Do This, Not That: Move-In Day

Move-in day is a rite of passage for all college students. Everyone must experience the full range of emotions, from excitement to fear, as the day nears but the packing is still far from finished. If you’re looking at a room full of things, of which you can only bring half, and wondering about the mystery that is the semester to come, you’re right on track.

The first day of the semester is the most challenging. It tests your ability to juggle the strenuous tasks of carrying all of your belongings up to the third floor, meeting your roommates and their entire extended families as they ask you a million questions, and getting your car unpacked and out of the way like a NASCAR team. Get ready to pack, unpack, cram, and have zero alone time before saying goodbye to your parents for the next few months.

Move-in day is an emotional and physical trial, but by doing this rather than that, you will survive it. No box will be left behind and you’ll be moved in before lunch time.

Do This: Eat a good breakfast.

Eat a good breakfast before move-in day; students stock up on toast, fruit, and coffee

K2 PhotoStudio /

Not That: Be hangry.

SpongeBob laughing maniacally

SpongeBob SquarePants / Giphy

You’re just not yourself when you’re hungry. Though your roommate will eventually meet every version of your personality, you can’t make your best first impression when you’re hungry. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my Italian mother, it’s to always have food before a big day. Bring snacks and drinks, not just for your own well-being and the safety of those around you, but also for the icebreaker. When the elevator line is out the door and everyone is cranky about having to lug their suitcases up three flights of stairs, you’ll be thanking Costco for that family pack of Yoohoos.

Do This: Get there early.

A boy looks up tips for college move-in day on his phone

michaeljung /

Not That: Wait.

Paul Rudd shrugging

Conan / Giphy

You’re going to want to have enough time to settle in and relax on your first day. Getting to campus early means first dibs on more than just a bed. Colleges offer trolley carts to help students move in, but they’re first come, first served, and everyone wants one. On top of that is the tradition of going out to eat after a long morning of moving in. If your college is in a small town like mine was, you’re going to want to get a reservation or beat the rush by finishing your tasks early enough to get to a restaurant by 11 a.m. Trust me.

Do This: Reach out to your roommate in advance.

A girl sits cross-legged on the floor and awaits a text message

perfectlab /

Not That: Just show up and wing it.

A woman waving hello


Be respectful of your new roomies! Contact them to see when they are arriving. Also, try to come to a fair decision about who gets which side of the room. Don’t just plant your stuff where you like. Maybe you can pick straws or play a game; winner gets first pick. Whatever works so that you and your new roommate get off on the right foot.

Do This: Call ahead and speak with the dorm manager.

A smiling girl on the phone

Monkey Business Images /

Not That: Forget to call your parents. Empty nest syndrome is real.

Zoe Saldana making a face

The Colbert Report / Giphy

Mom and dad are probably on the verge of losing it now that their beloved baby boy/girl is all grown up and moving away. It’s inevitable that mom will be scolding you for not eating a healthy breakfast, and dad will tell your new friends his signature jokes, like, “Hi, tired. I’m dad!” However, many awkward family moments of frustration can be avoided by contacting your dorm manager before moving in. Introduce yourself and get the inside scoop by asking these questions.

  • Where can I park to unload my car?
  • Do I have to pay for parking?
  • How far are the dorms from the parking lot, dining hall, main campus, and other landmarks?
  • What are the exact dimensions of the room?
  • How many electrical outlets are there in the room?
  • Where do I go to pick up my room key?

Do This: Pack the essentials.

A man surrounded by dozens of hats

Everett Collection /

Not That: Pack your dog.

Puppies looking quizzically at the camera


Sorry, Toto. Unfortunately, this time you have to stay in Kansas along with the other half of the shoe collection. There’s just not enough space. If there’s something you truly miss, it can be mailed (well, except Toto). If your school is in an area that has all four seasons, a harsh winter and a hot summer included, you don’t need to pack your mountaineer coat just yet. It’s best to plan ahead. When do you expect to go home during the semester? Can you afford to wait until Thanksgiving? If yes, then trade out your fall clothes for the winter ones next time you head home.

Well, it’s almost game time. You know what to do... and what not to do for that matter. Are you ready? Probably not, but is anyone ever really ready? We wish you safe travels, great gas mileage, and the best of luck reserving a trolley cart!

About Katelyn Brush

Katelyn likes learning, good health, traveling, and pizza on Fridays. Her mixed education, composed of SUNY the College at Brockport, a semester at a community college, and one abroad at the University of Oxford, helped her earn a bachelor’s degree in English. College also gave her a few lessons in Taekwondo and sleeping in a hostel dorm with total strangers. She’s a yoga teacher, author and illustrator of the children’s book, “Signing Together: A Guide to American Sign Language for Everyone.” As a Student Caffé writer, she hopes to help you through the highs and lows of college with a laugh ... or 20.

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