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Summer can fly by and right after those hometown goodbyes comes the moment you and your student have been anticipating, the college drop off.

Here are some ways to prepare as you get ready to move your student into their new community!

1. Take Your Time.

Many universities will assign students a day and time slot to arrive for check in. Perhaps your student is living in off campus housing and will need to schedule time to meet their landlord and/or pick up keys at a management office. Ask your student to determine what time you can arrive and plan accordingly.

There are often unexpected travel hurdles such as unfamiliar traffic, accidents, and forgotten or lost luggage. Have your student notify their housing department of extended travel delays. Universities and colleges understand that these things can pop up. Students can always ask if there is protocol for a late check in.

Be aware that if you have limited time to move-in, it will probably be more than you think. Most universities have teams who will be excited to welcome your student as they arrive and may even help to move items up to their room. You can often check with a housing office before move-in to see if there are elevators or walk up only and if there are additional items to assist with move-in such as hand trucks or carts.

2. Give Them Space.

Dorm rooms are notoriously small. Add boxes, two(or more) roommates, families, Resident Assistants, and other floormates who stop by to say hello and things can get tight really quick!

It is ok to let your student know that you are going to park and take a quick look around while they process setting the room up. If your student’s roommate(s) have already arrived, they may have started unpacking. Letting your student begin to build relationships with them while they have a busy project like unpacking a room is a great opportunity for connection. Your student is going to arrange this room multiple times before the end of the semester. Do some nesting, but also rest and defer to your student.

While students are moving into their room, gives you an opportunity to explore campus and locate other stops your student may want to make later in the day. Mailrooms, student accounts, financial aid, and student life are all good offices to identify in the first week.

3. Don’t Forget to Hydrate and Eat.

Take a walk and grab food at the grocery store or one of the restaurants in town. Since the weather is still typically pleasant at fall move-in, this gives you a chance to people watch and take in the experience.

Make sure you are hydrating before and during your trip! Even small campuses can easily help you accomplish your steps for the day. Keeping yourself fed and hydrated can help save you from having to locate the nearest urgent care or health offices on day one. When you are feeling overwhelmed or begin to feel like you need a break, take it!

4. Schedule a Time to Say Goodbye.

There is a wide range of emotions and feelings involved in dropping a student off at college for the first time. Don’t be surprised if a student who couldn’t wait to leave is all of a sudden getting teary, or even suggesting that you should take them home again. On the contrary, they may have been concerned all summer but are now pushing you out the door. These are normal reactions as students begin to process this tangible jump into this new phase of their life.

Scheduling a goodbye is a helpful way for both of you to manage those expectations. You know how your family interacts best but it is always good to find a private or semi-private place to say goodbye. This allows you all to have some space to feel whatever emotion you are both experiencing while protecting your student’s autonomy. If there are tears, joyful waves, hugs, or anything in between, that is perfect! Don’t prolong the inevitable but do take a minute to encourage them and congratulate them on a job well done.

The feelings can be big but when you and your student set some easy expectations the beginning of their college education can be a fun family adventure. Be gentle with yourselves and your students as you prepare for this next step. Your colleges and universities are ready to welcome you with open arms!


Megan Fisher has worked with families and parents for over 16 years and believes that families should have someone to turn to in every phase of their life as parents. She is currently the Director of Parent and Family Programs at George Fox University, a liberal arts school in Newberg, Oregon where she has been in her position for 8 years. Megan and her family are enjoying watching their oldest child navigate the college search.