then you can come back and take multiple trips until everything is moved into your room.

If you can’t find a close spot, you’ll have to look for a nearby parking garage, which means that you’ll have to walk a bit more from your car to the campus. In this case, it will be really helpful if your parents or friends come with you so you can take as few trips as possible. If you carry everything by yourself, I highly recommend bringing your own foldable cart. It occupies some space in your trunk, but I swear it’s totally worth it. A foldable cart makes things so much easier and quicker, and it will definitely save you some neck pain!


Try not to move in on the same day as your roommate. It will make things much more complicated since dorm rooms tend to be a bit small. There’s barely enough room for one, I promise you don’t want to be there with two persons moving in at the same time.

After you find out who your roommate is, reach them to let them know when you’re planning to move in and how long you will need. This will clear things up and you’ll be able to plan your move-in knowing that you’ll have the entire dorm for you.

You should also talk with your roommate about who’s bringing what. For example, you don’t need two microwaves or two coffee makers. Coordinating who’s bringing each thing will make things much easier for both of you, and you will avoid overpacking (especially with large items).

Packing Items

I personally drive to my campus, so I can’t speak from the perspective of flying in. Small boxes and big bags are what work best for me. I use two huge bags from Ikea (yes, the ones you get when you go shopping there) for things that take a lot of space but aren’t fragile like bedding and pillows. And I carry the delicate stuff in regular boxes. This goes from a TV to glasses and plates.

Whatever you use, try to keep it lightweight. You might have to carry everything into your dorm by hand, so you don’t want to have 20 boxes full of stuff you can’t even lift!


  • Your list – Bring your list with you the day you move-in so you can double-check the things you have and note down any new items (in case you need/forgot something).
  • Cleaning supplies – Dorms might be a bit dusty after the summer, so bring some cleaning wipes and glass cleaner for your windows and mirrors.
  • A miniature fan – If you’re moving in during the summer, your dorm will be HOT. Carrying heavy stuff in the heat to such a reduced space will make things way more stressful. Ask your roommate/current students about the air conditioning situation. If your rooms aren’t air-conditioned, you might want to bring a miniature fan so you don’t melt while moving in. This small fan has saved my life so many times! I use it almost daily during the first weeks of the semester, mostly for sleeping because it’s so hot in my dorm room.
  • Trash bags – You’ll probably be opening a lot of stuff, so a few trash bags will come in handy.
  • Scissors or cutter – Very important to open boxes or cut zip ties. Basically, any sharp object will work.
tips and hacks to prepare for college move-in day


Before we get into the important stuff, here are a few bonus tips that can save your life (or at least, make your moving-in process a lot smoother):

  • Don’t Remove The Tags – This will likely save you a lot of money. If you buy stuff for college, you might buy things you won’t end up needing or not being able to use. Make sure you don’t remove the tags from anything until you’re actually using them or you know 100% you’re going to need it. Some things might not even fit in your room, so you won’t be able to get a real judgment on the products you need until you’re there. I returned a few organizers that ended up not fitting in my room and changing them for smaller ones that turned out to be way more practical. Now I have decided to not buy anything until I see the amount of space I have and If I’m really going to need it. As an addition to this, save the receipts of everything you buy when you’re dorm shopping, just in case you have to return something.
  • Label Everything – You should write your last name, dorm building and room number on everything. If you carry your things in boxes, you can also write down the content of each box. Staying organized will make the packing and unpacking processes a lot quicker and will also help prevent items from getting lost. 
  • Storage Bins Are A Must – This is the best way to keep your room organized and give it a clean look. Classify your things in different categories and assign each storage bin to a specific category. You can even add a card on each storage bin with the name of its content to make it easier for you to find everything. There’s no need to go overboard, but you can pack different sizes and colors and place them on your shelves and space underneath your bed.
  • Check Your School Website – There are probably a lot of things that you’ll want to bring, but some might be already provided to you by the school. As I stated before, make sure you check your school website before shopping, because on some campuses you can find mini-fridges and microwaves, and some might not allow things like extension cords and string lights. Do some research so you don’t waste your money!


You don’t need to pack clothes for all seasons. Your winter clothes will likely take up a lot of space that you won’t have, so you can leave them at home or your parents’ house. Since you’ll be going back home before the seasons change, there’s no reason to take your entire wardrobe with you. Instead, you can bring a jacket and some comfy sweaters with you.

However, if you decide to take some winter clothes with you, make sure to keep them stored in a small tote or a storage bin underneath your bed. This way you’ll save some space while you can keep your winter clothes.

Since you’ll mostly just go to school, you shouldn’t get too fancy with your clothes. Bring casual outfits for everyday wear and have a business-casual outfit on hand just in case.

Now, this is really important: bring shower shoes! They can be a pair of regular flip flops (it’s what I use) and they will save you lots of problems. 

For your dirty clothes, make sure you have a laundry bag to take them to the laundry room. Some people use trash bags, but a laundry bag is really cheap and it will make things so much easier for you!


You shouldn’t expect your dorm bed to feel like your mattress at home. To help your body adapt to the new bed, I highly recommend getting a mattress pad. Especially if you have insomnia issues (like me) and your body is very sensitive to any changes in your sleep.

I also have a mattress and pillow protector, which makes me feel a bit comfier. This is especially a good idea if you deal with allergies.

Before buying any new bedding make sure you know the size of your mattress. Most dorms have twin XL beds, but it might differ on your campus.

Bathroom Supplies

Bring at least two bath towels, so you don’t have to be constantly doing laundry. I also bring a smaller towel for my face because I have an acne problem and it is more hygienic for my skin. 

You can buy most of your bathroom supplies at campus stores, but these tend to be overpriced, and you might not have time to go to a grocery store. This is why I highly recommend bringing your own stuff like shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and feminine products in a small toilet bag. These things don’t take much space and you’ll thank yourself later for bringing them in advance.


I honestly think the most important thing is a laptop or an iPad. If you don’t have one yet, you should get one before starting college. This will allow you to make your homework from your dorm and will make your life so much easier. 

I personally use an iPad for everything when I’m in college. It’s amazing and you can do the same stuff you would do with a laptop! If your major doesn’t require any specific software, I highly recommend getting an iPad. You can carry it everywhere in your bag because it’s small and light, and it’s also much cheaper than a laptop.

Power strips are necessary in some dorms. Extension cords are also life-savers, but make sure you’re allowed to bring them. 

As I said earlier, a miniature fan is also a great idea if your dorm is hot. It won’t take any space and it will keep your room fresh. I got this one on Amazon for a really good price and it makes wonders.

Nowadays, I don’t think TV is a necessity. If you mainly watch YouTube or streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO, all you need is a laptop or an iPad. However, make sure to bring headphones! You don’t want to be the person spoiling season 3 of Stranger Things to the whole campus.


Avoid packing anything that needs refrigeration. If the weather is too hot, any food that requires cold won’t make it to the campus. Instead, you can bring your favorite dry snacks like chips or dry fruit.

Bring reusable cutlery, plates, and glasses. It needs to get washed but it’s much more ecofriendly than wasting plastic crockery every time you eat. We have to be conscious about climate change, my friends. Having your own reusable water bottle will also save you time and money and, again, you’ll reduce your plastic waste which is good for the planet!

If you’re a coffee lover, bringing your own coffee maker is a good idea. Depending on how much coffee you drink, it can help you save some money. If you drink coffee on a daily basis, I highly recommend this to avoid long lines at your local coffee shop.


To be honest, moving in can be so exhausting. If you get stressed easily, play some music and bring snacks and water bottles. Especially if you have a long drive to your campus, you’ll need to stay hydrated and fresh for when you get there!

Remember to bring all the documents required by your school. Some campuses require your school ID for getting your key. Write on your notes app any usernames and information that could be useful or necessary.

Make sure to wear something comfortable, since you’ll be lugging tons of boxes and other heavy items, and also probably sweating a lot. I mean, it’s moving in day. Nobody looks cute on moving-in days.

Moving in may seem like a huge mountain, so be patient and remind yourself to stay calm. It’s okay to not know everything. In fact, no one knows everything the first time they do something. Don’t be afraid to ask! Remember not everything needs to be perfect the first day, you’ll have time to change things up till your dorm looks like your dorm!

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments if you feel something is missing. Good luck!

Tips on preparing for your college move-in day

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1 thought on “How to Prepare for College Move-In Day

  • As a student, I know it’s a bit stressful move in day. The most important thing is to try to create a space with which you feel comfortable. Thanks for the tips!!

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