Dorm Move in Tips

by | Aug 1, 2022 | Family, Parenting

Shelly Dorm Move In at College
Shelly with our parents at Dorm Move-In 1988

Dorm Essentials LIST!

Moving in to the dorms is a huge step for our young adults. Who am I kidding. It’s a HUGE step for us moms. I remember when we moved Shelly, my sister, into the dorms at Sam Houston State University. She is the oldest in our family and here I was this high school smarty pants rolling my eyes at my mom’s tears when we finally left Shelly standing outside her dorm building. I think in my teen wisdom I was happy to finally get rid of my bossy older sister. Ha! That whole first year, my mom struggled through all of our new experiences as a family of four, lamenting we couldn’t do this or that without Shelly. Again, my attitude as the middle child was – Um, sure we can. I’m still here.

Well, lo and behold, I’ve now moved my oldest off to college. And much like my mom, she is attending college in another state from where we live. (It’s reverse. We lived in Oklahoma and Shelly went to school in Texas and now my daughter goes to school at Oklahoma State University (GO POKES) while we live in Texas.) That first year with her away from home was rough on our new family of four, though with today’s technology we are able to keep in touch much better than in the late 80’s.

The end of the summer brings me to another dorm move in – my son, the middle child, is now going away to college. This time a bit closer at a Texas state school. As we prepare to send him off to college, I realize I’ve learned a few things in the last few years of moving my daughter back and forth to live in another state that I can share to be helpful.

Dorm Move In Tips

First, can I add that preparing a son’s dorm room packing list is much different than preparing a daughter’s. At least in my case! No shopping for cute decor or fun items. He’s very utilitarian in what he plans to bring. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will be a shorter move in at least. (Did I mention he’s on the 4th floor with no elevator???? and it’s been over 100 degrees here???)

Next, to be completely honest, I learned most of my dorm move in tips I’m about to share from the parent groups for my kids’ respective Universities. If you haven’t joined one yet for your kid’s school, go run and do it. It will help you so much, especially if your child is not much of a communicator or you both just don’t know what to expect the first year. Seriously, I should write another post about how awesome the parent’s Facebook group at OSU has been for me. That first semester when we sent our daughter 10 hours away with no family in the area at the height of the COVID pandemic shut downs, this group of parents helped me realize she was at the right school not only her, but for us as well. They were such a blessing.

New Student at Oklahoma State University

Ok. Back to dorm move in tips. Hang on, I have one more side note. We’ve also moved our daughter into a rental house. Most of my tips hold true for that as well. There are a few different tips when it comes to renting trailers and moving furniture, etc, but for now, we’ll just focus on the Dorm move in since I’m preparing for two of them in two different states the same week.

Bring for the Dorm Move In

Pack these things to come out first.

  • Oscillating Fan
  • Door Stop
  • Cold Water
  • Snacks
  • Paper Towels
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Mallet/screwdriver or multi tool
  • Hand soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Pen/Marker/Pencil
  • Measuring Tape
  • Bag for Garbage
  • Scissors
  • Dolly or Hand Cart
  • Zip Ties (its the 2020’s duct tape)
  • Change of clothes (You might get hot and sweaty and want to change to go out to eat or for the ride home)

Extra Tips for Dorm Move In

  • Pack Bedding on top. Making the bed is something that has to be done on move-in day, and it will you feel like you’ve accomplished something even if the rest of the room is still a mess when you leave. And don’t worry if it is a mess. You know your kid, they will either put it away or live with it as is. And either way, you don’t have to look at it. 🙂
  • Use IKEA Bags to pack. Use those bags or the Amazon equivalent to haul stuff to their rooms. These bags hold a ton of stuff, are easy to carry like a back pack, and when empty fold up super small to store in the room.
  • Purchase a Small Dolly to help save your back. This dolly from Amazon folds up to store in the back of a closet or under the bed.
  • Pack plastic drawers. If you are bringing bins or drawers, pack them! and tape shut for the move.
  • Leave hanging clothes on hangers – Zip tie the hangers together and then cover with garbage bag.
  • Purchase surge protectors with extra long cords. There may not be many outlets in the room and never where you need them. These surge protectors have been a lifesaver when arranging the room.
  • Command strips are the BOMB. They’re the best to hang anything on the walls whether drywall or cinder block. The tiny command strips are perfect for hanging the popular twinkle lights in girl’s rooms.
  • Don’t over pack! Most dorms don’t have a ton of storage space, so don’t overload your student with everything they need for a whole semester. They have stores either on campus or nearby to pick up more toilet paper or shampoo as needed.
  • Take pictures of the room before you move everything in. Pay special attention to any damage or stains and document them to prevent charges at move out time.

While preparing for the big move in and on the day, take your cue from your student. Are they nervous or excited? If they are not upset at waiting in line or an unexpected change, don’t let it bother you. If they are upset or anxious, help them work through it and be a positive influence to help them adjust.

On Move In Day

  • Be Nice and Kind to everyone – it can be a hard day for many people you encounter.
  • Be prepared for things not to go as planned.
  • Please and Thank You go a LONG WAY when we are all hot and tired.
  • Allow your student to decide where to put things/ arrange things. It’s their room.
  • If you forgot something – don’t fret. You can run to a local store, order it online, or let your young adult figure it out on their own.
  • Consider leaving them a hidden note in a drawer for them to find after you’ve left.
Saying Goodby to College Student at Dorm Move In

As you’re preparing for the big day of Dorm Move In, remember that leaving them at the dorm is harder on us than them. This is their adventure. Your son or daughter will learn so much from having to figure things out on their own or with friends. It’s an exciting time for them, even if it is hard for us to let go.

Dorm Move-In Essentials Shopping List

Visit my Amazon Idea Boards for my Dorm Move In Essentials Shopping List Plus a few extras my college kids used all year.
The Best College Dorm Essentials to help Dorm Move in go easier and items for your college student's year.


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Tips to move your college student into the dorm.


Lisa Henley Jones