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Tips for moving in to your college dorm

What is moving into college really like? There's going to be a lot going on all at the same time, and it's completely normal to feel overwhelmed during the packing and move-in phases of your experience. Try to focus on the excitement of the things to come after you've settled in.

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Preparing for your move will help to some extent, but it's even more valuable to keep a flexible mindset.

Know your layout

Were you able to view your style of dorm on a campus visit? If not, most universities will have details about each room layout and setup, including furniture and amenities such as a sink, mini refrigerator, or microwave, on their housing site.

Researching the floor plan of your dorm room will be incredibly helpful when putting together your packing and shopping lists. Look for info like the layout of furniture, areas of shared space and personal space, and whether the furniture is made to be rearranged and stacked. Most universities have dorm furniture that can be lofted.

List the essentials

Make a list of the things you'd need over the next few months. Your list should include the essentials:

  • Clothing for different weather
    • Poncho
    • Layering pieces
    • Boots
  • Bedroom and bathroom items
    • Shower curtain
    • Shower caddy
    • Bedding and pillows
  • Kitchen essentials
    • Silverware
    • Cooking utensils
    • Dish soap and sponge
  • School supplies
    • Backpack
    • Laptop
    • Chargers
    • Headphones
  • Emergency items
    • First aid kit
    • Small tool kit
    • Flashlight

Make a packing list

Take a look at your list so far. Easy-to-buy items can be an option to pack, and they'll help save space. Depending on your move-in plan and the layout of your dorm, you may be fitting your belongings into one load of an SUV.


Pack your cleaning supplies in a space that is easy to access when you first start unpacking! Don't bury your supplies if you plan on doing a quick wipe-down of your room before bringing in your belongings.

Need more help getting started? There are plenty of college dorm packing checklists out there.

Make a shopping list

Identify the things you can purchase once you're already in the college area, like consumable goods that aren't a specific brand. This is the beginning of your shopping list – keep it handy as you go through what you plan on packing and what you plan on leaving behind. You don't have to bring everything all at once, but your essentials should be included in the first trip to your dorm.

Your first college move in will be full of many more exciting things than your shopping list! Do yourself a favor and start writing it early on.

Connect with your roommates

If possible, try and check in with your roommates ahead of time to coordinate the move-in to your college dorm. You might be able to work out who is bringing larger items like the TV and prevent duplicates from taking up space. It's also a great chance to start connecting with the people you'll be living with!

Pack similar items together

When you're putting together your boxes, try to group similar items together and label them accordingly. For instance, the dishes may share space with the silverware organizer or mini toolkit for under the sink.

Packing with categories in mind helps make the unpacking easier, especially on the people who are helping you move in. It's easier for them to put things where they think makes sense if similar stuff is grouped together.

Trash bags are very useful for containing bulky items like blankets, pillows and large coats. When packing other soft items like clothing, organize by warm and cold weather and place into a flexible tote bag or clothing storage bag. Hang up or fold away the season of clothing you'll use first, and keep the next season in its container until it's time to switch out. Or, you can leave the next season's clothing at home, all ready and packed for when you need to swap it out.

Unpack smarter

Unpack and set up all the things you'll need to end your day and start your day. You won't be expected to have a picture-perfect room on day one, but prepping for the short term will be convenient. Once you've unpacked the essentials, you may be ready for a snack or meal break, and then a trip to pick up the supplies on your shopping list.

Tag team moving in

Move-in day is a little different for every university. Typically, you'll park close to your residence hall, walk in and work with a housing representative to sign some forms. You'll receive your key and moving instructions, and you may meet some students who are helping newcomers with the big move. There may be a few large rolling bins for people to share as well.

If you plan on giving your new dorm a quick clean before bringing all your stuff in, now is the time to do it. Your dorm room will have been cleaned, but that may have been a few weeks before move in. A quick dusting and wipe-down of the fridge will help you get a clean start on setting up your new living space.

Split the move-in tasks into two – one person can tote your things from the car to your room, and another can unpack as your belongings come in. This will help make space as you fill it so things don't get too overcrowded.


Keep calm and organize later! It can be irritating when things aren't put away in the places you would have chosen. But remember, you'll have plenty of time for rearranging. Emotions are likely to be running high, and your friends and family are doing their best to help, so let them!

This is an exciting time for you and your supporters. Get ready for some new experiences, be prepared and don't forget to have fun!


For examples of dorm layouts and on-campus housing options, check out what Central Michigan University has to offer! CMU's Housing FAQ page has common questions, like due dates for housing payment, move-in dates, roommate confirmation and more.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: Housing
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