For most college students, move-in day is among the most important days of the entire college experience. It acts as a first impression beyond the polish of the admissions visit, informing how your students will feel about your school for years to come.
In other words, move-in day sets the foundation for creating and maintaining an excellent student experience throughout the college journey. If it works out well, students will remember the experience. If it goes badly, they’ll remember it for less favorable reasons. What greets students as they first enter will follow them all the way until graduation.
For instance, a 2017 study of students at Michigan State University found that a positive orientation and move-in experience increased freshman retention rates significantly. Meanwhile, a 2021 study at Northeastern University found that active participation on move-in day led to increased student engagement all the way through senior year.
Let us guide you through creating better first impressions on what could be one of the most important days for your students.
Make any buildings on campus easy to find
The first few days on campus, and especially the first day of classes, can be overwhelming for new freshmen and other incoming students. It’s easy to get intimidated when you don’t know where to go.
While this problem intensifies for large campuses at schools with 10,000+ enrollments, it’s a concern even for liberal arts colleges. For many students, this is the first time they’ve lived away from home, and you can ease that anxiety.
The easiest way to do that is to make it as easy as possible for them to find your most important buildings, including:
- Main halls
- Lecture halls
- Dining halls
- Counseling and health center
- Student lounges
- Student pools and gyms
- Libraries and study rooms
Especially in large residence halls or living-learning communities with activities beyond sleeping and relaxing, even their own dormitory can become confusing to students. Finding remedies to make them feel less overwhelmed and more welcome at their new campus is crucial.
This can take the shape of anything from pocket maps for students to digital maps with wayfinding opportunities. Even a virtual or in-person tour of the dorm, designed for students moving in for the first time, can make a significant impact on their feelings of ease and comfort.
Advertise move-in and other events on and off campus
Over the past two decades, colleges have turned move-in days into comprehensive, sometimes weeklong experiences. The goal is to make students feel as welcome as possible as they adjust to college life. Plenty of events are designed to help incoming students meet new people, make adjustments, and just get comfortable. To get the word out, your school should clearly advertise these so that students know where to go and when.
It starts simple, with an events schedule available for students when they first move into their residence hall. Beyond that, clearly labeled signs on campus can guide them to the right spot at the right time. A more integrated possibility, like a “Move-in Day Events” layer on your interactive map, can more easily advertise these events to raise attendance.
Students who actively participate in events, both hosted by the school and by the surrounding town, feel much more integrated into the environment and build a stronger sense of community. As they meet new people and relax, they will feel more prepared for the daily life and stresses that college inevitably brings with it.
Label points of interest
Not everything connected to move-in day is based around events. Some of it simply consists of points of interest that your students and their families may want to visit.
Consider restaurants and local dining opportunities as an example. Many families want to share one more meal with their students before they leave, and finding the right spot can make all the difference in a successful drop-off. But even after the family has left, and as students start to meet new people, easily finding what to eat and where can make all the difference in a successful first few days. Do you remember that one spot you and your friends used to go from the beginning to the end of your college life? I know I do.
The same potential exists for other points of interest around campus as well. The local movie theater may just be the perfect first spot to visit with the new roommate, while the local mall might help get some of those residence hall essentials. Making them easy to find removes a major stress factor from your students’ first days on their own.
Advertise activities and clubs
Many schools have set up fairs and other events for new students to familiarize themselves with opportunities like theater, music, chess, science, tutoring, and more. But while you should undoubtedly promote these types of events, don’t rely on them being your only promotional mechanism for your clubs and activities.
Instead, actively promote the opportunity for students to join a club from the moment they move into their residence halls. Help them organically connect with their future peers and find friends, taking an active role in helping them get more involved in school activities and extracurriculars.
Highlight important resources and information
College move-in day is largely about fun, community, and creating feelings of comfort. However, sooner or later, every student will need to have easy access to a number of important resources around campus.
Finances, for instance, are a huge stress factor for a lot of students. That’s especially true for new first-year students, who are not yet familiar with college life and might not be familiar with managing their own budget. Creating a communication plan to let incoming students know where to find help can be a crucial remedy. Let them know where to go when they need to discuss finances before the need arises, and who to talk to, and you can make a major difference in their success.
The same is true for other student services and resources as well. From mental health to physical health, and from the registrar’s office to student payroll, place a priority on making sure your students know at all times where they can find important information. The earlier you do it, the lower their anxiety will be when they need these services.
Alleviate concerns about parking
Admissions professionals know: the question of how and where students can bring their car to campus is surprisingly common. And naturally, that question doesn’t go away once prospective students move into campus. If anything, it becomes more urgent.
Proactive and effective communication can alleviate parking questions and concerns. Clearly label parking lots, including any nuances related to where students of different residence halls can park. If there are designated parking spots, let them know early and help them find the right spot. Include and clearly label parking fees so they always know what to expect.
Unfortunately, most campuses don’t have the luxury of a parking lot right next to every residence hall. That means your incoming students might need help understanding how best to get from their car to their dorm, including any shuttle bus options or construction that might obscure their path. The more information you can provide, and the simpler you make it for them, the better.
Provide long-term support for incoming students
More than anything, most students need someone to talk to. Give your incoming students a support system at your school.
Some schools, for instance, have found success assigning one dedicated support person to each first-year student. That person could be a residence hall assistant, someone assigned to the new student from a student activity, or even a staff or faculty member.
The key is providing your incoming class a person to turn to when they need it and making sure they know that this resource is available. That way, the inevitable anxiety can be eased naturally by someone they trust and without a concern turning into a major issue.
Turning your move-in day into a positive college start
All things considered, move-in day is likely the most stressful day in a new student’s college experience. However, it can also be one of the most impactful in making their long-term experience positive.
For most students, this is a significant change. The good news is that your school can be there to guide them through the entire process. Do it the right way, and you will see positive results throughout their college career.
Interactive maps can play a positive role in that equation. Ready to learn more about our virtual mapping and event calendar solutions, and how it can help you improve your move-in day experience? Contact us to start the conversation.