College graduates and their families, especially their parents, know that fall move-in each year can be a stressful and complicated process. Like many other areas of life, we do not appreciate the number of variables involved when getting through the process smoothly. For example, one must consider space available in the car for packing (or shipping if the school isn’t driving distance), layout of the campus, accessible roads, style of dorm, number of roommates, just to name a few. For more information on how the complexities of move-in are but a primer for a surprisingly bureaucratic college experience, see my previous post (“Is College Wrapped in Red Tape?”).
What parents of college-bound kids need to realize is that college move-in is a lot more than moving into a room; it’s really a student moving into his or her new life. Besides getting stuff into the room, all students have a check-in process where they register as being on campus for the start of the year. This originally required a visit by each student to an on-campus office, but much of this has switched to online. However, while registering online is more convenient it is more likely to be forgotten, and registering after the school’s deadline can come with some hefty fines (upwards of $50). Students also have to pick up room keys (either at a dormitory administration or housing office) as well as take ID pictures—some schools, like mine, only require the latter for freshman, and it is done online in advance of matriculation. Still, these IDs have to then be picked up, hopefully at the same office as the keys. Lastly, depending on the time in between move-in and the first day of class, students may have to buy textbooks, electronic items, and desk supplies in the same time frame.
The College Parents of America website (http://www.collegeparents.org/members/resource s/articles/how-parents-can-help-make-college-move-day-success) does a great job itemizing this information, and it’s especially handy for parents sending a child off to school for the first time. On the other hand, even if this is round 2 or 3 it’s still useful to have a strategy, as every college is an entirely different ball game when it comes to this process. If we were to flowchart this process, we would start with the CPAs three general phases of the process: 1) Getting in. 2) Settling in. 3) Parents leaving.
First step is to arrive early. Not too early, as parking areas may have time limits on how long a car can remain parked in the same spot, but early enough to be there when the buildings open. Next, as one is waiting the family should develop a plan of sorts, deciding who will carry what and in what order of packages. Does the student have younger siblings? If yes, parents should talk to them about what they can do to help and avoid boredom, and also the importance of them not straying too far from the family. As welcoming as a college campus may be, it is still unfamiliar territory.
Remember that this is a hectic day and stress is expected. Consider possible roadblocks—changed or confusing parking rules, broken dollies, difficult roommates or fellow families—and how to deal with them. When I moved in freshman year, understanding the parking system in advance was a huge help, and bringing your own collapsible dolly can avoid time spent waiting on a line. If campus check-in and IDs are the same time as moving, the best bet would be to let the student take care of this first, while the parents park, and then both parties meet afterwards to start moving boxes. In addition, steps involving lines should be hit early, and parents should plan to split up as necessary if their presence in two separate areas would be helpful, maybe one goes to buy a forgotten item while the other picks up lunch. Running these steps in parallel also gives everyone a chance to learn a little of the campus map and also lets the student feel independent; following one’s parents around the whole day while they decide where and when to move each of the students belongings is not an ideal way to start a college career.
I’ll be back after Memorial Day with guidance on settling in and saying goodbye. Until then, congratulations to all those college students whose commencement is upon us! For some wisdom, check out George Saunders, Professor of English at Syracuse University (http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/george-saunderss-advice-to-graduates/).