Introduction: How to Get Your Kid to College/University

You can do it Beverly Hillbillies style “Granny, load up the truck and git...” or do it in a more organized less chaotic way to keep your sanity.

This ible deals with the fact that your kid did get accepted to a college and will need to move to the dorms. Maybe I’ll do up another ible if you want tips on the process on how to get in to college.

This ible describes the start of the many trips along the journey. Everyone’s situation will be different but hopefully you will pick up a few tidbits that may be of help.

Note: Pics are of the trip with car loaded with the second half of the stuff from the dorm at year-end.

You got questions? We got questions...

Step 1: Boot Camp...

Congratulations to all who will be going on to institutions of higher learning.

And the Sorting Hat will determine the rest...

With freshwoman year knocked out, it's time already to get ready to go back in the Fall. You know summer is almost over when you get the bill for next semester.

Having been in the military, I see this as another deployment exercise. Prepare to ship out and take care of all the surrounding logistics. So it goes something like this, follow the Six P's (Prior Planning Prevents Peez Poor Performance, it's been so long ago...btw, that is a pic of the first Robot shirt I got, Caitlin claimed it and all the rest to follow which made up a big part of the wardrobe to bring to school)

This may also be the first time your little birdie flies out of the nest, for reals. Somewhere along the way it will hit you emotionally as a parent that you will become an empty nester. I cracked as I said goodbye after the orientation and had to part ways. I remain content knowing that her mom in Heaven has been and will be watching over her all this time.

Step 2: Paperwork

Paperwork, lots of paperwork... and more paperwork.

When going to college, most of paperwork is online but sometimes you need to maintain a hardcopy file of it all. Having a multi-function printer-scanner-copier-fax machine is handy to have. And so is a PDF app for your phone or to take a pic of something to message/email your kid away a school.

It's always good to make checklists of things to do and have a calendar to mark up all the due dates or plan when you have breaks in class to do other things.

Going away to college also means they are also transitioning to take on the responsibilities of the adult world. You may be away at school at a different address and even in a different state but you have to recognize the nuances of that as it applies to financial and legal matters. Seek professional and competent advice as necessary.


Your college ID may be your first "official" adult identification card with your picture on it. It may also be your building or dorm entry key and meal pass. Safeguard it like a credit card.

For official ID, showing a college ID may not be enough.

Many will not have a driver's license yet, at least work on getting a learner's permit. If you already have a driver's license, make sure you are also insured - most likely under your parent's policy since it is so expensive as a young driver.

Get your passport. The optional passport card is good to carry around as ID if you do not have your driver's license yet. It does take some time for it to get processed or renewed so anticipate if you will need a passport for travel well in advance.

Know where you have your certified birth certificate and Social Security card. You will need those to apply for a lot of things like a driver's license or passport for the first time.


Hopefully your kid has developed responsible spending habits.

Your checking and savings accounts are probably depleted to pay for college but it is important to keep saving a little bit at a time to build up an emergency fund for unexpected costs.

You can expect college costs to go up year after year.

Have a debit card linked to an account you can replenish so that you can get money to them when needed. Some banks offer a "pre-paid" credit card that you can fund too. It can be used for normal credit card transactions like ordering things online or at the ATM to get small amounts of cash to use.


Discussing cost of college and financial aid could probably span several instructables.

Keep copies of all your tax returns or get the IRS transcripts to see what was filed.

Keep a hardcopy of your FAFSA and CSS or other financial aid application forms. And remember all those user ids and passwords to log into all those different systems.

Keep a hardcopy of all the bills and payment confirmations.

Make sure the school has you listed as an authorized party to discuss financial and school matters concerning your kid (FERPA privacy law). Only then will you have access to billing and payment.

Some scholarships require status reports or transcripts be sent to the sponsor to see that their money was well gifted. Keep in contact.

Keep track of all loans and filling out the MPN(Master Promissory Note) required each year.

All I could say about accumulating debt. Good luck.

Healthcare coverage

Make sure all immunizations are up to date. There are some immunizations that are required and can be a multiple series of shots so it will take some time to complete. Plan on a visit to the doctor in advance so they have time to fill out the paperwork for you.

Check if your current health insurance covers your kid if out of state. If not, you will have to purchase the healthcare insurance for that state to ensure coverage while at school.

If there are any particular health needs, prescriptions, etc., see how to coordinate that with the school health services and pharmacy provider.

Consider separate vision and dental coverage if needed or offered.


If you start working on or off campus, keep track of your paystubs and W-2 to see if you need to start filing Federal and various State income tax returns. It's important to distinguish what your residence is to file correctly. Figure out what withholding amounts or Exempt status to use when filing out paperwork at the job. Tax returns get complicated with different family situations - whether you are still considered a dependent. There are different tax credits for cost of tuition so see if they apply.

Register to vote. It will probably have to be according to your home state or residence. Look into how absentee ballots and first time voting works.

Fun fact, in some states, even though you are just dorming there and not a resident, you can be called up for jury duty there.

Register to be an organ donor.

Register for Selective Service.

Have a resume prepared and names/contact info for references

Get a small file box or document safe to keep all your important papers organized.

Step 3: Moving Gear...

I've always helped friends and relatives move. I enjoy the fact that I always have had a capable shuttlecraft with ample cargo capacity - sports hatchback, minivan, microvan. Those moves are what I describe as a "trash bag move". At the last minute, on moving day, even though you have been up all night, nothing is packed so anything that isn't nailed down you stuff in a big plastic trash bag, hope it doesn't rip, schlep it up or down several flights of stairs and stuff it in the car. Madness.

I might as well be a professional mover with all the moves I've helped out on in my life.

So here are some terms that you might want to get acquainted with:

Pallet - collection of boxes or shipment wrapped up on top of a wood or plastic frame that can be moved by a forklift or pallet mover dolly.

Container Express - CONEX - those metal shipping containers stacked on big cargo ships or hauled on the road by tractor trailer trucks

Deuce and a half (2 and a half ton)/ 5 ton dump truck - heavy duty cargo trucks with large rated load capacity

Mr. Fork and Mr. Lift, meet my arms and legs

Shitonne - metric or Imperial unit of measure to describe the magnitude of the ginormous amount of junk you are taking on your move.

Moving supplies that will make any move easier are:

Cardboard boxes - reuse clean empty boxes that have accumulated from buying at the wholesale club or you get good at the origami folding and assembly of office supply file boxes.

Wrap fragile things in crumpled up newspaper and face things like mirrors with pieces of cardboard.

Packaging tape and packaging tape gun/dispenser. Have several spare rolls, do not use sparingly. For the lighter boxes, learn how to fashion a handle or carrying strap with packaging tape after sealing the box. Makes it easier to grab and carry the boxes.

Plastic wrap - stretch wrap for palletizing. It comes on a small roll with a handle dispenser that is used instead of rope, twine or bungee cords to bind up packages or bulk items. This is great when you compress bags of clothes/linen/blankets and secure them in a tiny bundle. Wrap loose cords, cables, adapters with the device like lamps and printers. Strap bunches of books together so they don't fly all over the place. Using the handy wrap is better than getting those "space bags" which are vacuum compressed to save space. Those bags are expensive and you would need a large vacuum cleaner to provide the suction to use effectively.

You can pack your stuff in boxes or plastic storage containers. Clear ones are best so you can see what is inside. Don't get them too big or you will not be able to store them under the bed. Some people do get a set of bed risers - blocks that fit on the bedposts to raise it up to gain additional storage space.

IKEA tote bags - They are made out of that indestructible tarplike plastic. Great general purpose carry-alls and inexpensive. Make a TARDIS IKEA bag because they are supposed to be bigger on the inside. There is also the dollar store giant plaid woven plastic tote bag.

Get duffel style bags or military surplus flyer's kit bags. They are great for a bag of shoes, pillows, blankets and bulky items.

Ziplock bags of various sizes. They are made from clear plastic so you can see the stuff inside. Freezer bags are made of a tougher plastic so they are good for securing heavier items or things with sharp corners that may rip a regular bag.

Garbage bags - various sizes to bag your stuff. I use the clear plastic for recycling bags so you can see what is in the bag. They will protect your belongings in case you have to dump everything on the campus lawn at the dropoff point before it gets moved into the room.

Get your own mover's dolly or folding cart. There are also platform office carts. The school may have a big laundry/mail cart but everyone is trying to use that. I have one that folds completely flat for easy storage and uses minimal space when put in the trunk of the car.

You can also get a collapsible hand truck but a platform truck is easier to load and maneuver.

You may be tempted to get the largest platform dolly available but the smaller ones better fit through narrow doorways or can get on those old tiny elevators that have a regular pull door.

If you travel much, try to invest in good luggage that have nice rolling wheels and collapsible tote handles. Dragging a large piece of unstable old luggage with tiny squeaky wheels along with other stuff piled on top of it across campus is no fun.

Gloves may be handy. You may need moving straps and furniture glides when you get to the off-campus apartment stage where you will have some pieces of furniture to move.

Try to conserve space wherever you can. Pack things inside of things. Pencils and pens inside pencil cups. Pencil cups inside of trays or storage bins. Wrap up and tuck in the gaps between linens, etc. You want to be able to transport and airdrop one pallet so you can get all the materials to the site as efficiently as possible.

Step 4: Staying Warm and Safe...

The are many blog videos and checklists of what to bring to college but it is easy to overwhelm you with things that do not apply to you or how you go about your daily life.

They are a good place to start figuring out what you need for yourself. When things come to mind, jot them down on your own packing list.


Select the clothes you take according to the climate of where the school is. I guess you can overpack big winter clothing but global warming probably kept things mild this year. You will need to bring a box or two of hangers since none are provided in the small closet you get.


Those fashion boots from down under are not wet winter boots.

You can never have enough shoes?

Toiletries and personal items

Bring essential items. Whatever else, you can buy locally when you need it. No sense in buying and packing travel size stuff when you need a big bottle of conditioner to last. Also pick up some cleaning supplies like air freshener, anti-bacterial wipes, dish soap and laundry detergent when you get there.

Have spare glasses or sets of contact lenses.

Take your prescription swimming goggles if you ever go swimming.


You need a cellphone. A smartphone is preferred for calls and messaging. Some schools will require you to buy an electronic clicker device to do the class response polling or they have an app to use on your smartphone.

Have a good set of headphones or many sets of earbuds to use.

You will probably lug a laptop to class to take notes, do research and papers, or prepare presentations. You will spend a lot of time using it so get a large enough comfortable screen size and also be relatively lightweight for portability. See what the school recommends, PC or Mac. Some of the specialized software used, especially for engineering courses, may only run on one platform. Chromebooks and netbooks may not be able to run that software at all. Tablets are good for backup and to access the web. Some laptops require a slew of dongles to attach to other things so you may need a bunch of adapters for hard wire network access or hooking the laptop up to the big TV in the lounge to watch movies.

I made up 2 long ethernet patch cables to connect to the network in case the wireless was spotty. Also pack a spare power adapter for the laptop, various chargers for the phone, USB cables with all sorts of plug configurations to hook up to the printer. HDMI cables and adapters to get the laptop to display on the big TV. Also a portable hard drive to back up the laptop every once in a while, various USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 cables and accessory USB power cables to make it work. The dorm rooms are supposed to be wired up for cable TV so be able to recognize what jacks, outlets, and loose cables in the room are for.

There are probably restrictions on using electrical extension cords so you will have to get a surge protector strip to use. The house rules spell out other things that cannot be plugged in.

The windows may or may not open so if you have the room, pack a small fan to help circulate the air in the room.

The small color laser printer was packed to go. No headache of maintaining an inkjet printer. Although the school provides a printing allotment for printing in the library and other printer locations, there is no such printer in the dorms. Not necessary but it's handy to have your own printer for those late night or last minute print jobs.


If you get to know who your roomie is before you start the semester, decide who is going to bring what. Someone may want to bring a large TV and gaming console. Dorm rooms are not as big as you think. See if you are going to split the cost of renting out the microwave/fridge for the room(Schools only approve a specially built microwave oven/mini fridge - has a power switching feature). One person will need to order it before school starts and be the responsible party on the contract.

Check with the school to see what size bed mattress they provide. Many will have the XL or extra long twin bed size. If you are getting fitted sheets, they have to be the longer length to fit and cover correctly. If the kid doesn't make the bed, you can probably get away with any size sheet to lay over and tuck in any excess or cover with pillows at the shorted end. Bed linens are a personal thing so go feel the fabric before you buy. I have found that cheaper microfiber sheets do not live up to the marketing hype. Comforters or blankets work in any size. I made the Charlie Brown zigzag pattern duvet cover because we didn't find any bedding sets with a unique pattern that looked nice. I also took two other Twin XL flat sheets and sewed them together to make a second duvet cover.

A nice thing to have is one of those backrest pillows that turns your bed into a kind of armchair. Useful when in bed studying or doing work.

You might want to get some kind of lapdesk to put your laptop on to be more comfortable when you work in bed.

Department stores usually put out the back-to-school items like the XL twin bedding sets on sale or will only stock the shelves with them after the summer clearance sales in late July or August.

Get a mattress protector cover to use over the funky mattresses. They are also made to contain or minimize any bedbug infestation and reduce trapped allergens. Get the set which has a matching pillow protector.

If you are spoiling the kid, get a memory gel foam mattress topper, they are pricey, to boost the comfort of the thin funky mattress. Otherwise, one of those quilted mattress pads/cover will do.

You have to provide your own pillow so go shopping to find a nice new fluffy pillow.

Pack a bath towel or two

Shower shoes or flip flops. Some may want a bathrobe to wear if the bathroom does not have an adequate changing area. You can also get a cushy bathmat to put in the room to stand on when you get changed.

A shower caddy is nice to haul all of your toiletry items to the bathroom/shower. I suppose an empty 5 gallon paint bucket would have worked but they had shower caddies on sale at Wally World.

You may want to have a small trash can or litter basket.

Some kind of mesh bag, hamper or collapsible laundry bin is good to collect clothes for laundry. They can all figure out the Art of Laundry and effects of chemical reactions when they do laundry on their own. Hopefully the washer/dryers are free or use credit cards.

Add a full size mirror for looking STRAC(Airborne!). It was the one thing that she declared a necessity to bring along. I guess you get more fashion conscious as you move up in the world. Get a smaller mirror with stand to place on the desk for closeup work and for putting in contact lenses.

First year students are most likely on the meal-plan but pack a few microwavable mugs/bowls and a set of silverware for hot drinks/ramen/cereal for when they don't make it to the cafeteria. I have found they sell milk in those long life shelf stable aseptic single serving "juice boxes". You can keep a crate of that in the room to go with the assorted boxes of cereal.

The following are truly handy to have and to be prepared:

First Aid Kit

Know basic first aid and hopefully you go through life with only a few bumps and scrapes. Learn CPR and aid for choking victims. Be thoughtful of your own health and well being as you are being thrown in a new stressful environment.

Bottle of rubbing alcohol

Band-aid adhesive bandages, assorted sizes

anti-bacterial ointment

bug bite remedy

cotton swabs

pointy tweezers/magnifying glass for splinter removal

Tool Kit

You'll never know what situation you might run into where you might need to fix, hack, tweak or MacGyver something. Multi-tools or pocketknives might be prohibited so just have a tool kit handy.

Flashlight and spare batteries

tape measure

Pair of heavy duty scissors

small hammer

set of jeweler's or precision screwdrivers with various tips

screwdriver with various tips

needlenose pliers

small wirecutters, nail clippers

slip joint pliers

electrical flat jaw lineman pliers

roll of duct tape, electrical tape, tie wraps

tweezers, magnetic or claw retrieval tool

Sewing Kit

Good to have for quick repairs when you know how to sew on a loose button, close up a torn seam, hem up clothing...


seam ripper tool

hand sewing needles


safety pins

thread in various colors, have at least black and white thread

Crafting Kit

Whatever you craft with, everyone needs a hobby.

Above all:

Always be security conscious. "It's not that I don't trust you going's those other people." Have a personal safety alarm to wear. Know your surroundings. If alone and even in a group, if it looks sketchy, try to avoid it. Don't get distracted by texting. Don't fall for phone or internet scams. Secure and keep an eye on all of your belongings. Be familiar with the bluelight boxes and know the support channels available at the school to ask for any kind of help, academic or personal.

Step 5: Roaaaaaaad Trip....

Make sure your car is in working order.

Check the usual stuff, lights all working (hi-lo-brake-parking-backup), windshield fluid full, wipers good, brake and transmission fluids full, gas tank full, toll pass paid up or on autobilling, tire pressure good, tire wear good, spare tire good, mirrors good, A/C or windows working, barf/litter bags in place, music in mp3 or CD player, 8-track... and know your route.

People do rely too much on GPS but do a map reconnaissance of scoping out alternate routes, possible places of interest to maybe stop along the way or take a break, also see which roads or places you want to avoid because of heavy traffic or tolls. Interesting tidbit - we in NYC reference travel by time - it takes an hour to get somewhere by bus or subway, it's about 5 hours to Boston, an hour to just get out of the city itself... Everyone else references distance by mileage. Or number of parkway exits if you are from New Jersey. Take advantage of AAA auto club membership to get hard copy maps and tourist info books to get familiar with where you are going.

On one of our trips back from break, we did get a flat tire on the interstate. You know you are driving in New York because of the many unavoidable moon craters that exist, what people commonly call potholes. Call 911 to get help since assistance from your regular auto club like AAA cannot provide service on certain roads like state or federal highways. You still get charged $100 for a tow truck to change out the tire with your spare tire/donut. They only do the minimum to get you off the highway. It was pretty hazardous even when we pulled over on the road shoulder. Stay inside the car and turn your lights/flashers on. The tow truck had to call a second tow truck to slow the traffic way before where we were stopped so he could get out safely and change the tire. I had to get out to unload some stuff to get at the spare in the bottom of the trunk in the car. Always have your cell phone and a charger in the car. And money or credit cards in your wallet.

For long road trips, have sunglasses, snacks and refreshments - presliced or peeled fruit, water, drink containers that are easy to handle while driving. Try to plan the trip to avoid busy traffic times and driving into the sun. Leave the house at Zero-Dark-Thirty. Make sure the driver is well rested.

What do you do if you have no one to Oober you and your stuff to school? If you are traveling great distances and getting to school by bus, train or plane, you may need to enlist family members to lug one piece of giant luggage on your behalf and go for a visit, maybe two.

Some big box stores let you order online and will have the items in your order ready at a local store near the school.

Check into the ship and store services that the school offers or recommends that you use.

You may have been assigned a mailing address at the school but check what you can ship there beforehand and if they will accept packages for storage until you get there.

The other thing to think about is getting all the stuff out of the dorm at semester or year end. There are storage services that will pick up and store your boxes for the summer or if you go study abroad. You will need to check out their pricing which is based on the amount of boxes you get to store and if you have bulky items. Make friends to share the quota of boxes used to cut down on the cost.

Step 6: Did We Forget Anything?

Dorm rooms are like a box of chocolates. You'll never know what you are going to find there.

The school provides the basics, a bed, a mattress in various conditions of use, a desk, and a chair. Some schools may even provide a lamp apart from the usual fixed ceiling light for the room. One person we know was charged for the cost of a floor/desk lamp because her mom had mistakenly packed it up and brought it home since it looked like something she thought was theirs.

Once you get settled in, you may find that you need a nightstand to put things by the bed. Maybe there is no place to hang the full length mirror you brought along. And thus it spawned the creation of Dorm Bedpost Side Table and Mirror Stand.

Don't fret about anything that you forgot to pack because you can always get it next time you are back on school break. Anything important can be sent by Flat Rate Priority Mail - it still takes a few days but it has tracking. If it fits, it ships...

There is the story of someone using the school's security escort service for a run to the local all-nite drugstore because they ran out of contact lens solution.

So, get your kid out the door with no worries and let them learn how to fly.

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