5 Ways to Ensure a Smooth Move Into College

From now until move-in day in the fall, there are steps to take to make sure you're prepared.

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Even though it's the season of caps and gowns, diplomas, and grad parties, it's not too early for a high schooler and his or her parents to start planning the move to college. The summer will fly by even more quickly than the last 18 years did. Here are some tips for getting started.


The process of packing for college can seem overwhelming—and for good reason. Your student is moving his or her entire life to a new location. And the chance is high that the new digs will have much less room than the old ones.

Here's what we've learned from our experience:

1. Make or find a list: As a parent, I have always thrived on lists. From necessary vaccinations to elementary school supply lists to high school activity calendars, I was always most comfortable with a list in my hand. Getting a child ready for college was no exception.

[Find out how to talk about college with your student.]

There are many available checklists of what to take to college, both online and in stores that sell college dorm room and apartments necessities. The two lists we worked from included one provided by the store where we bought a lot of Lindsey's new stuff and one provided by the school itself.

The school's list was the most specific, and it included a lot of good information about what was allowed in dorms and what wasn't. (A microwave was okay, for instance, but a toaster oven was not.) But it was pretty bare bones.

The store list was much more comprehensive and included some things we hadn't thought of, like batteries. But the store's list was designed to get you to buy lots of stuff, and much of it was unnecessary. We had to ignore some of their suggestions, such as space bags and an electric toothbrush.

2. Choose a staging area: Whether it's a corner of your basement or a couple of laundry baskets in your child's room, it's helpful to have a place to put things as you acquire them. Some of your student's graduation gifts might be college items, so even if you don't plan to start shopping right away, it's likely things will find you. 

3. Don't overpack: One of the best suggestions we were given was "take less, not more." Let the student live in the new space for a week or two, keep a list of what is needed, and make a shopping run at that point. That way, your student will end up with exactly what he or she needs.


When coming to school, I thought I had a good idea of what to bring. I'm the kind of person who had been researching the topic for months on home design and college prep websites, but, since each student's experience is different, some of the tips listed on these sites may not apply to you. Here are a couple things I discovered when prepping for the big move.

1. Reduce your clutter: When packing for school, take note of items you haven't used or worn in more than a year and use this opportunity to donate them or throw them away. Storage space in college housing can be limited, and you don't want to waste it with items you haven't been using at home.

[Consider these five things when you're renting at college.]

My suggestion is to make three piles when going through your room to pack for school: Donate, trash, and take to college. Doing this will ease your burden when moving to a new place, because all your belongings can really add up. You'll probably also want to invest in some new things once you gauge the scene in your college town, and this will clear up some space for that!

2. Buy only necessities to start: College packing lists I found included things like voice recorders for lectures, vacuum cleaners, and under-bed organization. What I didn't know was that recorders weren't allowed in certain classes, my floor was provided with a vacuum, and I would loft my bed, eliminating the need for under-bed tubs.

If you're really concerned you may need some of these things, make a shopping trip once you see your dorm room and go to a couple classes. Otherwise, go a couple weeks without them and see if you notice. You'll be able to save yourself some time, money, and space this way.