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We just returned from moving our daughter into her college dorm. She is starting her sophomore year, and this was our second time with the move-in process. We did SO MUCH BETTER this time around because we did things a little differently. I gave it some thought and want to share with you what we did better:


We rented a storage unit.


The first thing we did better actually happened in the spring. My husband said he didn’t want to bring a lot of stuff home that we would then have to just transport back to school in August. I was visiting my daughter for Mom’s Weekend in April and we checked out storage facilities in her college town. There were a lot of choices, as I am sure there are in college towns across the country. It’s big business. There were a lot of mom and pop type places that were less expensive, but we went with U-haul because it was just a more professional operation. The storage units were climate controlled and inside a secured facility. We rented a 5’x5′ unit for $49 a month. We could pay the monthly rent online over the summer, which was also a reason we chose U-haul. The mom and pops didn’t always have climate controlled facilities and a way to manage our account online. 5’x5′ may not sound very big, but it is a tall unit, so we could stack boxes of stuff. It was more than enough space. So if your child is returning to the same school in the fall, even if it isn’t too far from your home, I would highly recommend getting a storage unit for the summer. I can’t see any reason to bring all that stuff back into your house for three months.

College Sophomore Move-In: What We Did Better This Time

If you decide to rent a storage unit, I recommend getting that squared away early in the spring before the mad rush is on. You have a wider selection of units from which to choose and there just isn’t the chaos to deal with when the whole student body is trying to rent a unit all at the same time. You can bring your own padlock or buy one right there at U-haul and you can keep the lock and reuse it each year. Last spring, we rented the unit, bought the lock and all the boxes she would need, along with bubble wrap and packing tape. That way she had everything she needed to start packing up her room after her finals were over.

College Sophomore Move-In: What We Did Better This Time

Even with the rental of the storage space, we still saved money because last year we had to rent a trailer to pull her car. It was loaded down with stuff and there was no room left for a driver to see out of any window. 🙂 This year she only had her clothes and a few other items, so we just drove her car.


We got a visual.


On that same visit back in April, my daughter already knew what dorm she wanted to move into for this school year, so we asked one of her friends that lived there if we could take a little tour of her room. She graciously allowed us to come over and take a few measurements and look around. We asked her questions about what was provided in the room and what stuff she had to bring. We learned the shower came with a curtain rod, but no shower curtain, liner or hooks. So we knew we would need to buy that. We saw that there was a large opening under the kitchen sink that was kind of unsightly. So we measured that and made a note to get something to cover it. We ended up buying a tension rod and some little cafe curtains. It covered the area perfectly, making it cute, and also created a bit of space under the sink where the girls could store a few things if they need to.

The other thing we did to get a visual was to head to YouTube. The residential life section of a college’s website usually gives good descriptions of the different types of dorm rooms, along with layout diagrams and measurements. There are also usually some generic pictures. If you’re lucky, there might be a video tour of the room. But if not, I can pretty much guarantee you some student has done a video tour of their room and put it up on YouTube. Just go there and type in the name of the school and the dorm name with “tour” at the end and videos will pop up. We did that and found a great little tour a girl did of her room. She opened cabinets and closets and we saw exactly what was in place. This was a great help for envisioning what we needed to do.


We bought a serious dolly.


Last spring when my husband was moving everything to the storage unit, he bought a serious moving dolly. It is expandable and can be configured several different ways. It allowed us to cut down on the number of trips it took to haul everything up. He left it in the storage unit all summer along with the stuff. That way it was ready and waiting for us for the move-in. He did make sure to take a tire pump with us last week in case the tires had deflated a bit over the summer.

College Sophomore Move-In: What We Did Better This Time


We didn’t spend the summer buying too much stuff.


Last summer, one of our guest rooms looked like a Bed Bath and Beyond had exploded in there. We had bags of stuff everywhere. This year we didn’t have nearly as much stuff to get. The beds in the dorm this year were a different size from last year, so we did have to get new sheet sets, mattress pads, and a comforter. We also had to buy bathroom stuff since the girls would have their own bath this year. Other than that, we didn’t get a ton of stuff like we did last year. Most of it was safely stored away at U-haul for the summer. 🙂 We bought way too much food last year too. The dining plan my daughter had was more than enough last year, and she didn’t need nearly as much snacky stuff as we bought. This year we just got some breakfast and lunch favorites, some milk, and microwave popcorn. There are lots of little stores on campus where she can buy stuff and use her meal plan money, so if she needs milk or something, she can just get it there. We basically just got her some starter food and left it at that.


We didn’t move in on Move-In Day.


Let me preface this by saying that if your child is a freshman, you will probably want to move in on Move-In Day. Most colleges have a TON of Welcome Week activities, and I highly recommend that students participate in as many activities as possible that first week. It helps kids get acclimated, meet new friends, and keeps them so busy they don’t have time to be homesick.

College Sophomore Move-In: What We Did Better This Time

If your student is returning to college for another year, you might want to consider moving in on a day other than Move-In Day. We moved in two days later than Move-In Day. What a difference. There were no lines at the elevators, we didn’t have to park so far away from the dorm, and there was just no chaos. We did have to go to the mail center for her dorm to check her in and get her room key, but we did that in the evening and there was no line. Normally on Move-In Day the RA’s are present on each floor and students get their keys from them. So we did have to go someplace different to get her key, but it was no problem at all. Waiting a few days to move in was a good decision. I think we saved a lot of time just by not having to wait for the elevator to take each load up.


We divided and conquered.


Last year we all did everything. We all unloaded. We all unpacked. Dorm rooms are small and that was just too much togetherness. 🙂 This year, we unloaded the stuff from the car first, which was mostly clothes and bedding. Then my daughter and husband took off for the storage unit while I stayed behind to start putting the bedding on and hanging up clothes. Then when they got to the room my daughter took over the clothing duty, putting things where she wanted them. My husband started hooking up all the electronic stuff like the TV and printer and putting a few things together. I started unpacking the kitchen items and vacuuming as I went. My daughter moved into a different dorm this year and had a much better set-up this time with a suite-type scenario. It’s really like a little two-bedroom apartment. It has a little kitchenette, a living room with a couch, chair, coffee table, and entertainment cabinet. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom. Super cute. I would never have moved off-campus when I was in college if I could have had my own room and shared a bathroom with just one other girl. By having several rooms to work in, we had a lot more room to spread out and tackle different tasks without being on top of each other.


There were a few things that just happened that made all of this easier.


If you read my blog about moving in last year, you know it was 109 degrees on Move-In Day. This year it was only 92. Still hot, but a huge improvement. That just made everything a little easier since we weren’t on the edge of heat stroke.

The university changed the check-in process. Last year, when getting the room key, the girls then had to fill out the room condition information with the RA. This is when students note everything that is already “wrong” with the room before they bring anything in. Any scratches on the wall, any broken furniture, or holes in the wall. It is important to note EVERYTHING so that the student is not charged a damage fee in the spring when they move out. This year at my daughter’s school they streamlined this process by having students do it online. So we could go ahead and move stuff in and then that evening my daughter and her roommate were able to fill out the report online. This saved a lot of time in the move-in process.

Another circumstance was simply that we had already done this before. Last year it was too complicated and took WAY too long. This year we knew what to expect and how to do it. That allowed us to hit the ground running. I think we cut our time in half this year from last year. That’s huge.

Also, we weren’t as emotionally overwrought this time around. Last year, we were all so anxious because it was the first time and there was so much fear of the unknown. We still were sad for the summer to be over this year, but it wasn’t nearly as emotionally taxing this time. I think that allowed us to think more clearly and not wear ourselves out by being on the verge of tears all day. 🙂

So if you’re doing college move-in for the first time, or you just went through it and didn’t enjoy it, I can tell you it definitely gets better the second time around. We did so much better this time, and I hope sharing our experiences will help you to do better too!

Feel free to share any tips you have for college move-in in the comment section.

And as always, don’t forget about Pinterest!

College Sophomore Move In






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