5 Tips for A Smooth(ish) Dorm Move-In Day

Posted by Blair Thornburgh

Ah, college dormitories. The cinderblock walls! The fluorescent lights! The windows that don’t open except with a vigorous shoulder-check! Okay, so a dorm’s not the most glamorous of digs. But for the next semester, your dorm is your home—once you actually move in, that is. Schlepping all your stuff up narrow staircases (or in tiny elevators) can be amazingly stressful, and that’s before your parents step in to “help” you. Avoid day-of meltdowns with these handy tips.


1. Pack light.

Before you even cross the threshold of your new home away from home, think hard about what you’re bringing. You’re not actually going to need all the books on your home bookshelf—promise!—and unless you’re planning on attending a lot of swanky soirées, you can ditch your prom dress at home, too. It can be hard to leave stuff behind, but it’s not gone forever—if you really miss something, you can pick it up over Thanksgiving (or have your parents ship it to you). And you’ll be grateful to have a few fewer boxes to carry! (Caveat to this rule: you can never have too many extension cords. Dorms put plugs in weird places, trust me.)


2. Know your space.

Are minifridges allowed? What about microwaves, hot plates, or electric kettles? Do you need special permission (or adhesives) to put things on the walls? What furniture is provided (hopefully at least a bed and a desk), and what are you on your own for? Will you want (or need) curtains to block out the sun’s harmful rays?

Make sure you can answer all these before packing up and shipping off. Furthermore, if you are bringing larger stuff (like an armchair, couch, or a large lamp), be sure that it’ll fit not only in the space of the room, but up the stairs/in the elevator, and through any relevant doors. Nothing’s worse than hauling a loveseat up to the fifth floor only to get stuck in the hallway! And if you’re living in a suite with other people, make sure you’ve communicated ahead of time about who’s bringing what (right down to the toilet paper—again, trust me).


3. Put in a little elbow grease.

You don’t know where this room has been—or who’s been in it. Bring along basic cleaning supplies (broom and dustpan, all-purpose cleaning spray, and disinfecting wipes) just in case your new space isn’t exactly spic and span. (And if it turns out your dorm has communal cleaning stuff, just send yours back with your parents. Easy!)


4. Be patient.

Move-in day is stressful, physically and emotionally. You’re throwing around fifty-pound boxes in late-summer heat, meeting a bunch of new people, and saying goodbye to your parents all in one day. That’s a lot! Be sure to take frequent breaks to catch your breath (and drink some water), and expect tempers to run high at least once or twice. College is an amazing time, and a thrilling new beginning, but that doesn’t mean it’s all going to be automatically easy. Use move-in as a chance to practice managing expectations and, you know, acting like an adult.


5. Bring snacks.

Seriously. After a day of wrangling extra-long dorm sheets onto a squeaky mattress, nothing takes the edge off like a package of Oreos. Plus, food (and cold drinks) are an instant icebreaker for getting to know your fellow dorm-dwellers. Boom! Bonding!

Good luck, budding academics, and godspeed. You really can do it (except maybe getting that couch through the door. Win some, lose some). And if you’re looking for even more tips and tricks for navigating the rest of college, check out Stuff Every College Student Should Know.

Blair Thornburgh

Blair Thornburgh

BLAIR THORNBURGH is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she earned a B.A. in medieval studies and delivered a pretty good commencement speech. She lives in Philadelphia.