After living on campus for four years, my family and I have now mastered how to handle college move-in day and how to make the college moving process much easier not only for my sighted parents and brother, but also for me as a student with low vision who uses a blindness cane. While we theoretically could have fit everything we needed for my first college move-in day in one car, that would have meant my brother and I would have had to hitchhike to my college as there would not have been room for us in the backseat- luckily, our move-in days after that went much more smoothly and we didn’t have to wonder if the trunk would pop open while we were driving down the highway. Here are my tips for college move-in day and low vision students who are figuring out how to navigate their unofficial first day at college.
Some background on my college experience
Before this post begins, it might be helpful for me to share some more about my college experience. I attended an in-state college located a few hours from my home in the wonderful commonwealth of Virginia, and my family drove at least one car up (usually two) for college move-in every year. This post is based on my experiences with four different move-in experiences, each time involving a single dorm (meaning no roommate) and a shared communal area and/or bathroom with 1-3 other people. This post does not cover having to move dorms unexpectedly during the year, though my post on emergency/transitional housing does touch on that a bit.
- How To Choose A Dorm And Pick College Housing
- Tips For Living In Transitional/Emergency Housing In College
Should I buy things before college move-in day?
As I mentioned above, my family planned on driving me to college, which was located a few hours away from my hometown. Since we were driving and I didn’t have to worry about mailing items or packing them in a suitcase, it made sense for me to buy a few items in advance like bedding, desk items, bathroom items, a small TV stand, and other items that would be stored in furniture such as clothing or desk items. We chose to wait to purchase bulkier items like a mini fridge and my desktop computer until I was at my college, since many of these items were also sold out in my town.
Pack items in reusable containers
It can be difficult to recycle large amounts of cardboard boxes or disposable containers, so it’s much better to pack items in reusable containers. I used clear plastic bins that featured masking tape labels written in Sharpie- these labels contained my name, building name, and room number. Even the trash can had a label on it, as we didn’t want to worry about items going missing. We never had issues with items going missing, though my friend took things one step further and labeled their bins with numbers as well so they could easily count and make sure all bins were accounted for in their dorm.
Get help from the move-in crew
The move-in crew typically consists of student volunteers or staff that can help with grabbing rolling bins, bringing bulky items up to the room, or student check-in processes. I highly recommend checking when the move-in crew is available for your building/floor, as they are an incredibly helpful resource for figuring out how to get items to fit through a door. They can also help with getting building staff to the room if there is an issue- in a humorous example, one of my friends who uses a wheelchair arrived in their dorm to discover the bed had been lofted so they couldn’t use their bed!
Have someone check for room damage
One of the things that helped me tremendously on college move-in day was having my family help me check for any existing room damage so that I wouldn’t lose my safety deposit at the end of the year. Since I have poor eyesight, it’s helpful to have someone else check with me to make sure there isn’t a random carpet stain or hole in the wall, and they were also able to help me wipe down items as well. For students with low vision moving in on their own, I recommend using a visual assistance app like Aira or Be My Eyes to check out the room.
Familiarize yourself with the basics of your dorm
Where is the nearest entrance? What about the nearest exit? Where is the elevator? These are just a few helpful questions to ask when familiarizing yourself with your new dorm. I have an entire post about how to create an Alexa skill that can help students familiarize themselves with their dorm linked below.
- How Amazon Alexa Can Help You Navigate Your Dorm
- Blindness Canes and Building Identification: Navigating College Campuses
Unpack bed-related items first
Unpacking may not seem like the most exciting task in the world, but I highly recommend unpacking bed-related items first and setting up your bed so that you can sleep well that night. Everything else can generally stay in a bin for another day or so, but a good night’s sleep is very important for starting a new day in college. I ended up falling asleep during move-in my freshman year due to a migraine, so having my bed set up was perfect.
Look both ways before crossing the street, and the hallway as well
There will be a ton of traffic everywhere on move-in day, so I recommend being extra cautious when crossing the street and walking in the hallway as well, as people may be distracted while driving or pushing move-in carts. As an upperclassmen, I would typically choose to get food from places where I would not have to cross traffic or roads when walking there from my dorm, as I knew that many first-year students would be swarming in the area.
- Blindness Canes and Dining Halls: Navigating College Campuses
- Blindness Canes and Paparazzi: Navigating College Campuses
Talk with suitemates about your disability, if needed
In all of the years I lived on campus, I never knew who my suitemates were before move-in day, and I would typically introduce myself on the first day and tell them a bit about my vision loss and chronic illness so that it wouldn’t be a huge surprise, and also so they wouldn’t be confused as to why I didn’t notice them waving at me. I have an entire post about how I talk about my disability with suitemates linked below.
Other tips for college move-in day
- If you are getting orientation and mobility services, schedule them the day before classes start or request early move-in to have adequate time for lessons without the chaos of move-in day
- Make sure your student ID is activated before move-in day if you are a first-year student
- Many dorms will have decorations on the door with the student’s name, which can help with figuring out where dorms are
- If possible, wait until after the first week of classes to buy additional dorm items, as they might be sold out during move-in week