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Mom and daughter loading car for college move-in day

The Parents’ Guide to College: Tips for Dorm Room Packing & Saying Goodbye

College move-in day can be challenging for parents. Though you’ve watched your child grow and change schools throughout their K-12 years, this is different. They’re moving away from home for the first time—maybe even across the country. It’s their first step toward adulthood. To help you prepare for this major life transition, we’ve created this back to school guide with everything from college packing tips to college tips for parents!

Help Your College Freshman Pack for Dorm Life

Neatly designed girl's college dorm room. Photo by Instagram user @dormify

Photo via @dormify

As a parent, you’re already familiar with over-preparing whenever your child leaves home. You’ve been doing it since they were in diapers! But now that they’re going to be living outside of your home where you can’t make sure they’re ready for whatever comes at them, it’s good to be extra thoughtful when helping them pack for college dorms.

So what does your college freshman need to pack for their dorm room? Every university is different. Some offer apartment-style living quarters, where each student has their own room and may need to bring furniture; others have multiple people sharing a single room, where all of the furniture is already provided. Regardless of which type your child is moving into, there are few dorm room basics you should have on their college dorm checklist.


  • Pillows
  • Comforter
  • Two sets of bed linens
  • Bed risers (for under bed storage)
  • Alarm clock


  • Clothing and accessories
  • Seasonal items (e.g., winter coats and boots)
  • Hangers
  • Storage tubs or bins
  • Laundry basket
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dryer sheets


  • Bath towels
  • Hand towels
  • Washcloths
  • Bathrobe
  • Shower sandals
  • Shower caddy
  • Toiletries

Living Room

  • TV
  • Game console and controllers
  • Lamp
  • Futon or chair (if not already provided)


  • Set of dishes and silverware
  • Microwave or mini-fridge (if not already provided)
  • Basic cleaning supplies
  • Non-perishable snacks


  • Laptop
  • USB drive or external hard drive
  • Surge protector
  • Headphones
  • Additional device chargers

Emergency Items

  • List of emergency contacts
  • First-aid kit
  • OTC medications
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Tips for Getting Through the Empty Nest Phase

Once your child is officially settled at college, then what? Many parents go through a period of transition after their college freshman moves out. For some, it’s an exciting time to reclaim the nest. For others, it can feel more like mourning. But there are plenty of ways to get over the initial hump of dealing with an empty nest after sending your child to college!

Utilize Your Resources

Mom and son in car with college belongings shoved in. Photo by Instagram user @ginibellawala

Photo via @ginibellawala

With parent support groups on Facebook like Grown & Flown and UniversityParent, you can talk through anything you’re struggling with and read other parents’ stories about their experiences with sending their kids to college. You can also take advantage of the Parents & Family resources available at your child’s university or college, which will have information about family events, networking opportunities, and newsletters.

Embrace Change

Household dynamics and routines will change once your college freshman heads to school, but that doesn’t mean this change is necessarily bad. Think about it as a new beginning. Maybe you have a home renovation project you’ve been putting off until your child moved away. Or perhaps you and your spouse have been looking for new opportunities to sneak in some date nights. Now’s the time!

Keep in Touch

While you might be sad or anxious about not having your child under your roof anymore, remember that kids going to college for the first time might be experiencing the same feelings about leaving home. To help you and your child get past the inevitable homesickness, simply keep in touch. Check in after the first week of classes to see what their favorite courses are and how they’re liking their new campus. And don’t forget that you’ll have several school breaks to see your college freshman and catch up!

Leave Your Child’s Room

Throughout college, there will be plenty of opportunities for your college freshman to visit: holidays, long weekends, summer breaks. For many students, it’s nice to have a familiar place to come home to, so resist the urge to turn your child’s room into something else for now.

Be Prepared to Compromise

College girl lying on couch with dogs at home. Photo by Instagram user @dramamamabou

Photo via @dramamamabou

When your college freshman comes home over school breaks, you might butt heads. They’ll be used to their new college schedule, which may include staying up late or going out on the weekends. Meanwhile, you still have rules, curfews, and family traditions that are important to you. Make sure to discuss these boundaries with your child openly and honestly to ensure everyone enjoys the time together.

Celebrate the Young Adult You Raised

Happy father and daughter pose for selfie. Photo by Instagram user @beatsurgeon

Photo via @beatsurgeon

For 18 years, you raised your child and helped them reach this point in their life. Now, they’re off learning, growing, and experiencing everything they need to become the adult you’ve always hoped they would be. Take a minute to just appreciate this moment in your life. You did great work.

Looking for more college preparation and dorm room tips? Check out these helpful articles!

Pinterest Graphic: Sending Kids to College

Pinterest Graphic: Sending Kids to College
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