Moving for College: The ULTIMATE Guide

Moving for College

Moving for college is a huge deal. You are moving away from your friends and family to a new place surrounded by new faces.

(Read: Finding a New Place to Call Home)

One of the first things you have to decide is whether to live in a dorm room or find a place off campus to reside. Now, instead of decorating your locker, you are thinking about how to decorate your new room. For most new students this will be the first time that they have lived alone. Without their parents. It is an exciting time but you need to educate yourself on the move before focusing on educating yourself in college. That way you have all your ducks in a row when it comes time to hunker down and hit the books.

Moving for College – Dorm Room vs. Off Campus Living

Moving to Dorm Room - Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash

So you need to learn about your housing options. You have 2 realistic choices: stay in the dormitories or rent an apartment. If you are trying to weigh the options, or persuade your parents, then we will give you some insight. It’s important that you look at both sides of the coin. This decision will play a major role in your college experience.

Dorm life can be great for a number of reasons. Your social life is built in. It is extremely easy to meet new people and make new friends to go eat, study, or work out with. There are dorm sponsored activities that will really bring a feeling of social unity and provide for some decent entertainment. You don’t need to worry about monthly rent payments and utilities. Those costs will be factored in and payed for up front. Dorms are usually close to campus. You won’t need to concern yourself with having a car, or taking public transportation, to get to and from school. In addition, if you are worried about the adjustment to the college life, Resident Assistants (RAs) are a built-in support system that live in the dormitories and can help you acclimate to your new surroundings.

(Read: Local and Intrastate Moving Services)

Dorm life is not all roses and fairy dust, however. Some of the things that make dorms great can also be a drawback. Such as the social aspect. It is nearly inescapable. The close living quarters mean that it is often impossible to avoid people and find solitude. The dorm sponsored activities can feel like an obligation when you are not in the mood to participate. You will be using a shared bathroom with the rest of your dormitory floor and the rooms themselves are impressively small. A tiny living space, that you will be sharing with a complete stranger, can be awkward in the best of circumstances. Dorms tend to be significantly pricier than living in a modest, shared apartment, especially if you consider the square footage. Your housing will typically be covered by student loans, grants, or (if you’re fortunate) scholarships but you will be paying for it one way or another. So price should not be overlooked.

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If you are looking for reasons to live off campus, “independence” typically comes up first. Dormitories have strict rules, enforced by the RAs, that students must abide by in order to live there. When renting off campus, for the most part, you make your own rules. It’s the wild west. In addition to freedom, you will be able to stretch your legs with more space than in a dorm room. You will have the ability to store more things and, potentially, even have a real closet! Privacy will be easy to come by with your own place. Even in a shared apartment you will often be afforded your own bedroom and maybe even the master bathroom. This makes studying, sleeping, and relaxing that much easier.

Moving to Apartment

If you choose to rent an apartment, or an off campus house, social life may be harder to come by. You will have to find people to live in the other 1 or 2 bedrooms in the apartment to make rent more affordable. This may be a difficult proposition if you don’t know anyone that will be, or already is, living in your college town. You will have to trust these people to come up with their share of rent and utilities each month. You will be responsible for cooking, cleaning, and negotiating who handles which responsibilities with your roommates. You will have to budget your monthly grocery expenses as well as your electricity and internet bill. Food, water, garbage, and internet are, in most cases, covered in your room and board payments at the dormitories. Getting to and from campus will be a hassle if you don’t have reliable transportation. Even if you have a car, paying for gas, finding parking, and keeping up with the routine maintenance are all responsibilities that you will be adding to your already full plate. While you may love to decorate, you will be financially responsible for providing your own furniture, kitchen essentials, and bathroom supplies. This could be a big move-in cost, but be thrifty, remember that a futon is a couch AND a bed!

(Read: First Time Hiring a Moving Company)

Before deciding which option may be best for you, consider all the costs associated with both living arrangements. Each will offer different challenges and perks, but both will help guide you on your path toward adulthood and higher education. In the battle between dorm room and apartment building, there is really no right or wrong answer. It should be based on your personal preference once you understand the pro’s and con’s of each. But don’t overthink it. You can always change your mind next year.

What to Bring When You Are Moving for College

College: What to Pack - Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash Copy

If you are an 18-year-old soon to be college freshman who is packing up their room for the big move on campus there are some things that you need to know.

(Read: the Ultimate Guide to Moving Boxes)

Mainly, there is no way you can fit everything you want to take with you into a dorm room. You and your new roommate will spend 9 months in a room about the size of a large walk-in closet. If you are choosing to live off campus, in an apartment, you may have a little more space. But your bedroom is still not going to afford you an exorbitant amount of storage. Whatever you do bring with you is going to have to fit around your desks, beds, and all the new friends you make that will be visiting early and often. You can make some extra money, and eliminate some of the things you wont be able to take with you anyway, by hosting a moving sale before you leave.

If you are still unsure of what you should pack, your college may provide a checklist of suggested items to bring. So look there. And here are some must-haves for living your new college life:

  • Fresh bedding and sheets
  • Shower shoes and toiletries
  • Umbrella and rain gear for your walks to class
  • Surge protector
  • Extra towels
  • Trashcan and cleaning supplies
  • A can opener
  • Reliable alarm clock
  • Water filter or filtered water bottle
  • Band-Aids
  • Batteries
  • Silverware
  • Basic medicines for colds, flus, allergies, etc.
  • Extra ink for your printer
  • Basic tools (hammer, screwdriver, pliers, etc.)
  • Mini-fridge
  • Small lock-box for cash, jewelry, and other valuables
  • Pizza cutter
  • Black out curtains for mid-day naps
  • Small carrier for your bathroom stuff
  • Shower slippers (Don’t use public showers with bare feet)
  • Small space storage/organizers


If you are moving into a dorm; here is a list of things not allowed or not advised:

  • Candles or anything flammable
  • Small appliances
  • Ironing boards
  • Too many clothes
  • Fragile and/or valuable items


And If you are using a moving company; here is a list of items they will not pack and move to campus for you:

(Read: Moving Company Non-Allowable List)

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Moving for College

Do's and Don'ts of Moving for College

Now that you know where you are going to live, and what you are going to bring, there are a few more tips that can make your move for college go as smoothly as butter on a metal slide in July.

(Read: Moving Tips: The Ultimate Guide)

The good news is that everyone around you is going to be in the same confused position that you are. No one knows where they are going, no one knows where the dining hall is, and no one is going to know when or where the dorm orientation is going to be held. But that’s okay. There is no need to freak out.

Dorm Room

Moving day will be one of the most nerve-racking and exciting days of your life. If you are moving into a dorm, the good news is there will be plenty of people around to help you. The dormitory will have Resident Assistants and Dorm Monitors on hand to guide you to your room. The dorm will also supply you with wheeled bins or hand trucks so that you can move your things with ease. Once you are in your room and able to set your things down you will have to choose a bed and desk. Ideally, roommates should decide together who is going to get what furniture. If your roommate hasn’t arrived yet, just put your things to the side and wait until they get there before you choose a bed. It’s the right thing to do and should prevent some initial friction. If you get to the room and your new roommate has already claimed a bed and a desk try and deal with it the best you can. One great way to avoid any conflict is to agree to switch beds/desks next semester. That way, neither of you will feel too much resentment about having a worse situation. Later on, you might decide that you don’t want to switch after all, but it’s nice to have the option open. Typically, the bed/desk set up is pretty similar so no one is really getting much of an advantage.

When you move into your dorm you will be handed a clipboard-worth of things to inspect in your new room. Everything from chipped desks to stained carpets. It is critical that you don’t rush and you do this thoroughly. Mark off any problem spots. Otherwise, when your move out day rolls around, you will be charged for damage that you didn’t do. So check off the boxes, fill out the forms, and make sure to check the seams of the mattress before you unpack all of your gear.

Moving to College

Then it’s time to say goodbye to your parents and begin your journey to independent college life. Beware, it could be a tearful scene. Mom’s eyes will get misty and Dad will come back twice from the car to tell you some crucial piece of advice that he forgot to tell you earlier. Just embrace it. In a moment they will be driving away and there you will sit, at the edge of your bed, and at the beginning of a new adventure. Make sure you tell your parents that you are going to be okay, that you will eat regular meals, brush your teeth, study, and stay away from all the bad kids partying and skipping class. The world has become a smaller place and it will be easy for you to keep in touch with unlimited cell phone minutes and Skype.

Moving for College Conclusion

College is an exciting time in a young person’s life. Lots of big decisions to make that will impact you as an adult. It all starts with moving in. Make sure you do your research and plan for the upcoming move.

(Read: the Ultimate Moving Checklist)

Get started on the right foot. Be organized and prepared and your move to college will be a breeze.

Do You Have Any Tips on Moving for College? Let us know in the comments!

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3 Responses to “Moving for College: The ULTIMATE Guide”

  1. bastcilk doptb

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    • Elijah @ Olympic Moving & Storage

      Thank you, Bastcilk! We are glad you appreciate our guides 🙂

  2. corburt erilio

    Keep working ,terrific job!


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