Relocate to Your Chosen College Campus

Use this guide to help make your next move smoother, cheaper, and less stressful.

It’s time to move on. If you’re reading this guide, you’ve most likely spent a lot of time preparing for the next phase of your life. If you’re entering college, this meant picking schools, going on campus visits, taking standardized tests, filling out applications, looking at financial aid packages, and waiting for acceptance letters in the mail. Or maybe you’ve decided to transfer from one school to another in order to take your education to the next level. Perhaps you’re moving not for school at all, but for your first internship or job in a new city.

Whatever your situation, getting to this point has involved a lot of planning, dreaming, work, hope, and excitement. Now you’ve made your decision and are eager to get going. But amid all that noise and bustle, you may not have thought as much about the physical move itself. Before you can arrive at your goal, you of course have to actually arrive at your destination.

For some, the arduous task of moving can feel way more overwhelming than all the preparation that went beforehand. Not to worry. Like any task, moving from one place to another can seem like a monster if attacked all at once, and yet prove perfectly manageable if broken into smaller pieces.

To help you slice your moving project into bite-sized pieces, AIE offers this guide to avoiding the relocation rollercoaster and making your move as smooth as possible. When you’re done reading, use AIE’s Moving Planner to keep your notes and timelines in one place.

Here, there, and in between

To set your move in motion, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • How big is the place I’m moving to?
  • How much stuff will I be bringing?
  • How much money do I want to spend?
  • How much time do I need to get ready?

(Note: We assume for the purposes of this guide that you’ve already figured out where you’ll be moving (into a dorm or apartment, for example) and what your living situation will be (i.e., with or without roommates). If this isn’t the case, add these items to the beginning of your list of questions.)

As you can see, the answers to some of these questions will help determine the answers to others. Are you moving into a college dorm room with another roommate? Then you can probably fit all the belongings you’ll have room for into the family vehicle. If you’re moving into an apartment or condo on your own, on the other hand, you will probably want to bring more of your things: not only is it practical, but too much empty space at home can add to feelings of loneliness in a new city.

By the same token, if you’re bringing more than a carload, you’ll need to decide how you want to transport it, and how much money you want to spend. The more belongings you bring, the more money it will cost to move them, and the more time it will take to pack and get everything together. Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll know what steps to take to get your move going.

To keep or not to keep

Regardless of your new living situation, you probably have more stuff than you either can or want to take with you. Moving into a dorm for the first time can provide a real lesson in knowing just how little you need to get along. The limited space forces you to focus on the essentials — clothing, photographs of family and friends, personal care items, cooking utensils, a TV or stereo, and a few books will pretty much take up the room you have.

But even if you’re moving into a bigger place, consider whether it’s more cost effective to move your stuff or get rid of it and start over in your new location. If moving your items will cost more than replacing them, consider the latter option. Of course, any sentimental value attached to your things will factor in, as well.

Whether you decide to bring a household-full of furniture or rid yourself of worldly things before the move, the next step is to purge the nonessentials. A garage sale is a great way to make a little extra cash; even if you’re not getting rid of that much stuff, you might pool your stuff with other departing friends and have a joint sale. You can even think of it as one more way to spend time with friends who’ll soon be heading in different directions.

Other options for shedding your belongings include Craigslist and eBay® — you’d be surprised how many of your items people will pay for, even if they no longer hold any value for you. Finally, secondhand and thrift centers like Goodwill and the Salvation Army are always eager for donated items in good condition. Whatever you do, make the effort to find a new home for your things — recycling in this way helps those in need and keeps useful items out of the landfill.

Pack it in: Getting your stuff together

Once you’ve finished sorting the necessities from the nonessentials, it’s time to start packing. To do that, of course, you’ll need boxes and packing material, and while many moving companies and hardware stores sell these, you can easily obtain them for free. Most “big box” retail and grocery stores recycle their cardboard shipping boxes, but they’re usually happy to let customers have them. Just ask at the help desk what time you should come by to pick up discarded boxes; often this will be early in the morning, but the money you save will be well worth it.

For packing material, crumbled up newspaper does the trick. Again, no need to pay: look around for free local sales, arts, and college newspapers. Wrap more fragile items such as dishes and glassware in towels and blankets for extra cushion. It’s also a good idea to take photographs or video of valuable items that might get damaged in the move for your records.

Now that you’ve got your packing materials together, start boxing! This is often the most tedious part of moving, and it’s tempting to put it off. Don’t. No one likes to show up on moving day to find the soon-to-be-former resident frantically running around, throwing things into random boxes, and wasting people’s time.

Take the pressure off by starting several weeks before your move date — pack up less-used items such as books, out-of-season clothing, and decorations first. Then pack the bulk of your things by room, labeling each box with a list of its contents. Finally, set aside a box with day-to-day necessities, so that you can find them easily when you arrive. These might include:

  • Cleaning supplies
  • Snacks
  • Enough dishes, utensils, and cookware for a night or two
  • Toilet paper
  • Medications
  • Toiletries
  • Towels
  • Bedding
  • Important documents


One of the most important facets of any move is deciding how you’ll actually get your stuff from point A to point B. The best method for doing so will depend on how much you’re bringing with you, how far away your destination is, and how much money you can afford to spend on transportation.

Assuming you’re moving more than a carload, one option is to hire a professional moving company to load up, move, and unload your belongings, start to finish. Another option is a locked shipping container (like those offered by PODS®, 1-800-PACK-RAT, ReloCube®, or mobile mini®,) that is dropped off for you to pack, then picked up, moved (or placed in storage), and delivered to your new location when you are ready.

If choose one of these options, be sure to leave out anything dangerous, including any items that might be poisonous, flammable, or corrosive. Here’s a sample “Do Not Pack” list; be sure to check with your service to get a complete list.

  • Aerosol cans
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Firearms or ammunition
  • Firewood
  • Fuels or oils
  • Insecticides
  • Lighters
  • Liquid bleach
  • Live plants
  • Matches or candles
  • Paint thinners
  • Paint or varnish
  • Perishable goods
  • Pets
  • Propane tanks, empty or full
    • -Adapted from

Be sure you’re hiring a reputable, reliable service. Do some research online to find the best truck rental and moving services available. Sites like Yelp® and Yahoo!® post consumer reviews for services in many cities, and doing a little digging can save you a lot of headache. Also, check out the sensible advice at for more detailed information on hiring a mover you can depend on.

While using one of these options would certainly cut down on your labor and stress, they tend to be more expensive. Usually, the more economical choice is to rent a moving truck one way and drive it yourself. If you’re not moving very far — within an hour’s drive or less, for example — and/or you have family and friends who can help, this option can be relatively quick and inexpensive. If you need the help of movers to load or unload your possessions, you’ll spend a little more money, but also save yourself a lot of heavy lifting.

Finally, the earlier you reserve your truck and make an appointment with the moving service, the better. You don’t want to be stuck without options because you waited until the week of your move to hire help.

Moving day

Game time! After all your planning and preparation, when moving time arrives, the best thing you can do is be ready to go. Be sure you’ve arranged to have your utilities, Internet, cable, and any other services disconnected at your old place and connected at your new one; also, fill out a change of address form with the United States Postal Service.

On the day of the move, start as early as possible in order to give yourself more time for tasks left at the end of the day. If you’re renting a truck, have it ready when your helpers arrive, whether friends and family or professional movers. Be sure to have some cash on hand to tip the movers or buy pizza for your “nonprofessional” help. If you’re helping to load the truck, take a minute to stretch beforehand, in order to minimize soreness the next day. Finally, if you have to clean after the move, start as soon as you can and recruit — or hire — help for this task, too.

Welcome (to your new) home

After all the sweat and stress of moving, nothing feels better than unloading the last boxes into your new place. Of course, better not to bask in the moment too long. You still have tasks to check off the to do list. Most rental truck services will want you to drop off the vehicle soon after you arrive; if you can, take advantage of the time left to pick up any bulky pieces of furniture you may need.

If you’re renting, you’ll need to fill out the inventory list, noting any damages or needed repairs already there when you arrive. Take photographs of these to back up your inspection. Finally, if you’ve moved to a new state, be sure to check on relevant laws concerning driver’s licenses, car registration, and car insurance. In many states, you need to convert these within 30 days of your move; in others, students are an exception to this rule.

We hope this guide helps you get to the next phase of your life smoothly and efficiently. Congratulations, and good luck!

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