There are still a few weeks until move-in day, and let’s be honest: some of you might be trying to forget about it. That makes sense. It’s both physically and emotionally hard to send your high school graduate off to college.
We understand. Better yet, we have tips on how you can plan and get ready now to make that process easier and help you enjoy these last few weeks with your child at home.
Make a plan
Lists are like friends: you can never have too many of them. The earlier you make them, the more valuable (and useful) they will be.
It doesn’t matter how you set up your lists as long as the way you do it works for you. Start writing down the things you and your teen need to do between now and the Big Day. You can do this on your phone, in a notebook, or in any other way you like. Everyone’s list will be a little different, but some of the most common things to do are: go shopping; pack; update your contact information with businesses, friends, etc.; finish up loose ends at home (like giving notice at your local job, returning library books, etc.); schedule any needed local medical appointments; make travel plans to school, and more.
Once you have that long list, divide it up into groups. You can do it on this list, or you can use it as a “List of Lists” to keep track of your progress as a whole. This is especially helpful if you are giving family members jobs to do. Again, you should use the method that works best for you. No matter how you set it up, the next step is to fill out each “major” section with details. For example, make a more detailed list of the things you will need to go shopping or pack. By taking a few minutes right now, you can get a better idea of the project you have to do and how long each task will take. Chances are, it will also show you and your student why you need to start working on the list now and not a week before Labor Day.
No matter how complete your list is right now, it’s likely that as you go about your day in the next week or so, you’ll think of other things that need to be on it. Keep it close by so that you or other family members can add to it when they think of something new.
Here are some ideas for each of the most common types of lists, so you can get everything done quickly and enjoy the rest of the summer to the fullest.
How to shop quickly and keep an eye on your money
First, figure out what your college-bound freshman will need at school with their help. You can use the suggested packing list from your child’s school as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to add or take away things from that list based on what your child needs and what they can get on campus. (For more on this, see below.) We also have a list of ideas for you. If it’s not clear from the information the school sent, call the Housing or Residence Life office and ask what’s included in the room. If things like a trash can and shower curtain are already in the room, there’s no need to bring or buy them.
Once you know what your student needs to bring, don’t go out and buy it right away, unless you have a lot of extra cash. If you want to save money, you can start by shopping at home. Most likely, you already have a good number of the dishes, sheets, and other household items that your student will need for their dorm or apartment. (This is also a good chance to get rid of some stuff.)
Think about what other people can add as well. First, tell your student to talk with the people who will be living with them. Everyone can save time and money if they are willing to share responsibility for things like a TV, microwave, mini-fridge, etc. Also, check in with any older siblings, cousins, or friends who have finished college to see if they have any things they no longer need that they can give or sell to you. With a little luck, you might be able to get most of what you need without going to a store.
Start looking for sales at your favorite stores for anything else on the list. Back-to-school sales usually begin in July and last until around Labor Day, but that doesn’t mean that everything will be on sale at the same time. Now you have to decide whether you’d rather save money or time. Find the best deals and start shopping if you just want to get the job done. You can be done in one or two hours. You’d like to save more money. Make it easier for yourself to compare prices by doing the following: Set up shopping carts or wishlists at your favorite stores and check them once a week to see if the prices on the things you need have gone down.
Do your chores at home
If your child goes to school more than two hours away, they probably won’t come home that often. Even if they plan to come back every weekend, it’s likely that some of those trips will be cut as they get busier with school and social activities. Even though they’re excited about all the fun things they have coming up, you might want to remind them of all the other things they have to do before and during the fall semester.
We could call this group of tasks “adulting.” That is all the small tasks that don’t seem important right now could cause a lot of trouble if they aren’t done. For instance,
Before going to school, return library books, school or club-loaned equipment, etc.
employers, the post office, non-digital subscriptions, and anyone else who might need it.
Your student’s insurance will be accepted at a pharmacy and/or doctor’s close to campus. (The college probably has a medical centre that can take care of basic needs, but it might not be able to handle everything, especially if a student has a condition that requires ongoing care.)
Getting the car tuned up if it’s going to college with your student COVID-19 vaccination records and/or test results, if the school asks for them.
You and your student will also want to take a little time to make sure that all the financial details of college have been taken care of. This includes confirming scholarships and making sure that the remittance information is up to date; setting up student loans; paying for the meal plan; parking permits; and all the other little fees that come with college. Mistakes can happen, even more so at the beginning of the year. You don’t want your student to spend their first week on campus trying to figure out why the bursar’s office thinks they still owe $10,000.
No matter if the college is an hour away by car or a cross-country flight, it is hard to figure out how to do two or more small moves every year. Sitting down with your student now to figure out the best plan for your family will make things easier and keep you from scrambling at the last minute.
No matter how you’re getting there, make sure your student and anyone who’s going with them have read the school’s move-in information so you know what to expect and what to do. (You may have a certain place to park, a certain time to move in, etc.) If school is far enough away that you need to stay the night, book a room early and look at hotels that aren’t too close to school. During move-in week, rooms can fill up quickly, especially in small college towns. If you wait too long, prices will go up, if you can even find a room.
When you drive…
Make sure you pack the most important things separately so you can get them in the car first. It’s not unusual for a student to only be 75% (or 50%!) packed and realise that the car is already full. To avoid having to load, unload, and reload the car, put things like clothes, toiletries, a computer, etc. that are currently in season in the car first. Then, you can use the rest of the space for things that aren’t as important and clothes for later in the year. If you can’t fit everything, you can bring the rest to campus on a later trip.
Also, keep in mind that most of what your student needs can be bought or found near school. If you’re driving a long way and can’t fit everything in your car, it might be worth it to buy it when you get there (you can even order ahead and pick it up nearby) or have it shipped to campus.
If you’re in the air…
If your school is so far away that you have to fly there, packing is a whole different story. You can only bring a certain amount of luggage on the flight, and adding more will quickly cost you more. In this case, your child needs to look over their list and really think about what can be left behind or bought nearby.
The list of things that you need right away (clothes, medications, and other personal items) will have to fit into the number of people who are flying out and how much luggage they are allowed. (Note: If parents, guardians, or siblings are flying out on this first trip and can get by with just one bag, the student’s things can go in their “extra” bag without paying extra.) Depending on when the student is flying back home or if another relative is coming soon, another set of items (like winter clothes) could be set aside to be brought to school later.
Everything else will have to be shipped or bought locally. If you want to ship something, check with the school to see what their rules are. Some will not only let you send packages directly to them, but they will also bring the packages to your dorm building. In other cases, you may have to ship it to your hotel or another location and then drive it over. The more you know about what’s going on, the better off you’ll be. If you’re shipping or buying things that need to be put together, make sure you have the right tools on hand.
Don’t forget about the trip home at the end of the year. Everything in that faraway dorm room is going to come back. (Or be sold.) (Or given.) So now might be a good time to suggest to your student that they try living with less.
Try to book the flight and any hotel rooms you might need as early as possible to save money and time. You want to be sure of your plans and get the best price before other families who are also moving their kids in that week take all the reservations.
Leaving home for college is a logistical task, but there is also a lot of emotional “work” to be done. Most likely, it will be a while before your student comes back home. Even if their school is close enough that they can visit every weekend, most of their friends probably won’t be able to. Before they leave for school, it’s a good idea to tell your student to make a list of people they want to spend time with and local things they want to do, like their favourite hike or one last slice of the state’s best pizza. That means spending time with the rest of the family. Whatever your family’s traditions are—Friday movie nights, incredibly competitive board games, or brunch after church—try to keep them up as much as possible during these busy weeks.
It might seem silly to put “go to brunch” and “see friends” on a list of things to do, but the last few weeks before college are stressful, busy, and will go by faster than anyone can imagine. It’s important to put the important things at the top of your list so they don’t get lost in the errands. Because, trust us, your child will miss those things, even if they don’t want to admit it, no matter how much they love school.
Move-in day and the weeks leading up to it are both exciting and difficult for students and their families. This article should help you all calm down a bit so you can enjoy this time and make it less stressful.
Even after your child goes to college, you’ll still feel a lot of different things. You’ll miss them, but you may find that some things at home are better. And your relationship with your student will change over time. All of this is part of the plan. All those hard years of parenting—the hard choices, the tears and fights, and even the good times and long talks—have led to this day. So have as much fun as you can.