Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Seven Tips for Sending Your Child Off to College

Two years ago, my daughter was preparing to head off to her freshman year at college. She would be living 600 miles away from home, and I was probably more apprehensive than she was! To offset my worries, I did everything I could to be sure she would have what she needed, and that she was well prepared to begin living away from home.

She would have loved to bring our cat, but that was not an option!

After finishing her sophomore year, my daughter has spent most of this summer living in her college housing - working, training for the up-coming college swim season, and doing an Independent Study. She came home for a few weeks this month, and didn't bring many belongings back with her. The only
luggage she will fly back to school with this year will be a carry-on suitcase. Quite different from the car full of stuff she arrived on campus with her first year!


Seven helpful tips

My daughter and I were reminiscing about what it was like preparing for that first semester of college. Together, we brainstormed a list of tips for parents of new college freshmen. Hopefully, you or someone you know will find this helpful.

Being able to use these rolling luggage carts made moving my daughter's belongings into the dorm easier than I expected!

1. Laundry 

Buy laundry detergent pods! It is much easier to just carry a couple of these pre-measured detergent packets to the laundry room, instead of hauling a big heavy jug each time. Teaching your child how to do laundry before they leave home is a good plan as well!

2.  Bedding

Buy extra-long sheets if there is a potential for your child to be sleeping in a dorm with xl beds during their college years.  A mattress pad is a must on the rubbery mattresses, and also adding a memory foam mattress topper or egg crate mattress can make the bed a lot more comfortable. An extra set of sheets can sometimes come in handy too.

3. Maximize the space

Roommates should plan in advance, to avoid duplicates of shared items. One fridge, one printer, one coffee maker, one whatever ... there is not enough space in most dorm rooms for two! If there is enough room for it, a trunk (look for one that has wheels and can be locked) can be used to transport items and then provide valuable additional storage space!

Check to see if students are allowed to raise their beds, and what the rules are about how to do so. Sometimes college staff prefer to do this for them, and you may be able to request that the bed is raised before you arrive. It is amazing how much stuff can be kept underneath a raised bed.

4.  Make it easy to keep in touch

Some stationary, addresses of family and friends, and stamps are useful items to pack. It is quite possible your child may receive a care package or two. These supplies will make it easy for them to send a thank you note - and, they may even surprise you by sending a letter home!

When my daughter knew her school address, I printed out some return address labels for her on the computer, and gave her all these stationary items as a little gift.

5. Make it personal

Adjusting to life in a dorm room is easier when surrounded by some things from home. My daughter put together some poster-sized photo collages of friends and family, and was able to print them for a very reasonable price at Costco. Photo displays can be a good conversation starter with new friends, and they make old friends feel a little closer.

Command Strips are the perfect way to hang ANYTHING! (Just be sure to follow the directions for how to apply and remove them, to keep the dorm room walls damage free!)

6. Don't buy everything before you get there

For some things, it is best to wait until you see the room before you purchase them. Otherwise, you may get there and realize there is already an adequately sized mirror in the room - or that there is absolutely no room for the rolling cart of drawers that you bought.

Dorm rooms are notoriously poorly lit, but it's a good idea to survey the space before buying a lamp, to see what size and type will work best.

A desk lamp, clip-on lights for over each bed, a mirror, and a rolling cart were items my daughter wanted, after she saw her new dorm room.

7. Parents - take your cue from your child. 

Stay as little or as long (within reason) as your child wants you to, when helping them set up their new room; be as invisible as you sense that he/she wants you to be. This life they are starting is theirs, not yours. Be supportive, but it is time for them to call the shots.


I found it was easier to deal with this transition by thinking of it in terms of a new beginning instead of an ending.  Remember - if your child is headed off to college, you have done something right!

What tips could you give the parents of a student headed off to college?

What questions do you have?

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of them, the price you pay will not be affected but I may receive some small compensation. All opinions expressed, however, are entirely honest and my own.

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!


  1. Brilliant tips, Susan! I am thinking of doing a similar post however mine aren't nearly as kind or thoughtful. I especially appreciated your final tip. Both my guys certainly made it very clear when it was time for me to go ... Crazy how quickly time is zipping by 'eh?

    1. Yes Kelly, it is crazy how fast time has gone. And I can't wait to read the post you mention!

  2. Great ideas, most of which we learned too. One more was, since our son didn't have his car the first 2 months of school, was to buy any heavy stuff he may need before you go. Like we were sure to buy the drinks for his fridge so he didn't have to try to drag a 24 pack of water bottles onto a bus after we left.
    Also, because he'd be 700 miles away and didn't know anyone at the school, I baked 9 dozen cookies and lined his window sill. He made friends really quickly once word got out.

    1. Both really good ideas Karen. Nine dozen cookies is a lot!

  3. Great tips. Fortunately not something which I am going to face.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment anyway EC!

  4. Perfect! Practical. Every new college parent needs to read this!

    1. I should probably “pin” it as a reminder to myself, for when my son graduates (gulp) this year ;-)

  5. Great list - and one I'm going to need soon. You have such a good attitude about it - I need to take advice from you!

    1. Senior year for both our sons Lana - we will have a lot of shared experiences this year!

  6. These are all great tips! I love that your daughter helped you. I'm sure this will help lots of kids who are probably over packed with things that just won't fit in the room. What about tips for what to send in care packages like Aunts or Grandparents. Another post maybe?

    1. You are correct Rena. Dorm rooms are small, and while it is nice to have everything you need, if you take too much the room just becomes unmanageable!
      My tip for care packages - what college kids seem to love most is food and money! I actually began to draft a post about sending care packages, and I will probably publish it sometime this fall. :)

  7. Visiting from the Blended Blog! These are great tips!
    Making the Most of Every Day


If you enjoyed this post, I would love it if you share it on your social media sites and with your friends!