Moving onto campus for the first time may feel overwhelming and perhaps even a little intimidating, especially for students living away from home for the first time. Weeks or months have likely been spent planning, preparing and packing, going over lists and checking them twice. Now it's come to the actual date of arrival. What do you do?

Going off to college is big change. If you are like most students, you'll need some time to adapt as you get used to your new environment. Couple that with the immediate needs of what has to get done and it is enough to make your head spin.

Usually, schools give students a weekend to move in before classes start. If you can get there on the first allotted move-in day, it’ll give you a couple of days to get settled in and get used to your new surroundings. Upon arrival at school, there are a few other things you can also do to help give yourself a smooth transition.

Radford University
Credit: Leigh Goessl

Arriving to campus for the firs time can be intimidating, knowing what you need to do ahead of time can help lessen any anxiety. Image: Radford University, located in the southwestern section of Virginia.

Check out the Dorm

Students receive room assignments prior to the college's move-in date, so you can probably head straight for your room once you arrive on campus. This is a great time to unload the car, get the basics set up and meet your roommate(s) for the first time.

With mobile and social media being so prominent, many roommates have time to get acquainted long before moving in, but if you haven’t, these first few days are a great opportunity to get to know the person(s) you’ll be living with for the next couple of semesters. You’ll also want to check in with your resident advisor and get better familiarized with the dorm's layout.

Dorm room and suitcase
Credit: Wendy Harman via Flickr

Student Card

If you haven't already done so (most schools encourage you to do this long before moving on campus, typically during orientation), stop off and pick up your student identification card. Before you head off to school, make note of where you need to go to get your student I.D. As everything goes digital, this card is likely going to be your lifeline for everything from dorm entry to serving as your meal card.

Unpack Your Belongings

This will be one of your biggest tasks, and it's not something you want to delay for too long because you'll probably want to get organized before classes start. After you put away your essentials, try to become comfortable in your new home. Hang some posters and put some of your other personal belongings up (make sure you check the college's rules about what can be hung and how you're aloud to do it). After you do this, it might be a great time to give home a call and let your family know how everything is going.

Familiarize Yourself

Even though you've probably already had a campus tour, maybe two, it is surprising once you move to school to see how much the buildings around campus look alike. Exploring the campus before classes start gives you an opportunity to know exactly where you need to be on the day classes start. That first day will undoubtedly be hectic and you'll have a much easier time finding your way around if you have already mapped out the areas you need to be at and plan your navigation on campus from class to class.

Refresh on the Rules and Regulations

It is always a great idea to have an understanding of the dorm rules and academic expectations. It also can't hurt to give them a quick read-over to make sure you have no questions. One of the keys to college success is knowing what your professors expect of you so you can strive to meet requirements and have no surprises along the journey.


If you haven't already received the list of books you need, after the first classes, go buy your textbooks - the quicker the better. Used textbooks will save a lot of money, but these go fast! You'll have a better chance of making of saving some money by purchasing early and also you eliminate the risk of any books needed being sold out. (I’ve always had great success buying and selling used texts on Amazon).

Credit: Leigh Goessl

Parking and Transportation

If you have a car and haven't already done so, you'll need a parking permit in order to use the school parking lots. Many schools charge a fee, so be prepared when you go to register your car. Many campus security offices issue the permits or, if not, their staff can direct you where to go to get a permit if you aren’t sure where to go. Even if this is all set, find your designated parking spot. If not bringing a car to campus, be sure to check out the public transportation, where the bus stops, etc. so you are already familiar when you'll need it.

Grab Something to Eat

You still have a lot to do, but you don't want to start off hungry. Connecting with other new and returning students will help ease the transition and it'll be fun to speak with other students who have also just arrived. Also, if you can talk with to an upperclassman, he or she may be able to offer you some good tips about living on campus. A rising senior I spoke to when writing this article suggests to not only grab something to eat, but ask around to find the best places. According to this student, there are usually some places on campus you'll want to definitely avoid. Also, types of food offered and prices vary at college eateries.

Campus life will undoubtedly be different than it was at home. Getting organized the first few days will help ease the transition and help you make an easier adjustment to this next stage of your life. This is an exciting time - enjoy these hectic days!

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