The Fall Move-In Day: What to Expect

The long-awaited day is finally here. You have been planning for (or at least picturing/worrying about) this day for years and are about to have one less (or no) high school student in the house. Picture of Sam Welcoming FamiliesDepending upon your student, you have been back to school shopping weekly since high school graduation or frantically followed your student around the house while they casually collected their belongings the night before Move-In Day. In my case, having been through this with both my daughter and then my son, I got a taste of both approaches. My daughter discussed color schemes and pored over catalogs before picking out her bedding. She then proceeded to return the bedding and start the process all over again. My son looked up briefly when I showed him the comforter Grandma bought him, said “thanks” and went back to his phone. You may have doubted whether or not you could fit all the dorm paraphernalia into one car or fretted about whether your child would have sufficient clothes and bedding to keep warm come November. I have experienced both ends of that particular spectrum. My first Move-In tip is to remember that student movers (and in some of the high rise residence halls professional movers) will unpack your car and take everything in bins directly up to the room.  Please note you only get help unpacking one car. You’re on your own for additional vehicles!

However long, detailed, organized or disorganized your home preparation and packing process may be, your on-campus experience will have some commonalities. As you approach UMass Amherst, signs will direct you to the east or west depending upon your student’s building. You may miss a sign (we did) and get (only a little) lost on your way to the correct Move-In line. If that happens, don’t stress, there are smiling people everywhere who will help you find your way.

Once in line (and it may initially appear dauntingly long) you will be amazed at how quickly it moves and how organized the process is. The first step is to receive a sign placed on your car stating your student’s building destination. These are color coded and may provide a distraction for nervous students. They will pass the time checking out the other cars and their inhabitants heading to the same building.

As you move forward, you will start hearing applause and welcome cries. These are for your student, who at this point is likely weary of hearing parental Move-In stories from “back in the day.” It gets even better as you round the bend and see scores of Dining Services people waving at you, with one of them approaching your car with a bag of Move-In goodies! There is a reason UMass Amherst Dining Services is ranked number one in the nation and it starts in the Move-In line! Then, you are off to your student’s building.

Once you pull up to the well-marked loading zone, there are plenty of smiling helpers who will quickly unpack your car. The experience will feel familiar to anyone who has cooked Thanksgiving dinner and stood amazed as all that preparation was so rapidly devoured. We had everything moved in to the room by the time my husband returned from parking our car. And we were on the 4th floor of a no-elevator building!

Now it is time to unpack. This process will be directly proportional to the time your student spent planning and packing. You may find yourself trying to squeeze in last minute advice: “Be safe, sleep well, don’t party too much, go to class, never leave a drink unattended, be open to new experiences” will rapidly fall from your mouth with no sign of stopping.  -At this point, you will likely get a look from your student indicating it’s time to go. This may make you proud or break your heart a little, maybe both. The expression will vary from student to student and year to year but will contain some combination of excitement, nervousness, confidence, and fear.  From past experience, I recommend a general plan and timeline: move in, unpack, get a quick meal, return to the residence hall, a quick hug, and exit. Personally, I subscribe to the “pull the band aid off fast” approach.

Your walk back to the car may be tearful. I was more than a little heartsick at this official ending of a childhood and full time parenting of this wonderful, unique person that we had been blessed with for the past 18 years (both move-in times).  -Once in the car, I looked at my husband, who was visibly serene and happy.  Puzzled by each other’s reaction, he said “Why are you sad? We did a great job.” He was right. I still cried – on the way home (and a little after that, too) but once I mourned this natural and necessary ending, I was able to celebrate my student’s new beginning and grateful it is taking place in such a welcoming community.

Almost all of the information you need is on the Residential Life website including links for To Do, packing lists, virtual room tours, etc. There is also an UMass app that you can download with lots of Move- In information. If you are on Facebook, join the UMass Amherst Family to Family group. There are always tons of posts and helpful links to help you plan.

Here are some general (some learned the hard way) tips for you and your student:

  1. Be sure to make an appointment for your Move-In time. Consider your travel time and organization level before picking a time.  
  2. Remember to print your boarding pass when you register for your Move-In time. Forgetting your boarding pass and UCard will add to the time you wait in line.
  3. Bring garbage bags for the packaging after you have unpacked.
  4. Bring a pair of scissors to make opening up packages easier.
  5. Have a general plan for the day (who is coming? If you have 3 or 4 people, there may be insufficient room while unpacking, will you eat before or after, where will the final goodbye be?). This will help if emotions and anxieties run high at goodbye time.
  6. Dress in layers. This is New England and it may be hot or cold or both in the same day.
  7. Remember anything forgotten or newly considered can easily be shipped to the residence halls or the amazon store on campus (please note that the Amazon Store is available only during the Fall semester).
  8. Make early reservations for Family Weekend so you have something to look forward to.
  9. Plan a little treat for yourself and family for when you return home after drop off.

Shannon Cullagh is the parent of two UMass students (senior and sophomore) and a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Association Advisory Council.