Packing Up Your Kid for College

August 12th, 2015 by


The Long Goodbye: Packing Up Your Kid for College

Yes, we know. Your baby has grown up in the blink of an eye and now they have graduated high school and are ready to head out into the world – without you. It wasn’t that long ago that they were trundling off to Kindergarten without a backward glance, and now you are faced with saying goodbye again, but for real this time.

Before we start passing around the tissues, let’s stay focused on the practical stuff. Stuff that will keep up busy and helpful and not waste precious time wiping away secret tears becauseit’s just too soon! He’s going to starve; he can’t even cook an egg! She’ll get sick and will need her parents! What if they start flunking classes because they sleep in every single day? Okay, let’s take a deep breath. They can do this. We can do this. This is what we’ve been training them for, right? Right.

The Car

Pack your vehicle without boxy cardboard boxes that take up unnecessary room. Use only the storage containers or bags that can be used in the room. Pack clothes in a sturdy laundry bag and in the storage drawers or under-the-bed containers directly.

Consumer Reports suggests that you load the car so that the heaviest weight is on the floor and in the centre of the vehicle, not the rear. A heavy load can affect the drivability of the vehicle by compressing rear springs and potentially affecting steering and braking if the weight on the front wheels is lifted. By centering the weight (especially in an SUV), you’re also lowering the vehicle’s centre of gravity, helping prevent a possible rollover.

Ensure there is still proper visibility. You may have to practice packing the vehicle more than once to find the optimal configuration that allows optimal sight lines and still fits in all your stuff! Think of it as a university version of playing Tetris.

If you’ve got heavy items like a small fridge or chest of drawers, that cargo will be heavy. Know what the maximum load capacity is for your make and model vehicle, and don’t exceed it. The load capacity is specified in the owner’s manual.

Secure loose items so they aren’t a hazard to passengers in a collision or sudden stop. Tie them together, cover them with a heavy blanket or duvet and strap them down.

Check your car is ready for a road trip but ensuring it’s up to date on service maintenance, topped with fluids, and has the proper tire pressure. Look for tire damage, punctures, bulges, cuts or worn treads.

Is your kid’s car ready for the trek back to school?

The Packing List

We’re going to cheat a little here because there are just so many online packing lists to choose from already. Stores like Walmart, Target, and Bed Bath and Beyond do a great college business and have detailed lists that breakdown the kinds of items every first-year student needs. You can use this list as a starting point:

Here’s a word to the wise. Don’t over-pack. It’ll be a miracle if your child manages to do their laundry on a weekly or monthly basis; we’d suggest you drop the iron and ironing board. We’d also urge you to leave behind other items like an area rug, throw pillows and similar décor that will take up precious space without being used or useful. Instead, focus on items like a good desk lamp and items that will maximize the closet storage space.

What normally gets overlooked are the little things that are so helpful but easily forgotten. Things like a can opener, extra batteries, lightbulbs, duct tape, extension cords and rain gear (an umbrella and waterproof boots) can make their stay at school a lot more comfortable!

And remember, not all purchases need to be made at the start of the year. It’s good experience for your student to do the shopping for some extras once they’re settled in.

The Room

You have to remember how small most dorm rooms really are, and that space is usually divided by two. Your kid’s stuff can’t overwhelm their roommate, so make every item count. Find a storage unit that is small enough to double as a nightstand in a tight space. Consider lifting the bed to accommodate storage bins, and think about using vertical space to hang towels, shelves and more with removable sticky tape and hooks. Often the walls are concrete and there’s a no-drilling-holes policy in place.

If you are given your roommate’s information before moving day, contact them to compare notes on items that can be easily shared. Perhaps one student can bring the mini-fridge if the other brings a coffee maker or small TV. One can bring some pots and pans if the other brings plates and cutlery. No need for duplicates if you plan ahead.

Campus life is communal – doors are left open and people are always visiting. That means your kid shouldn’t have to worry about protecting valuables, so be smart and don’t bring any. Expensive clothing, watches and accessories should be left at home. Pricey TVs and stereos can be broken or stolen. Minimize loss of property by packing only basic items that won’t be coveted by others. It also means you need to remind your student to lock the door when they’re not expecting or wanting company.

The Laundry

If you haven’t introduced your child to the washing machine and dryer, now’s the time. Understanding the basics of the how they work and what a rinse cycle is will serve them well. Stress the importance of separating the whites from the colours so they don’t end up with pink underwear or bedsheets is essential.

When you arrive at university, check out the laundry facilities. Do the machines work on coins or a pre-paid card? What hours are they open? Are there security cameras installed? Chances are your student will be bringing home bags of laundry when they visit home, but they should at least know how to do their own laundry should they have to – and you probably don’t want to know why they have to.

The Love

Don’t forget to leave behind a framed family photo and a box of tissues. They just might miss you a little bit, too. Let them know that even though they appear to be on their own now, you are only a phone call away and ready to do whatever it takes to help out if things get rough.

While care packages might seem corny and sentimental, sometimes your kid needs to know that you are thinking of them. You don’t have to bake homemade cookies, but a package that contains some favourite snacks along with a few gift cards to nearby restaurants or coffee shops can really make their day. Include a note about what’s going on with their younger siblings at home, and they’ll feel in the loop without missing you too much.

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