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Your Kid Leaving for College? Drop Off Day Tips

Your child is leaving home for college. Parents, let’s face it, college move-in day is a major event, and you’re feeling excited and nervous for your kid—and well, excited and nervous for yourself too.

Is Your Child Leaving for College? 6 Tips for Drop Off Day

You won’t be around to help them with their problems, to ensure they are well fed, to double check they remember to study for an important test, to mandate a curfew, or to share a Friday movie night.

Take a deep breath; it can be hard letting go.

Here are a few things to note, and a few ways to make the day a little less hot, harried, and hectic.

1. Be calm, confident and supportive. It is going to be a stressful and emotional day for all. Remember, they will take their cues from you. As exciting as going to college is, it can also be terrifying for our teens on that first day. If you can keep your Zen, it will help calm your freshman. Not feeling very Zen? Fake it. Now is not the time to fall apart, bicker or lecture.

2. Bring snacks for move-in day. Depending on the campus and location, parents might want to pack a few cold drinks and munchies because there’s nothing like a “hangry” teen to make the day seem longer. After going up and down the same staircase a dozen times, a small cooler full of cold drinks will look like heaven. Bonus: Parents and students who show up with doughnuts easily make new friends.

Be Prepared

3. Be prepared with tools. Tools? That never entered my head. But my son’s roommate’s parents had done this before, and they showed up like pros. You’ll need tape, masking tape, duck tape—lots of tape. Also hooks to put up to make more room in a small space. You’ll want markers, basic tools like a screwdriver, hammer and nails, paper towels, and spray or wipes to use to clean things as you set the dorm room up. Be sure to pack extra batteries and extra-long sheets for the dorm-sized twin mattresses. A hand vacuum is a good idea as well.

And one more item that is not on your typical dorm list: a doorstopper. It allows you to keep the door open for air but also makes it easier to meet people or at least see them and say hi.

4. Be organized, but expect to go shopping. If your teen has to fly to college, order all the dorm stuff online and either have it shipped or order for pickup if there’s a store nearby. If you drive, pack in an organized manner, like pack bedding last so you can access it right away. A fan should be accessible as well—many dorms are not air-conditioned. If your teen is bringing bins or crates, pack them full—you can cover and tape them, so items don’t fall out. Help your child set up but let them organize the room and take ownership—you’re there to help them hang things, and ensure they have what they need.. Then find the nearest Target or Bed Bath and Beyond and buy whatever you wrote down. And remember, whatever you forget, you can order via a service like Amazon.

When It’s Time to Leave

5. Don’t forget food. Stock their room and fridge with a few staples.There will be times when your kid won’t want to trek to the dining hall for whatever the reason, so these items can be life savers. Leave them with some breakfast items before early classes, and some lunch or nighttime snacks like chips and salsa or tortillas and shredded cheese; peanut butter and jelly; and easy snacks like microwave popcorn, pretzels and some sweet treats. A care package every now and then is usually appreciated, just FYI.

6. Leave quickly and quietly. Colleges often tell parents to leave at a specific time so the kids can start meshing and bonding. They are right to do so, and no matter how hard it is, parents need to take that advice to heart. Like leaving your child at pre-school for the first time, the only way to disengage is to hand them over and take off fast without looking back. This time it’s likely you will be doing the clinging, not your teen; but either way, hug and run. Don’t have a long, tearful goodbye if you can help it.

Of course, it’s sad to let them go, but you’ve done your job. You raised your child well, and they are ready for their own adventure. I find that although I miss my son Tyler when he’s away, I also know he’s where he’s supposed to be. He’s on an amazing new path. He’s learning, and he’s happy.

I take great heart in that.

Dana Baker-Willams 

Dana Baker-Williams is a writer, not-so-perfect mom of two, and a parent coach and teen/child mentor. She offers advice from the trenches, sharing the good, the bad and the anxious—and always the heart and humor.