Southern Mom Loves: Tips for Helping Your College-Bound Teen Move into a Dorm Room + a Printable Checklist!

Tips for Helping Your College-Bound Teen Move into a Dorm Room + a Printable Checklist!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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College is a big step, especially if your teen will be living on campus. It’s may be the first time they'll be out on their own! They may be crazy with excitement, but there’s also a chance that they're a bit apprehensive about the change; It will be a new place and they may not even know anyone. As a parent, it can scare you to send your child off to a new place, maybe one completely across the country, so how do you prepare them to live on their own? All you can do is to help ensure your child has everything they'll need to get started on their own. I'm going through this myself, so I've put together my best tips for helping your college-bound teen move into a dorm room, whether it's across the country or right across town and I even made a printable list to help you shop and pack!

What to Watch Out For

There are some mistakes that many new students make when moving into a dorm room for the first time. One of the biggest is waiting until the last minute to buy the things they'll need. You want to go shopping as soon as you know what to get for their dorm room. These items will go quickly, and you may not get the exact items they want or you may not find it at all. The same goes for supplies like pens, notebooks, etc.

You’ll first want to see what the college supplies in the dorm rooms. Some supply beds, dressers, and desks and some don’t. Don’t forget to also pack a small toolkit in your teen’s supplies to help assemble any out-of-the-box furniture.


You also want to make sure that your child has a good-sized storage box. These are not only good for packing, but dorm rooms generally don’t have a lot of storage. An underbed storage box is great for dorms that have separate beds rather than bunk beds and if there's room, you can also look into getting a lockable footlocker that can also double as a table.

Lastly, pay close attention to move-in schedules and allow for plenty of time. You will sit in traffic on your way to the campus – a LOT of traffic. You will also need to wait for your turn in the elevator (if there is one.) Extra time can make all the difference.

The Essentials

There are several things your teen will need on move-in day.

When it comes to bedding, the beds are generally Twin XL size, which is a little longer than a standard Twin, so you'll need a bedding set in that size. They will also need sheets, pillows, and blankets. Include both a quilt or light blanket along with a heavier comforter. In the warmer months, they can fold the comforter at the bottom of the bed, but they'll have it when the weather gets colder. You'll probably also want to get a mattress protector to go over their mattress, and then a foam topper because dorm beds aren't known for their comfort.

Your child will also need school supplies and desk supplies, such as organizers, a desk lamp, etc.. A laptop is essential for any college student. It can be used for assignments, but also for entertainment. A printer is probably a good idea, and don't forget to get an ethernet cable if there isn't going to be wifi in the dorms. A surge protector with lots of sockets and a few USB ports is a good idea as well.


Storage is key. As mentioned above, boxes that can slide under the bed are a great option. You can also purchase stackable crates to hold everything from snacks to personal care items. Speaking of snacks and personal care items, you’ll want to hit those sections of your favorite store before they go.

When it comes to clothing, opt for a minimalistic wardrobe with pieces that can mix and match. They'll also need clothes hangers and a laundry basket, towels and washcloths. A mesh shower tote, a robe, and shower shoes or flip-flops are also a must if they'll have to slog down the hall to a shared bathroom. You also want to pack posters, pictures, etc. that will make the dorm room feel more personalized. Lastly, they will need any important papers and medications they may be taking.

The Not-Really-Essentials

Before you purchase bigger appliances or kitchen items like a mini fridge, TV, or hotplate, check with the college to make sure they're allowed. It could be that they deem some items a fire hazard or that the wiring is too old for so many gadgets in the building, but you don't want to purchase those higher priced items without checking first.

Next is the space consideration. If they have a roommate, (or two, or three...) there may not be room for any of those bigger appliances.


If they're lucky enough to have a lot of space or just one roommate, a mini fridge can double as a nightstand and a hotplate and coffeemaker might come in handy in the mornings. Don't forget utensils and plates/bowls. You can buy a cheap set of reusable utensils or they can opt for buying disposable once they're settled in. There’s no need to pack those. The same goes for laundry detergent and cleaning supplies.

Why a Minimalistic Wardrobe Is Great for Dorm Life

A minimalistic wardrobe allows you to create several different outfits with only a few pieces. Due to the small amount of storage space in dorm rooms, you want your teen to avoid pieces that can only be worn in one outfit. Opt for a lot of basic pieces with colors and patterns that can be matched in different ways.

Packing It All Up

Again, storage containers are great because they can be used not only in packing but for dorm room storage as well. It’s great to have at least one airtight storage container that can be used for snacks. If you will be driving your teen to their dorm room, make sure everything will fit into one vehicle. This will make it much easier to get everything moved in and ensures that they don’t have too much stuff. Clothing can be rolled to cut down on space. Breakables can also be rolled inside clothing to help protect them.


The Dorm-in-a-Box Option

One option that has caught on is the dorm-in-a-box option. There are many companies out there that make your life easier by offering a dorm-in-a-box. This includes many of the essential items your child will need, like bedding, mattress pads, towels, shower items, storage, and extras like desk lamps and desk organizers, and can be mailed straight to the dorm in time for move-in day. Your child can pick out the designs or colors they like best and you can pick the box size option that has everything you need. These packages can be costlier than buying everything individually but can save you a lot of time and is much easier if your child is moving across the country.

Making It Feel Like Home

Last, but not least, you want to make them feel at home. Chances are they are going to get a little homesick. You can include a surprise kit in the bottom of one of their boxes that has some of their favorite foods, a scrapbook, recipes of their favorite meals that can be prepared in a dorm, etc..

You can also order care packages already put together and ready to ship out. There are bundles for snacks and drinks, quick meals, coffee, cleaning essentials, or school supply essentials. Every once in a while, I'm sure they'd also love a care package directly from you with their favorite homemade treats, photos, or artwork from younger siblings. :)


Moving into a dorm room can be a challenge for both the teen and their parents. Thankfully, there are things you can do to make the transition easier. I've also made it easier for you! I made a Dorm Moving Checklist so you can have everything at a glance to help you while you prepare. :)


Click this link and either print it through your browser or download it to your computer to print later.


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Do you have a teen starting college this Fall or going back to college? What was your dorm experience like? I love to read your comments!


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