Ultimate Freshman Guide to Moving into College

Ultimate Freshman Guide to Moving into College

Man and woman holding notebooks while sitting on grass after moving into college

If you’re lucky, moving into college as a freshman will be seamless and easy. If you’re less than lucky, you might come across difficulties. Flying? Be prepared for canceled flights. Driving? Be prepared for the traffic you have to sit in for hours. Being prepared is all you can do. To ease your stress we have compiled the ultimate moving into college guide to pave the way and make your moving day a little easier.

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Listen to the college!

Perhaps the most important out of these is making sure you are keeping up to date with all the announcements the college sends. Not only is this a stressful time for incoming freshman students, but also it is a stressful time for the college and the volunteers. Colleges will send you information about time slots, parking, and traffic. So check over your emails for moving in instructions.

Use time slots for move in day

A way the college keeps the peace is by having students sign up for a timeslot. Usually, freshmen move in first at the beginning of the week, and returning students move in a couple of days before classes start. There are pros and cons for any time you choose, and you must consider all your options to what works best for you and your family.

You might choose a morning time slot if you live close to the college. By doing this it will allow you to get there early and set up before the next wave of students arrives after noon. Arriving early will also allow you to go to the store and pick up anything you have forgotten or still need.

You might choose an afternoon time slot if you live farther away and have to drive for hours or fly.  The dorms will most likely be busier than in the morning, but it is still an option you can consider.

Plan parking before moving in

Along with assigning time slots, your college might also have restrictions on where you can park. Check your emails for where you can park or where you can’t. There might be street parking close to your dorm where you can park and unpack. There might not be any parking for blocks which means your college might instruct the driver to say in the car while you quickly unpack in front of the building. Some colleges have something in between where you’ll have a slip of paper with a timeframe of how long you can park for so you’ll have to move fast in that period. Each college is different so just check-in and do some research before proceeding.

Student putting carton boxes in car trunk for moving into college

Plan for traffic

If your college is in a city, keep in mind when traffic will be busy, when people leave for work in the mornings and return home in the evenings. Your college might email you directions to the dorms because they might close a road to help with the flow of traffic.

If you live a great distance from campus, account for that and when you should schedule your time slot so you’re not late in arriving.

Make a calendar of important dates

A great way to make sure you’re on schedule is to make a list of all the dates and deadlines like when to have your transcript sent to the school and move-in day so you are on top of things. By having this information you’ll be on top of things and make moving into college stress-free!

Leaving home

Leaving for college can be an emotional time for families. So prepare yourself and say your goodbyes to the family members who will not be helping you move in. Before leaving home it’s a good idea to have the emotional goodbyes done. Doing this will make the transition to college easier.

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Who should you take with you?

If possible, your parents or guardians! You will be moving boxes so if you have any older siblings who can help you that’s always a plus. When in doubt ask a friend! But keep in mind that you will have limited space in your car and the dorm itself so plan accordingly.

Packing for moving into college

Your college might have some items for you to bring or you can look at a college moving checklist. Plan for when you will be leaving home and heading off to college. To save time think about packing the car the night beforehand. It’s important not to procrastinate or leave the packing to the last minute. The big moving day will be here before you know it. If you bring heavy stuff and big boxes, potentially bring a dolly or cart. Your college might have carts for you to use if you don’t have some of your own. Storage bins are also a great way to bring in your stuff and store your belongings in your room.

Be smart and think ahead when you pack your car. Heavy furniture should be on the bottom and lighter clothes and boxes should be on the top. Tape down lids so they don’t open mid-drive.

There is also the possibility that you live too far away from the campus to drive. You might have to fly and will have to ship the rest of your belongings like your clothes and bedding to your dorm through UPS or FedEx. It’s a good idea to plan ahead for this and ship it before you leave so it arrives when you do. Make sure you can track your packages so they don’t get lost in the mail. Even if you’re driving or flying it might be a good idea to wait and buy big items like a futon or mini-fridge when you get on campus. Doing this will allow more space in the car.

What to bring for move in day?

It’s important to have a list of what you need to pack for college, but also what to take with you for move-in day. 

Rubber mallet or tool kit

These are essential if you are planning on building furniture and need the proper tools to build them. A rubber mallet will come in handy if you want to de-loft your bed by yourself and the college won’t send someone to do it for you. Some colleges don’t want you to mess with the bed and you might have to put in a work order. Check with your college or resident assistant (RA) before de-lofting anything.

Snacks and drinks

Most freshmen move in during August for the fall semester, meaning it will be summer and hot. Bring water bottles so you stay hydrated and bring snacks in case you get hungry mid-way unpacking.


This might be overlooked, but scissors are important if you plan on cutting tapped-up boxes or buying new furniture. You may want them for other miscellaneous tasks as well like decorating and to use later on as a school supply.

Trash Bags

Some colleges provide trash bags and some don’t. Regardless you will need them so make sure they are in your car before leaving. Check with your school to see if they have a designated recycling program for cardboard boxes and other recyclable materials before you start pitching things.

Comfortable Clothes

Make sure you’re dressed for the occasion and you wear something you are okay with getting dirty or sweaty. Moving into college isn’t a fashion show so wear something you can lift boxes and stand on top of a chair in. If you’re wanting to sport some school spirit, a tee shirt will do.


Talk to your roommate before moving into college. With everything going on and trying to get everything unpacked from your car and into your dorm room, the last thing you want is for your roommate to be moving in at the same time. Double the chaos! Talk to your roommate and figure out when each one will be arriving to avoid a clash.

Group of friends hanging out after moving into college

Not only should you make sure you aren’t coming in at the same time, make sure you talk about who is bringing what. You won’t want doubles of cleaning supplies, rugs, mini-fridges, or so forth. Dorm rooms are already small, so talk with your roommate so you aren’t cluttering the space or spending too much money.

Quick tips for moving in

Once everything is unpacked from the car then what? Here are some tips and tricks from bed height to meeting new people when you get into your dorm room!

What do you do when you’re in your dorm?

A smart thing to do is to bring with you some disinfecting wipes to clean off surfaces. Most likely the area won’t be too dirty, but it’s always a good idea to clean off some dust and dirt in the drawers while your dorm doesn’t have all your stuff in it.

Another thing you can do when you first get into your dorm room is to look around and take note of any damages. Take photos of large scratches on the furniture or on the floor and any damages to the walls. By doing this you will have photographic evidence to ensure you won’t be charged for any previous damages to the room at the end of the year. Be sure to let your RA know if there are any damages so they can also make note of that in their files.

Height of your bed

By being a freshman and living on campus, you will have to choose the height of your bed. This will depend on your own preferences but here are some pros and cons to help you decide.

setting up desk after moving into college

Pros and cons of lofted beds


  • More space
  • Divides your work space from your sleeping space
  • Makes your room look bigger
  • Can either put your desk underneath or a futon
    • Tip: if you do have a desk underneath you might want to get a pool noodle and put it on the top so you don’t hit your head!
  • Will ensure that no one will sit on your bed without an invitation


  • Will likely bang head on the ceiling 
  • Harder to get in and out of your bed (especially in the middle of the night)
  • Harder to make your bed 
  • Can’t hang out with friends on your bed so you will need to have other means to do so

Pros and cons of mid-lofted beds


  • Can have your dresser and storage bins under your bed for more space 
  • Able to relax, hangout with friends, and do homework on the bed as opposed to the lofted style
  • Not that hard to make or get in and out of
  • Able to decorate the wall space and personalize your room more


  • Your friends or roommate’s friends might sit on your bed without your permission
  • Easier to get food and dirt in your bed 
  • Harder to stay on task since you will be able to get into your bed whenever you want with ease
  • Makes the room seem smaller 
  • Dresser takes up more space or you are unable to use it if you keep it under your bed

Meeting your hallmates while moving into college

Your hallmates will be the first friends you will make while at college so get to know them! A great way to do this is by keeping your door propped open while you are unpacking. This allows people to stop by and see what you’re up to. Another tip is to go down to the lounge or public spaces either on your floor or in your building. This will allow you to meet new people and become friends!

Go shopping with your roommate

When you and your roommate are all settled in, it might be a good idea to go to the store together to make sure you have everything you need. You could get snacks for the dorm or a fan or anything you might have forgotten.

Let’s wrap up!

Moving into college can be a stressful time both for the student and their families. But it is also the beginning of a new adventure. You are now prepared for all the challenges of moving in day from parking to what to bring to how to meet new people. Don’t worry and take a breath! Good luck upcoming freshman with the new semester and cheers to the memories that await you!

Kimberly D. Herbstritt is a student at the University of Iowa studying in English and Creative Writing with a publication track. She is the acting Co-Editor-In-Chief at UI's new online literature magazine Cave Writing Magazine. In her free time she enjoys writing, photography, and hanging out with her friends.