Real Advice For College Move-In Day: 11 Things NOT to Do

Move-in day sucks. There’s really no other way to put it. The chaos, the details, the heat, the stress, the mess, the emotions, the realization that over half of what you bought and brought will no way fit in the jail cell-sized room — it’s a DAY, let me tell you. We know there are things you might be expecting to do. Things you’ll be dying to do. And most likely, these are the exact things you should absolutely, definitively not do.

Sure, countless articles offer suggestions about practical things to do on move-in day, like bring snacks and make the bed last, but here is some honest, sage advice you won’t find anywhere else. Good luck!

11 things NOT to do on move-in day

if you want to truly help your college kid (not to mention stay in their good graces)


1. Introduce your kid to their floormates

Let them figure out independently and foster their friendships, no matter how much you think that kid you saw in the elevator wearing a Vikings jersey might have in common with yours. Don’t be the parent who is still setting up playdates with others. I know you’re just trying to be helpful, but like so many other situations, the best way to help is by staying out of it and letting your kid find his way.

2. Show up with fewer than 100 Command Strips and Hooks

Some parents bring extra snacks to share, but you be the hero with what they need.

3. Take over decorating

As someone with definite opinions on the symmetry of a wall collage, I get that this one might be difficult to step away from. But don’t forget that this is their space. Even if it bothers you that they hang the photo collage too close to the Good Vibes Only poster or that they put the fridge by the closet when it clearly fits better under the window, let them have control of their own space. I mean, unless they ask for your help, of course. Then go HGTV crazy on that room.

3. Give the roommate advice on decorating

If keeping your mouth closed about your kid’s unique décor decisions is difficult, please don’t think it’s okay to open it to tell the roommate her bulletin board is too high, no matter how constructive your delivery might be.

4. Lose your temper

This will increase in difficulty with every Command Hook that falls off the wall and everyone who tries to squeeze themselves into the cramped, unbearably hot room. But I believe in you.

5. Overshare

No matter how much you think, you’re just being chatty, telling the new roommate that your kid snores like a freight train, gets gassy when he eats salad or still takes gummy bear vitamins because she can’t swallow big pills is a huge DON’T. Your kid may be especially sensitive on this day and will be mortified by anything you think is cute to share, so it’s best to smile, wave, and speak only when spoken to.

6. Day drink

If you need liquid courage to get through the trying times in your life, this may be a tough day for you to hop on the wagon, but seriously, climb aboard and stay away from the hooch, at least until dinnertime. Don’t give your kid the stigma of being the one with the buzzed parents who had G&T breath from the get-go.

7. Step in when it’s totally unnecessary

Your 18-year track record for enabling solving problems is a (shameful) source of pride, but it’s time to let your kid figure some things out for himself, especially in this situation. So if he’s wondering what time the floor meeting is or where to check out a vacuum, don’t jump up and “just run down and check,” no matter how much you want to be helpful. Shrug your shoulders and let him get those questions answered for himself. Besides, if he tries to find out about the vacuum, he may use it once or twice. Just kidding.

8. Set up a webcam

And now I’ve given you an idea, haven’t I? Regardless of how tempted you are, you know it’s a preposterous idea. Because it crosses hard privacy and a general humane line, you ask? HA. No, because you’ve been to college. You know you don’t want to see what happens in that room.

9. Ignore who you are

While it’s important to let your kid take ownership of his room and solve his problems, YOU ARE NOT MADE OF STONE, and you know there is no chance you will (or should) deny or ignore the part of you who is dying to step in. So make that bed (good luck with the wall-side corners on that loft bed), put those clothes on hangers, arrange shoes in a neat but useless row, fold and refold towels, and most importantly, hug your kid throughout the day whenever he allows it.

10. Project your feelings

Listen, I know your mental state will be all over the damn place on move-in day, but guess what? So will your kids. Now, maybe more than ever, you need to be a calming presence and keep it together (as best you can, obviously). While sure, this day is a little about you; your kid doesn’t want or need to feel that. So put the sad, downer emotions back in their dark room, slap a smile on your face, and save the shit show for the car ride home. 

11. Prolong the goodbye

Yeah, this advice seems like crap; I get it. But think of it like this: pulling off a good, quality band-aid (not the cheap, generic kind) that’s been stuck to your skin for a few days is gonna hurt, no matter how you do it. But the truth is that the pain will be quicker if you suck it up and rip that sucker off. The drop-off goodbye is a lot like that. You won’t get around the pain — it’s impossible — but it’s a bit easier if you can keep it quickish (in my case, I compromised — 1 hug that lasted 12 minutes).

Then have that drink you denied yourself earlier in the day and toast to your fantastic kid, the ride ending, the one just beginning, and the fact that you could successfully get the sheets tucked in on that damn loft bed.

You’ll Also Love Reading:

How to Manage College Move-In Day Like a Pro

About Michelle Newman

Michelle Newman is one of the hosts and producers of The Pop Culture Preservation Society, a podcast dedicated to preserving the pop culture nuggets of our GenX childhoods, from Barry Manilow and the Bee Gees to Battle of The Network Stars. She’s spent the past nine years writing for publications like Grown & Flown, Entertainment Weekly, and The Girlfriend, as well as for her (now silent) blog, You’re My Favorite Today. A recent empty nester, Michelle finds immense joy connecting with others through the memories of their 70s childhoods. Follow the Pop Culture Preservation Society on Instagram and listen wherever you get podcasts!

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