College? That’s Cake: 5 Tips for Moving into the Dorm

Your sweet little baby is now an adult and heading off to college. Whether you’re saddened or excited for the extra space you’re about to have, you still want to ensure that Junior is packed efficiently and ready for the big move to his new dorm. According to the 2010 Census, approximately 50,444 students live in student housing each year. If your child is among this group, share these tips with your future scholar for a stress-free transition.

Create a Checklist

Write down all the must-have items a college student will need for day-to-day living. If the dorm isn’t already furnished, they’ll need the big stuff, like seating, a mini-fridge, television and microwave. Pack two sets of bedding, an alarm clock, small fan, a computer and enough clothes for one season. The next time he comes home, he can switch the clothes out for the next season, leaving ample closet space. Since you won’t be there to do laundry for your child, they will need a laundry bag, detergent, iron, fabric softener and several rolls of quarters. Also, be sure to pack a tote of toiletries, such as shampoo, deodorant, comb, razor, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, robe and shower shoes. Consider other miscellaneous items your child may need, such as an umbrella, hangers, cleaning supplies and a first aid kit. Space is limited in dorms, so pack only the essentials.

Mentally Prepare

Many parents remember to tell their child to pack their toothbrush and a warm coat, but overlook the importance of mental and emotional preparation. It’s crucial for parents to talk to their child about any concerns or fears they may have about their new independent living situation. Discuss social pressures, such as drugs, alcohol and sex, and the consequences of these risk-taking behaviors. The Child Study Center also suggests creating a safety plan with your college student in the event of an emergency. Make a list of important phone numbers, such as campus security and health services numbers. Also, set up a financial plan in case your child needs to return home unexpectedly, such as using an emergency credit card.

Skip Objectionable Items

Every university has policies relating to dorm living, which usually prohibit some items in the dorm room. Review the can’t-have list, and avoid packing items that could be later confiscated, as well as items that are not needed or take up too much space. For example, candles, electric counter-top grills and hot plates are generally banned from dorms. Most dorm rooms are furnished with the basics, so your child will not need to bring a bed, desk, desk chair or dresser.

Gather Documentation

Ensure your child has all important documentation he’ll need to live solo. A driver’s license is a must, as everyone should have the proper identification if the situation calls for it. If the school has already issued it, your child should also have a student ID in his possession. Many universities will send out check-in instructions, parking information and a move-in schedule prior to moving day. Keep these documents handy. Also, talk to your child about documentation they should not bring to college, such as their social security card, or, duh, a fake ID.

Be Storage-Savvy

It’s inevitable your child’s dorm room will be small, containing a closet or wardrobe, desk and dresser. To help your child stay organized and save space, pack items in storage containers and bins, which can be used to organize items once in the dorm. Find a savvy storage solution for everything, such as a vertical shoe rack to store shoes and removable 3M Command hooks to hang your child’s Yankee caps or Bike Bandit motorcycle helmets on the wall. Walmart and Target sell colorful decorative cardboard and plastic storage boxes that can be used to organize and store items.

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Jeremy Clarke
Jeremy is a college professor from California who specializes in creative writing.