How to Pack for College Move-In Day

How to Pack for College Move-In Day

Here’s an interactive checklist and tons of tips to make sure that you’re organized and ready to make moving into your dorm room on college move-in day easy and stress-free.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

I’ve got three college move-in days under my belt and I think I’ve finally figured out how to make sure that we buy only the things we really need and how to show up for school with everything needed without forgetting anything. Of course, my kids have all graduated and I no longer need this information so it’s useless to me. So, I thought it would share it with you. I hope you find it helpful.

College move-in day for my two older sons was simple and easy. They both went to school at a university close to our house so we just loaded up the car and headed to the school. My daughter’s Freshman move-in day was considerably more difficult. Her school was 2,000+ miles from our home in Atlanta and so we were flying to a semi-unfamiliar city.

I did a ton of planning and list-making before all 3 moves and I created a spreadsheet to make sure I stayed on top of everything I needed to be doing.

You can get a copy of my spreadsheet to use as you do your own planning for college move-in day. All you need to do is fill in the form below and you can get access to it right away, along with a downloadable PDF of everything you’ll need to know before you start making your first shopping list.

1. Make a Master List of Everything You’ll Need at School

I’ve got a list of questions to help you determine just what you’ll need to furnish the college dorm room. You can use those questions for a starting point to determine just what will be needed at school.

I included a comprehensive list of items you might need in the College Packing Spreadsheet. If you’re using the spreadsheet and don’t need an item, just ignore it. It won’t be included in the final list. Add any additional items to the blank rows in each category.

2. Will These Items Be Needed at Move-In or Sometime Later?

The amount of stuff you’ll have to deal with will be overwhelming so you don’t want to have to bring or buy any more than you need. If your school is in a warmer climate, any winter clothes may not be needed until after Thanksgiving or can be shipped up later.

My boys showed up to school with a collection of shorts, jeans and t-shirts and simply grabbed whatever else they needed on weekend visits home, but because my daughter was going to school in New York, we ended up taking a fairly large number of cold-weather clothes with us since the weather was going to get chilly within a couple of months. We didn’t end up taking things like her heavy sweaters, long johns, and other winter month supplies. Instead, I shipped some of those up to her and she picked the rest up when she came home for Thanksgiving.

For reference, you can ship a box containing approximately 20 pounds of clothes from Atlanta to New York for about $30.00 via the USPS.

3. Place Each Item in One of These Categories: Pack, Purchase or Send Later

If you’re flying or traveling a long way in a crowded car, you’ll want to keep the items you bring with you to a minimum. My daughter’s school had a Bed, Bath & Beyond and a Target nearby so we knew we could buy most items needed once we got into town. Even so, we filled two large suitcases with her clothes and sentimental items she wanted with her at school.

Here are a few pro-tips to make the whole packing/shopping experience easier:

  • We packed her clothing using Ziploc Storage Bags in order to fit as much as possible in the suitcase and kept track of the luggage weight with a luggage scale so as to stay under the airline’s 50-pound limit.
  • Bed, Bath and Beyond has a service called Pack and Hold where you can shop at your local store and then pick up your items at the store closest to your college. Bed, Bath and Beyond also has a college page where you can enter your school’s name and see their dorm room guidelines of what to bring and what not bring.

If you’re using the College Packing Spreadsheet, indicate for each item whether you’ll be packing the item, purchasing the item or sending it later after school starts.

If you’re using the spreadsheet, selecting what you’re planning to do with each item copies it to the appropriate list so you can track what you need to do.

Items to Pack are automatically copied to the Items to Pack tab where you can track whether you need to buy the item before you pack it, if it’s been packed and where you packed. This will be really handy as you get ready to pack and on Move-In Day as you unpack because you’ll easily see where everything has been packed.

Items to Purchase are automatically copied to the Items to Purchase tab where you can track what’s been purchased, where you bought it and if it’s been picked up yet.

Items to Send Later are copied to the, you guessed it!, Items to Send Later tab so you can remember to actually send the item. (Or am I the only person who would totally forget?) You can also track the shipping information here.

And finally, your consolidated list is automatically copied to the Combined List tab so you can see everything at once.

These lists kept me reasonably sane when planning for college drop-off and I don’t know what I would have done without them. I hope you’ll find them helpful as well!

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