Five Tips When Moving Your Teen to College

Moving Your Teen to College

The new home is almost ready.

We couldn’t know everything as we made our plans, but we got some great advice from friends about moving your teen to college. While everyone’s experience is different, and you don’t know exactly how you’ll react emotionally, we walked away from the experience feeling positive about his new home and the next chapter of our lives. Other than bringing tissues, and your credit card, we talked about the move-in afterward and came up with a short list of tips for our friends.

What to know when moving your teen to college:

1. The Bed, Bath & Beyond thing is real.

I had friends tell me to bring all the coupons. I had friends give me coupons. I had one friend give me a rare 20% off-on-the-entire-purchase coupon (thank goodness!). We placed our order at BBB here at home, then went to the local store near his college for pick up. The Pack & Hold program is easy to use and it’s so nice to walk into the store and have all your stuff boxed up and ready to go. I used that special 20% off-on-the-entire-purchase coupon and the whole experience was easy.

However, once you’re done moving your teen into their dorm, you see all the things you still need. You run around to Target, Best Buy and, of course, Bed, Bath & Beyond. Unfortunately on that second trip, I left all the coupons back at the hotel. But no worries, because the woman in line behind me pulled out her stack and said “waddya need?!”. Thank you mom from New Hampshire, you made our day with your generosity.

Paul: Big sigh.

I’m deeply in the camp of one duffle bag, one backpack, a Leatherman Wave and a laptop. My wife, love of my life and companion until death has a somewhat different approach. But I’ve had a great 17 years of decision-making and goal-setting, and she more than deserves to indulge herself in this process. And then there’s the money- as Mistress of Finance in our home, she has the power and responsibility of these decisions. Besides, the days of making our son struggle and overcome trivial obstacles as character building exercises are quickly sunsetting. In short, it was the proper action for me to step the eff back from this process. So the Bed, Bath and Beyond extravaganza was something in which I had little participation, and we were all well-served with that decision.

2. The dorm you saw when you visited might not match the dorm you get.

College campuses have a lot of different dorm options. As they have grown and added on living facilities, the quality of the dorms has changed. While the dorm we saw on our original tour wasn’t the top of the line, it was a little nicer than what we encountered upon move in. Not a huge deal, just be prepared. He doesn’t care, he’s just excited to be there but we had a moment of “really?”.

Yes. Maybe it was just my imagination running away with me (it was) but the dorms on the tours seemed brighter, more cheerful and like an excellent place to do late-night, drug and alcohol-free homework and socialize with a roommate from a faraway place with whom lessons from a life unlike one’s one, and with whom a lifelong bond would form, witnessing all life’s significant events, sharing the joys and sorrows of life ahead.

Instead, the suite Our Bird now shares with seven other teens seems to have a bit more incarceration motif. But this was at first blush- as we began shoehorning all the boxes (they’d have made great forts, they were that massive!) unloaded from our hired 18-foot box truck moving van we needed to get from the local BBB to the tiny garret (it was a Dodge minivan from Alamo), the cell began to look a lot more like home for our son. Within 15 minutes of our arrival, he’d hacked the formerly-dormant ethernet wall jack into a private wifi system offering up/down speeds at least triple the school-wide wifi LAN. That’s my boy!

We had the great fortune of meeting The Boss of the dorm block, Stanley, in a brief drive-by the day before move-in. A chrome-domed barrel-chested burly character- exactly the kind of staff one needs in a residence hall of this type. I immediately slipped him a business card with my contact info, “Keep an eye on this kid, and if you have any problems with which you need help, just gimmeacall”.

3. If you can eat in the cafeteria do it.

The morning of orientation (following move-in day for us) we hadn’t had breakfast. We had a little time to kill, so we wandered over to the cafeteria to see what we could scavenge. Oh my. You want custom ordered omelette? You got it. You want a choice of 10 cereals? You got it. You want oatmeal? You got it. Coffee bar? Check. Muffins? Choose from about ten different kinds. I was glad we ate there, because it put my worries about him eating to rest. Not only was there a ton of choice but it was pretty good.

Cafeteria is probably not the word, nor dining hall. This is a fancy place where one is unlikely to witness a violent act using a lunch tray. Choices abound and all food niches are honored and embraced. It’s good to know, given the investment our family is making in this institution, that his every nutritional need will be met. And he can always eat from the walk-in refrigerator we bought at Target. I know what he’ll eat- Froot Loops with brown sugar. Again, it’s no longer my job to monitor his nutritional choices. And for that, I’m grateful.

4. It doesn’t have to be perfect when you leave.

Part of the process of your teen moving to college is helping he or she gain that extra measure of independence. Leaving their dorm a little undone so they can make it their own without our influence was part of the plan. I had to resist the urge to leave everything perfect and I’m glad Paul encouraged that. Since we’ve left (just a few days ago), our son has been slowly adding the things he felt were missing to make it feel more like home. His home.

The horror of sleeping on sheets RIGHT FROM THE PACKAGE with all those chemicals! But he’s got a Q-Card, and he can wash his own bed linens whenever he likes while engaging in thoughtful conversations with his roommate from a faraway place who’s lead a life hitherto unknown to Our Bird.

5. Try not to go straight home.

Since our teen was moving across the country, we took a few days to enjoy ourselves and celebrate this huge milestone. I’m so glad we did. While there were sad moments, we also knew that this was a special moment in all our lives. We are lucky enough to be able to send him to college in a beautiful place with a supportive staff. We couldn’t just focus on the sad part.

Here’s a tip: We’d long-ago decided to convert his room to a guest suite- the carpet was 17 teen- years old (that’s at least dog years in carpet life!) and the walls were still Goodnight Moon Blue with the National Geographic Map of the World (the evil Mercator Projection, granted) on one wall and everything needed to go.

I love an interior design/build project, and was eager to get started.

I lined up someone who needed a set of bedroom furniture, and arranged to have them remove the furnishings while we were away. Suffice to say it was an emotionally remarkable event when we returned late at night after a long week of travel to an absolutely empty kid’s room. Might have gotten a little ahead of myself- but that’s where one should be. Just be prepared.

Take a little time to celebrate being a couple, not just parents. The kids leave, the couple remains. We believe strongly in the importance of nurturing the relationship throughout the family years and now it gets to play centerstage again. Get after that and have fun.

What was your experience like? Anything to add?