Tips for moving to college

Leaving the nest and going away to college is both exciting and scary for your teen. But it’s also stressful for parents.

What should you pack, and how much of it? What will he or she really need, and what can be thrown away? These logistical decisions usually pale in comparison to the separation anxiety that inevitably follows a big change in a teenager’s life.

Here are some helpful tips to take some of the stress out of moving to college.


This is a good time for your teen to do an inventory of his or her clothes. Anything that has been sitting in the back of the closet for more than 6 months – donate to charity. Last season’s peasant blouse likely won’t come out of the closet at college, either.

Next, consider the seasons and plan ahead. Will she need winter clothes? If so, pack those in a box (not a suitcase). They can be kept in the closet or storage locker at school and come out when the weather turns.

Make sure you don’t organize and pack everything for your college-bound teen. This only leads to emails and phone calls asking, “Where is….?” Avoid this scenario entirely by packing together.


Contacting the new roommate by email or Facebook is simple if the school has provided your student with their information, and can save a lot of trouble down the road. The two can introduce themselves and sort out who’s bringing the mini fridge, TV, bean bag chair, etc.

This quick initial contact precludes doubling up on appliances and will also make their first meeting less awkward.


Everyone knows that dorm space is often limited. Help keep your kid stay organized for the whole semester by buying hanging closet organizers, shoe racks, and a hamper.


If the school has an orientation program, you may have received a welcome package in the mail. If not, find a map of the campus online, which should include dorm location and the nearest parking lot. Create a small folder that includes this information, plus an orientation schedule, and email it to your teen’s smartphone. This will avoid paper files that get lost anyway, and will smooth out the arrival to campus.

Helpful hint: You can usually contact the campus’ housing management office in advance to find out about obtaining food cards and parking passes.


Lysol wipes: The dorm floors may be vacuumed, but if there were no summer residents the desks and shelves may be dusty from a summer of neglect. Wipe everything down and then move your kid in. It could be the only time the room gets a wipe-down for the entire semester.

First Aid Kit: Your teen may scoff at you, but bumps, bruises, and scrapes from campus parties will be easily dealt with if they have a first aid kit. It can be hidden in their closet, and be sure to include Tylenol or Advil, cold compresses, and disinfectant.

Laundry detergent and static sheets: These are usually sold at a premium at on-campus stores, and your teen won’t realize he or she needs Tide until he or she has completely run out of underwear.

Ear plugs and sleep mask: The new roommate may be into heavy metal or stay awake playing Halo until 6am. Having noise and light-cancelling options will be key to keeping the peace between two strangers.

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