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Articles / Campus Life / Moving to College

Aug. 13, 2015

Moving to College

It’s mid-August and all across the nation families of their first, about-to-be first-year college students are preparing for a memorable event: moving their son or daughter to college. It’s an event that they’ll remember forever.

I have to laugh every time I think of moving our daughter (our first born) to college. Young women have packing demands that far exceed those of young men. In our case, we chose to use our Honda Accord as the only “containment” vehicle to transport all her needs for that crucial higher education beginning.

So, being the expert packing engineer that I am, I calculated the available space volume and realized that I would need a bit more, so I borrowed from a friend one of those so-called “clam shell” roof-mounted carriers. Once that was in place, we began filling the Accord’s trunk, back seat, and clam shell with darling daughter’s needs.

As the process progressed on that special late-summer day, I soon realized that her needs would soon outstrip my careful planning. The clam shell was jammed and locked shut. The truck was filled so full that I had to be sure that closing it would not crunch any delicate beauty aids or CDs. The back seat and rear shelf were full of clothes and odds and ends piled high. I had to draw the line about being able to see out the rear and side windows.

We had to do a test “seating” to make sure that there was enough room for our daughter, who was no doubt the most important item we were transporting. So, with more “stuff” to move, and literally no more car or clam shell space available, I approached my solution by thinking of Manhattan. I wondered how they got so many residences and places of business into such a limited geographical space. Then the light bulb went on — they went vertical!

Fortunately, our clam shell had a flat top, rather than curved, like a true clam shell. So, we began stowing the remaining items atop the roof carrier. I always keep a fairly large inventory of various-length bungee cords on hand for situations similar to this one. Thus, I was able to lash everything securely to the clam shell’s mounting straps. By the time we were done, we had what looked like a mid-sized Manhattan sky scraper on top of the old Accord.


Always anticipating negative possibilities (in this case, rain), I wrapped everything, clam shell and sky scraper, in a new green-plastic tarp that was waiting for a chance to serve. We have a hilarious picture of what we dubbed “The Honda High-Rise.” The height of my design was so imposing that I called our state police to ask if there was any prohibition to the height of items piled onto a car roof-top carrier. The trooper with whom I spoke responding that he was unaware of any height restrictions for family cars. I detected a note of amusement in his voice as he asked me why I was asking. Once I explained, he seemed satisfied that I was within the law but cautioned me to watch out for low-flying aircraft. Gotta love public servants and their senses of humor.

Our five-years-younger son added the icing to our clown-car cake when he suggested that I put a sign on the front side of the clam shell high-rise’s green tarp: “Your Ad Here!” His wry sense of humor was the perfect antidote to the mounting anxiety we all felt about bidding farewell to our daughter that day.

If you’re still awake after reading The Adventures of Dave above, allow me to share some perhaps more sane moving-to-college wisdom with you.

In doing research for this post, I found a very helpful article that may be of value for those families who are doing their first move to college: 65 Things to Pack for College covers just about everything. Here are some highlights:

Packing for college doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right move-in list, you’ll be living like a king on campus.

To ensure your dorm room’s equipped with the essentials, forget everything you’ve learned about packing up till now, like the time you stuffed your suitcase only 24 hours before spring break in Barbados. That’s because packing for college also means shopping for college. And by shopping we mean stockpiling (effectively of course). For most incoming freshman without a car, you can kiss those quick trips to Bed Bath & Beyond goodbye. Before you shop, you need a tried-and-true, solid list. That’s the hard part. Since you already have enough on your mind from coordinating with your roommate to planning your class schedule, we took care it for you.

Your parents can only guess what you’ll need and they won’t be there to hand you a pack of earplugs when your roommate pumps up his EDM at 1am after chugging a couple Red Bulls. Check out our move-in packing list created by students who know what you really need …


[Here is just a sampling of this helpful collection of suggestions. By all means scan the entire list for items, many of which you may overlooked.]

10 T-shirts

Your miniscule closet will fit less than you think.

Two Pairs of Jeans

Nice, comfy, skinny or ripped—pick two and you’ll be set. You don’t really like the third pair anyway.

30 Pairs of Underwear

Because you won’t want to do laundry more than once a month.

Summer Gear

It’ll still be hot when you get to school—your body will appreciate tank tops.

Winter Gear

Think flannel. The temp will drop before you know it, and layers will come in handy.

Business Casual Attire

You never know when you’ll need to dress to impress: panel speakers, class presentation, career fair.


Because after a long day of classes, they’re like heaven on earth.

Running Shoes

You might want to keep in shape…or make a fast getaway.

Alarm Clock

Even if you use the alarm on your phone, it never hurts to have back up around finals.

Egg Crate Mattress Pad

Those XL twin mattresses are murder on your back.


For comfort at night and during study hours.


You’ll constantly disagree with your roommate about the temperature.

Twin XL Sheets

Yes, your new bed is tiny.

Sleeping Bag

For expected and unexpected visitors. No more sacrificing your own blankets so people don’t have to pass out on concrete.


At some point, you’ll miss your family and friends from home (it’s a great way to cover up the white cinder block walls, too).

Bedrest Pillow

For when you want to do work on your bed but don’t want to lean up against the miserable, cold, hard wall.


Because your business casual outfits look less than casual wrinkled.


You don’t want to have to eat out of your Frisbee.

Your Own Set of Utensils

Because the sink will fill up, and you won’t want to dig around for a fork.

BRITA Filter

The tap water isn’t wonderful everywhere.

Popcorn (Newman’s Own Organic)

Because “girls night in” with a Disney movie will be one of your fondest college memories.

Bulk Stock-Up

Stockpile granola, mac ’n cheese and ramen from a bulk store like Costco—because you won’t want to go food shopping during midterms.

Bottle Opener

The best beers aren’t twist-offs.


Because the morning after is less romantic when you have morning breath.


You’ll want to dry off after scrubbing the Sharpie marker off your skin.

Shower Shoes

Because you don’t really know what your roommate is doing in there for over an hour.

Shower Caddy

Pack it with your shampoo, body wash, razor and loofah.


For updating your blog and drafting party playlists. Oh yeah, and writing papers, researching and getting school stuff done.

Surge Protector/Strip Plug

You might get only one outlet in your room…and you brought over 5 appliances.

Extension cord

The solution to when the only outlet is next to your roommate’s desk.

iPhone/iPod Speakers

It isn’t a party unless you’re blasting Iggy.

Medical Insurance Card

You’ll most likely need a doctor at least once this semester.

Umbrella/Rain Jacket

Because it will rain harder in your college town than you expected.

Step Ladder

Because something is always hard to reach.

Small Tool Kit

For putting together that Ikea desk.


You’ll need them more often than you think.

Storage Bins

Extra storage under your bed for those bulky winter clothes.


If you take all the items listed in this article to college, you may need your own Honda High-Rise. Full discloser: When we took our son to college, we rented a U-Haul trailer for the Honda. Live and learn, eh?


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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