College Move-In Made Easy, Part 2 Danny Kramer

Hello, readers! I’m back after a month away from the blog. Since my last post I’ve finished my junior year of college and started my summer job on campus. I’m also a dorm RA for a summer research program for undergraduates I participated in last year. Boston’s really awesome during the summer; the sun finally comes out, and with it so too do the flowers and sail boats, and of course the awesome food and culture festivals along the Charles River. I’ll have more on this later in the summer in my upcoming post on organizing recreational activities.

For now, I’ll continue the topic I began discussing in my prior post: Moving into a college dorm. These guidelines are for the student moving in as well as the parents of the student, because the hectic activities of a college move-in weekend are best tackled as a team, with plans and tasks for each member of the family. While the closing of the spring semester and the 2013-2014 academic year may be over a month past, move-in for fall 2014 is only two months away. While most students are not thinking about school right now, rising freshman will have to start thinking pretty soon. In addition, plenty of college parents start making plans in July, from planning the drive or booking the flights to buying dorm supplies and booking a hotel room if an overnight stay is required.

The College Parents of America—an organization with great information and resources for parents of college students—describes the move-in process in three stages: 1) Getting onto campus. 2) Getting the student settled. 3) The family saying goodbye and leaving. My last post outlined the process of getting onto campus, so here I’ll continue with settling in and saying goodbye. The first step of moving in is dividing up the common space, bedrooms, etc. The first student or family to arrive may have the tendency to being choosing space and unpacking belongings. However, there are pros and cons to this first move. If there is a significant difference in location or quality among desks, beds, and closets, then the first to arrive may want to pick which he or she wants and begin unpacking. Be warned that this could alienate the roommates who have not yet arrived, or at least leave them a little annoyed.

Waiting for all roommates to arrive and then deciding who gets what is often a show of good faith by the first arrival and can help everyone being the year on good terms. In addition, parents, who may be carrying bags and items to be unpacked, may have a tendency to claim space on behalf of their child when they put down suit cases. Parents, besides this alienating your child’s other roommates, this also takes autonomy away from your child. Remember that this room will be your children’s space and you the parents will not be present for almost the entirety of it use. To put it another way, if I told the students to decorate their parents bedrooms any way they saw fit I doubt the parents would be particularly happy about it. Unpacking can be a personal process that is best settled among roommates, by discussion or drawing straws.

All present parents can take this time to meet each other, as it will be very helpful for roommates’ families to become friends. This can be a big help for the rest of move-in and move-out, families with overlapping presence can help each other out if possible, and this also provides company during parents weekend for larger group activities and meals. Going back to the dorm room, all parents should make absolutely sure that their children complete damage reports. Damage reports are how students bring attention to damage in their rooms that was present prior to their arrival; this is the only way that a school knows that the damage was not caused by the incoming student. This could range from chipped paint to holes in the wall to broken windows. It is also possible that rather than filling out and submitting a form the students will have to go to their resident or facilities office and bring the damage to the attention of personnel directly.

Finally, once moving in is complete, parents and children must say goodbye. How to go about this is more difficult to quantify because it depends even more so on the relationship between the parent and child. Parents can minimize awkwardness by not giving planned speeches or parting advice that borders on cliché. A parent might be inclined to offer some wisdom, but keep in mind that the time for that was before leaving home, and at this point it will not necessarily come off as heartfelt. If you plan on having a goodbye dinner or celebratory family meal, have it the night before the day you say goodbye. So if you arrive the day you move in, have this dinner at home, and if you arrive to campus and stay in a hotel overnight until the dorms open, have this meal the night you get there.

The day of move-in there will likely be a welcome dinner in the students’ cafeteria, and this is the best time for students to start making friends and reaching out to classmates. Time with family at this last-minute point would only get in the way of that. If the school has an official farewell event or school year kickoff, families should leave right after this; lingering does not help anyone. Lastly, if your child seems aloof or nonchalant at your departure, do not assume that something is wrong; this is most likely how an 18-year-old deals with not wanting to appear sentimental, and having these kinds of emotions in need of hiding shows how much he or she loves you! To the parents, use this moment to be proud of how far your child has come, and leave with pride. To the students, use this moment to realize that you are saying goodbye to the people who changed your diapers and watched you learn to walk, and now there trying to process one of the biggest milestones of your lives. So the feelings are going to run pretty strong, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

With that, I’m signing off. Now that we’ve got the college-bound covered, next time I’ll be giving advice to the college-hopefuls; applying to college is a whole other process.