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Moving to College -- Get There With Less Stress

As you anxiously count down the days to move into your new 100-square-foot home, there are things every soon-to-be college student should keep in mind when making the transition from home to college.

The first also seems the most obvious: Turning an empty room into your new home is daunting, but it will be harder if you pack inefficiently. Whether you're moving cross-country or across the street, Mary Kay Shanley and Julia Johnston, authors of "Survival Secrets of College Students," recommend students and parents plan ahead to ensure that the actual move-in day isn't too apocalyptic.

Shanley and her husband put three children through college, as did Johnston and her husband -- the experience catalyzed their collaboration in a number of high-school-to-college guidebooks, written for both students and parents.

Though the process of relocating to college is a bit different for every family, there are consistent things all students should keep in mind when moving to college. To avoid a serious family rift, Shanley and Johnston have simple, yet crucial, packing and moving tips.

1. Make a List.
Packing-for-college lists are easily found online. Ask others what they brought with them, and what they should have left back. Learn from the experiences of others, consult other lists, and finally, make your own. Use the Relocation.com packing list as a general guideline, and search for others on your own.

Shanley says, "Students who keep a running checklist of what to take all summer long pack only what's really needed. Those who don't think about it until packing day take way too much, because they haven't planned."

2. After gathering the items on your list, sort your belongings into piles.
"Sort everything into a need-to-have pile or a want-to-have pile. Then, sort the want-to-have stuff into two more piles -- items you might want and those that you will never need. Put the latter pile in your closet at home," says Shanley.

Though you probably cherish your high school yearbook, it will not really be pertinent to your day-to-day life at college. The same goes for the "Harry Potter" series; in fact, leaving them at home can be an excellent opportunity for you to explore new books from your college library.

3. Bring essentials, buy the rest there.
No matter how rural your school, there will be amenities and stores there to cater to your needs as a college student. It's best to buy decorative items after settling into your room. Curtains, frames, posters and portable furniture -- these are all common items you can buy anywhere.
"Buy non-essentials, like picture frames and storage boxes, when you get on campus," Shanley and Johnston advise. 

They encourage students to ask the following questions to sort out the essential from the frivolous: "Will I use this once a week? Then bring it. Will I use this once a semester? Then borrow it."

Chances are, your new friends next door will have gone through the trouble of bringing everything to college -- a two-person sled, steam iron, and bread machine -- and you can borrow these things when you need them.

4. Communicate with your new roommate over the summer to avoid bringing two of everything.
Do you need two microwaves? Two refrigerators? Two printers? Ask your roommate what he or she will be bringing, and what items you can share. Sometimes it's best to split the costs and purchase items together, rather than hauling individual amenities there.

5. Keep your geographical location in mind. 
 "Think climate - a student coming from Arizona to Minnesota should think ‘chilly' and pack accordingly," says Shanley.

6. Acknowledge that you will pack too much - but learn from your mistakes.
Shanley and Johnston have heard all kinds of packing horror stories. One is from Nikki Hasbun, a student at the University of Notre Dame: "I brought a life-sized baby palm tree, string lights, tank tops, and flip-flops from Phoenix to South Bend -- even though in only a few weeks the weather would turn into an eternal blizzard. My roommate brought sweatshirts."

"No matter how careful the sorting procedure is, student[s] will still over-pack," Shanley and Johnston advise.

7. On the actual move-in day, bring friends and family to help you move.
Shanley and Johnston asked several students for tips on how to make the actual move-in day easier. A common answer – bring along people to help.

"Bring your big brother along, in case you don't have an elevator. It's definitely a struggle lugging a futon up four flights of stairs," said Christina Hoffman, a student at Harvard University.

If you do over-pack, make sure you have a way of bringing all your items to your room.

Planning ahead -and keeping a sense of humor -- will help make every moving to college transition easier. Of course, even the most prepared will find themselves in worrisome situations.

"We borrowed a roof carrier and I ended up with two suitcases and four garbage bags full. It was good until the bags melted on my clothes," said Alix Lifka-Reselman, of Brandeis University.

Moving-Out Day Tips for Parents:          

The transition from high school to college is hard on students, and this can be a fine time to strengthen filial obedience. Or more realistically, this is a crucial time for parents to remain calm, patient, and understanding.

 "Students must say good-bye to everybody and everything they know, and home will never again be quite the same," says Shanley and Johnston.

"They'll have to find new friends while fending off homesickness -- a very real problem that can strike in the first two minutes, two hours, or two months. They've just gone through nine months of senioritis and a summer of 'Don't-tell-me-what-to-do–because I'm an adult!' --and they're edgy."

The best way to assist your soon-to-be-adults, then? Stay out of their way - provide help when they need it, but realize that they will soon be on their own; trust that they will be able to plan things on their own.

Shanley advises, "Helicopter parents [those who hover over their child] are denying their child the opportunity to grow and mature? which includes success and failure."

Of course, if your blossoming adult is planning on bringing a 40-inch plasma TV with him or her to college, it might be a good idea to intervene. Otherwise, be prepared to drag items to the ninth floor -- knowing that it will get easier as the years go by.

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