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How To Drop Your Child Off At College (Without Losing Your Mind)

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Dropping your child off at college is one of the biggest milestones of your child’s life and a parent’s day of reckoning – having to let your child go. It’s a day filled with great anticipation, emotion, mixed feelings, and, of course, stress. And it’s your job to make sure it goes smoothly.


The key to making move-in day successful lies in being prepared and remaining flexible. By now you should have purchased all your essential items (Target has an excellent printable shopping list and Bed Bath & Beyond offers online shopping lists specific for most colleges,) and had “The Talk” about roommates, friends, campus safety, health, drinking, and, yes, S-E-X.

We’ve packed and moved two kids into college 5,000 miles from home and learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t. We survived those big days and now look back at them fondly (lots of smiling photos for proof). So will you.


1. Have your child contact their roommate and introduce him/herself via e-mail or Facebook. Oftentimes this is when they will decide who will bring a refrigerator or TV. As the parent, I’m sure you’ll be looking over their shoulder to Facebook stalk their roommate’s photos. Try not to make comments or pass judgements, like “Gee, he’s a real winner” or “Wow, I guess she likes to party.”

2. Arrive at least one day ahead of move-in day, if possible, to give yourself time to pickup your purchases at major stores (if you’ve arranged for them to be held for pickup), last minute purchases (there always are) and explore your child’s new surroundings if they allow you to be seen with them.

3. Get a good night’s sleep the night before and have a hearty breakfast before move-in day begins. Arriving tired and cranky for this busy day will cause your energy and moods to quickly head south. Not a good combination and not a good first impression on your roommate who will learn soon enough what you’re all about.

4. Have your move-in directions, schedule, and maps printed out and on hand. Familiarize yourself with them ahead of time. Approach this like a Navy Seal and you’ll be fine.

5. Bring healthy snacks and plenty of water, save the wine for later no matter how much you think you need it now. (We picked up a case for the room. Water, not wine).

6. Bring a roll of paper towels and 409 or Lysol Wipes to give the room a good once over before unpacking and making the bed. There’s a good chance this might be the only time that room is actually cleaned the entire year. A small tool set, duck tape, and sticky-hooks will come in handy too.

7. Exchange contact information with the roommate and his/her parents – for emergency use only. Not spying on your child to see if he/she has done their homework or is still hungover.

8. Do pack some small framed family photos for their desk or nightstand even if they say they don’t want them. Once they see their roommate’s photos they’ll be sad they don’t have one of Rover or Aunt Sally. For those that want to display all their favorite photos We Montage makes removable photo wallpaper perfect for the dorm.

9. Bring a small First Aid Kit and include Advil, Tylenol and a thermometer -because they will get sick and you will be far, far away and will want to know what their temperature is every half hour when they have pneumonia. Or maybe that’s just me.

10. Pack earplugs, headphones, and a sleep mask, so they can sleep or watch TV without disturbing each other. This stretches out the honeymoon phase at least two more weeks.



1. Don’t pack for your child. Involve them in the process so they know what they have and where it’s at. Though if they’re like mine, they will call you anyway to ask where it is. Don’t get frustrated. One day the calls will be too few and far between, so that phone call is a blessing.

2. Don’t pack the entire closet, like our fashionista did. Closets are small and there is limited drawer space. Who’d a thought?! And ship as little as possible. There will be long (really long!) lines at the school post office, so try to arrive as soon as it opens if you must. Check these hours ahead of time. (Remember the Navy Seal part?)

3. Don’t take over the unpacking, decorating or setting up of your kid’s room. This is their space and their chance to be independent. Chances are they will move things around the moment you walk out the door anyway.

4. Don’t shut the door while you unpack even though you’re pulling out the skivvies. Bring a doorstop and keep that door propped open. You’ll be surprised how many of their neighbors will stop by to chat and be amazed at how much crap you’ve brought. We did this with both our kids and it was a wonderful icebreaker.

5. If issues arise during move-in, don’t involve yourself in the conflict. Let your child handle this themselves. After all, they will be the one living with the roommate, not you.

6. Bring tissues, but try to hold it together. Yes, this is a huge milestone in your child’s life and, perhaps for you, the beginning of an empty nest, but it’s also an incredibly exciting time in your child’s life and the realization of years of hard work (yours and theirs!) and should be celebrated.

7. Don’t miss an opportunity to take photos and get in as many hugs and kisses as your child will allow. Preferably not in front of their new roommate.

8. Don’t blow off the orientation programs. Watching paint dry may be more entertaining, but they’re a wonderful way to learn more about the school and to meet other parents and students. The more opportunities your child has to meet other kids the better.

9. Don’t forget to pack a little surprise in their suitcase (their little sister left behind is a good start) and send a small care-package 4-6 weeks after move-in with their favorite snacks, magazines, or something small. Something Vegasy like poker chips or glitzy beauty products always go over well.

10. Resist the urge to smother. Do call or text to check up on them after you leave so they know you’re thinking of them, but don’t helicopter parent no matter how tempting it may be. They will brush their teeth and change their underwear…at some point. This is for them to figure out. I promise, they’ll be doing this on their own by graduation day.

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