College move-in day can creep up on you quickly.

As exciting as that day will be, it’s also one filled with stress and a lot of emotion. A well-conceived game plan will be invaluable for making the day go smoothly for both you and your child. Here’s how to make that happen.

Familiarize Yourself With the Area

Although there will be staff on campus available to answer questions and point you in the right direction, they’ll be slammed with requests. Do as much research as you can before arriving, advises Lemi-Ola Erinkitola, founder of The Critical Thinking Child. “Prior to arriving on campus, make sure you have a map on hand. Locate the nearest parking spot to your child’s dorm, important campus landmarks and key points of interest in the city itself,” she says. Also, she suggests looking for “the nearest hospital, pharmacy, post office and grocery store. Knowing these will help you and your child feel prepared for any needs that come up on move-in day and beyond.”

Bring Your Own Supplies

The dorm room is supposed to be clean and moving bins are supposed to be provided, but there’s no guarantee that’s the case. Bring your own cleaning supplies and moving dolly or cart to be on the safe side. Dana Baker-Williams, a parent and teen coach, says, “Bring tools. You’ll want markers, hooks and basic tools like a screwdriver, hammer and nails. You’ll also need tape, masking tape, duct tape — lots of tape.”

“Bring tools. You’ll want markers, hooks and basic tools like a screwdriver, hammer and nails. You’ll also need tape, masking tape, duct tape — lots of tape.”

— Dana Baker-Williams

Double-check the dorm rules before you hang anything, though. Often, there are restrictions for what’s permitted on the walls. Baker-Williams says another must-have is a door stopper. “The door stopper not only allows you to keep the door open, but it also makes it easier to meet people,” she explains. Don’t forget to bring snacks and water to keep your energy up too. If you have the means (and the space!), bring enough to share. It’s a great way for your kid to make friends and be an early campus hero.

Change Your Accounts                                                                                                                              

Your child is leaving home physically, but there’s also a digital departure to consider, says Erinkitola. “Up until now, your child may have been sharing an account with you for common services like ride-sharing and food delivery,” she says. Now that they’re heading off to college, it’s probably time for the sharing to stop. “Make sure their account is set up properly with the right contact numbers and billing information to avoid receiving calls on your cellphone when they decide to call an Uber or order a pizza.” They’ll also need to update their bank information, including opening an account in their name, and set up mail forwarding to their dorm address.  

Set a Strict Departure Time

This might seem harsh, but you’ll be happy you’ve established a departure time before emotions run high. Baker-Williams says, “You should leave quickly and quietly. Colleges are pretty good about telling parents to go home at a certain time so the kids can start meshing and bonding. They are right to do so, and no matter how hard it is, parents need to take that advice to heart. Go home and let their new normal begin.” To soften the blow of leaving — for you and your kid you can leave them with a note or care package. A little leave-behind avoids turning your departure into an emotional scene while still communicating just how momentous this step is for your child.

Do Emotional Check-ins Before the Big Day

An impending empty nest can lead you to think you’re feeling a sense of imminent loss that your child isn’t. That’s most likely not the case, but don’t wait for your child to confide in you. Baker-Williams recommends you check in. “Ask them what they are feeling. Give them permission to acknowledge that this is really hard and unsettling for them.” Change can be scary, and if this is the first big change your child is facing, it may feel completely nerve-wracking. Give them an opportunity to vent and express themselves with a few quick check-ins as you prepare for the move.

The freshman move is a major milestone day for both parents and children. This preparation won’t make the day any less emotional but it can make it a bit easier, and maybe even make you look back on the experience fondly.