It’s the last week of summer. If you’ve read my guide to the pre-college summer, you’ll know all about the importance of money, and you’ll have a good amount handy. If not, take some time to collect cans and change from the couch; you’ll need it. Aside from gathering in money, take these last few days before you leave for college to go over everything two, three, or four more times. Did you pack enough underwear? Deodorant? Said your goodbyes to friends and family? Hopefully you’ll have everything taken care of, and can have a few days before you go just to relax, by yourself. The freshmen move-in day can be a stressful time, but hopefully this quick guide will give you a handle on what to do and how to do it, leaving you ready for your first year of college.
The first thing to know about move-in day is that you should definitely get to your college as early as possible. If you live close to your new school, this won’t be much of a problem; if you live far away, it could be. Plan accordingly, and be sure to get up in time so you can shower and primp. First impressions really are the most important, and you certainly don’t want your roommate, neighbor, or, worse, that cute girl or boy down the hall to think of you as a dirty slob. Dress nice, smell nice, and be nice.
Another thing to leave plenty of time for is packing. As a college freshman, you’ll almost certainly have packed too much, and it will take a considerable amount of time and effort to fit everything into your vehicle. Trucks and vans are the best vehicles of choice (full-sized, of course, not those wimpy minis), but, even if you have a large vehicle, it would be wise to pack up everything you won’t need for the morning the night before. That way, you can be on the road as quick as possible.
Being on the road to the move-in day can be stressful in and of itself. It’s smart to bring as many helping hands as possible, including both parents. You’ll need and want assistance getting your bags and boxes to your room, and the job goes much faster with more people. However, having more people in the car means having more people to deal with, and usually the last thing you want to worry about is questions from your mom and dad about whether or not you packed a certain item, or advice about not staying up too late. So, choose your travel companions wisely, and, if it the trip to your school is a good distance, try to bring some type of entertainment, such as a book you can bury your nose in to avoid awkward conversation.
This is a good time to talk about nervousness. It’s perfectly natural to feel a little nervous on your first day; it’s even natural to feel extremely nervous. The trick is to not focus on the nervousness, but try to keep your mind busy with other things, such as reading, or planning where you’re going to put your stuff in your room, or going over your packing list in your head. If you can keep your mind occupied, you’ll have less time to think about being nervous, and it will make the trip and the day that much easier.
Alright, the trip is over, and you’re finally at school. Hopefully you’ve visited your school’s campus at least once, and know your general way to your dorm hall; if not, you could be in for a lot of wandering around, depending on the size of the school. Once you find your way to your future home for the next nine months, there’ll be a number of things you’ll have to do before you can really start moving in. First, find the sign-in area; it may be a desk, or a table, or just a clipboard, but it will probably be evident by current students standing around it in bright t-shirts. (It’s pretty standard for schools to welcome freshmen with well-labeled sophomores). Sign in, get your key and any other vital information such as mail box number and mailing address, and hike yourself up to your room immediately.
Hopefully, you’ll have arrived in your room before your new roommate. This way, you can claim which ever bed, desk, and closet you want. If your roommate’s already there, you may be bumped to the desk with the crack down the middle; with any luck, however, you can arrange a trade later. Once you’ve checked out your room, start having your parents hike stuff up. Also, if you have any questions whatsoever about financial aid, get one of your parents to investigate it; they’re generally more than willing, since it’s usually their money you’re spending.
Whether you got to your room first or second, you’ll invariably have to deal with the first time you meet your roommate. Hopefully, you’ll like this person, as the roommate experience can make or break your freshman year. Make sure you give a good first impression (remember, those are the most important). Give a firm handshake, and look right in their eyes. Do the same with their parents, if you meet them. This may sound odd, but subconsciously, people give more respect to those of us who shake hands firmly and seem to have confidence. Even if you don’t have confidence, giving the appearance that you do can help you come out in top if there are ever any fights between you and your roommate.
So, you’ve met your roommate, and gotten most of your stuff up to your room (with the help of anyone you brought with you). Generally, schools give you a few hours before there’s any sort of required orientation meetings, so you’ve got a few options of what to do with your time. You could say goodbye to your family and begin setting up your room just the way you want to; make your family take you out to lunch, getting what might be your last free meal for sometime; or say goodbye, and become the social butterfly, flitting around rooms introducing yourself.
If you opt for the free meal, see if your new roommate wants to come too; perhaps even invite his parents along. This can be a great bonding experience, and set you off on the right foot. Even with this option, however, you’ll eventually have to say goodbye, and you want to do it right. Don’t try to be the tough guy; go ahead and hug your mom and dad, and tell them you love them. You may be an adult now, but they’re still your parents, and they certainly want to know you appreciate them and all the help they’ve given you. (This is making the assumption that they have given you help – if not, tell them to hit the road). Now that your parents are gone, it’s time to settle in to your new home.
You certainly can choose to wander around your hall first and introduce yourself to people, but this tends to make you that person that everyone knows, and it also sets you up as a really friendly person. This can be good if you’re a girl; boys generally like the outgoing types. If you’re a guy, however, this can be a bad thing; being a really friendly person leads people to think of you as a friend, and sets up a fairly high hurdle to cross if you want to move a relationship to something that’s more than just friendship. The best way to get to know people, then, is to take some time to set up your room, but leave your door open, so your neighbors can come say hi to you. (This will also make you a little more mysterious, which never hurts).
Setting up your room is a very important part of the move-in day, and it can take a while to get everything just right. Hopefully you’ll have brought some of your favorite posters and bric-a-brac from home, and can decorate your room in a manner that makes it feel comfortable. This is very important, as an uncomfortable room can lead to home-sickness and a general feeling of depression later on. Of course, if your roommate is vastly different than you are, it may be hard to set up the room just the way you want; your Star Wars poster may clash horribly with his or her Marilyn Manson poster; if this is the case, try to work out an agreement where you get a certain portion of the room and they get a separate one.
Aside from posters and trinkets, make sure to get your clothing organized in a way that makes sense to you. Making your new room feel like home is of the utmost importance, and having your clothes in a familiar set-up helps a lot. There are certain restrictions to this, clearly: you can’t simply scatter your clothes over the room, as it wouldn’t be considerate to your roommate. Use the spare time you have to get everything sorted away just as you want it.
Also take some time to make your bed, and, decide how the beds in the room should be arranged. Sometimes its an option to bunk the beds, and sometimes you can get lofts for the beds, so you can put things underneath them. Find what feels comfortable to you, and go with it.
Another important thing to set up quickly is your computer. Get it plugged in and connected to the school network as fast as possible, as email is usually the school’s way of communicating with you; this includes necessary information, such as where to go for certain meetings, classes, and other things. Most dorms will provide instructions for getting connected to the network, so follow them carefully.
Now, as you’re setting up your room, you may find that you’ve forgotten a few things. Maybe you left your alarm clock at home, or you need a few extra power strips, or you don’t have a good desk chair. Most schools will have all these essentials for sale at their book store, but be warned: if you buy them at the school store, they’ll almost certainly be over-priced. It’s not unusual to find things at school stores selling for two or even three times what they’re worth. If you need something small, or, if it’s extremely important, you should buy it, but, if what you need isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s best to wait until you go to a department store of some kind, where the item is sure to be much, much cheaper.
Up until now, this guide has for the large part ignored the roommate situation. Hopefully, you’ll have been in contact with your roommate over the summer (see my guide to the pre-college summer for more on this), and you’ll already have a sense of who he or she is. It’s good to take some time to talk to your roommate; the topic isn’t necessarily important, as long as there’s some communication. Good conversation starters include what you did over the summer, where you’re from, and what your favorite movies are. These conversations will almost certainly help you and your roommate to get to know each other better, and can lead to a better relationship between the two of you.
While you’re getting to know your new roommate, it’s important to get some guidelines down. Discuss what time you generally go to bed; sometimes it’s difficult to get rest when you need 11 hours of sleep, and your roommate only needs 4. Try to work out an arrangement that makes both of you happy. Also important is agreeing on guidelines to parties, music, the opposite sex, and any illegal actions. For parties, not everyone agrees on when it’s appropriate to have large groups of people in your room; for example, you may want to reserve all week-nights for work, while your roommate may want to have lots of people over to watch movies. Try to figure something out that works for both of you. For music, of course you can listen to whatever you want, but it’s generally a good idea to make sure your music doesn’t unnecessarily irritate your roommate, and vice-versa. If there’s a serious disagreement, you can always get a good pair of headphones. The opposite sex talk should be focused on when it’s okay for either of you to have someone of the opposite sex spend the night, if ever. Some schools don’t allow this under any circumstances, while some schools simply don’t care; try to determine how your roommate feels about it, and let your own feelings be known, so awkward situations don’t crop up down the road. (For the record, having people of the opposite sex spend the night is generally a good thing, at least in this author’s humble opinion). Finally, discuss any type of illegal behaviors with your roommate before a problem arises. As college freshmen, both you and your roommate are probably under 21, meaning alcohol is illegal for either of you to possess; that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, however. Talk to your roommate about whether or not your comfortable with him or her having alcohol in the room, and listen to their concerns about it as well. Remember, if a Resident Advisor or police officer finds alcohol in the room, and it’s your roommate’s, you’ll probably be held responsible as well. Generally, it’s a good idea just to lay some ground rules that both you and your roommate can agree to; this should help to ensure a smooth year.
Now that you have your room set up, (if you don’t, don’t worry – this process can take a few weeks to complete, and you’ll probably be re-arranging things for at least that long to find the most comfortable set-up), and you’ve gotten to know your roommate a little better, (again, don’t worry if you’re not best friends right off the bat – it can take time), you can focus on getting to know your neighbors. As suggested earlier, you don’t necessarily want to appear over-friendly, but you also don’t want to seem stand-offish; offer to help people move there stuff in, if they’re arriving later than you (especially if they’re cute), and wander around, looking for possible future friends. Once again, first impressions are the most important, so remember to smile a fair amount – it’s a general fact that the sour-faced sad kid isn’t invited to many social gatherings.
After a few hours, you’ll probably have to attend some type of orientation meeting. This meeting could be geared towards your floor or towards freshmen in general, and it will vary school to school. Try to find someone you can attend these meetings with; your roommate is an excellent start, but if you’d rather go with that really cute person down the hall, do so. Pay attention at these meetings, since they usually give vital information, such as where to go for computer help, how to get into your mailbox, or where to find food. Also, many of these meetings will have some sort of free food, so it’s a good idea to go and stock up, (small plastic baggies can be very useful here, especially if the food offered is cookies or brownies).
After the orientation meetings, it will probably be time for dinner. Find a group of people on your hall to go with, and use the time to get to know them better. These people will be your neighbors for the next nine months, so its important you start bonding with them. After dinner, your school may or may not put on some sort of entertainment event; one popular choice seems to be a magician or hypnotist. These can be fun, are always good for more bonding, and should generally be attended. If your school’s cheap, however, take the after-dinner time to either finish setting up your room, or getting to know people better on your hall.
Well, this pretty much brings you to the end of the freshmen move-in day. Most colleges give freshmen a whole weekend to get acquainted with the school, so take the next few days to walk around and check out the campus. Print out your class schedule and try to find all the buildings your classes will be held in; shop around for the best food outlet; or check out the town, seeing what it has to offer. Again, use these opportunities to make friends; going into the downtown area (if your school has one) is much more fulfilling if you do it in a group. Hopefully this guide helped you get through one of the most stressful days of your college career, and put on you on the road to a successful first year. Good luck, and don’t forget to have fun!