For colleges and universities around the country, the end of the spring semester means fall planning is starting to pick up. The first crucial event to plan for happens to be what many consider the official end of summer: college move-in day for both first-year students and older students.

Move-in day is a significant stress factor for everyone involved. For student affairs and facilities staff, it’s a massive logistical challenge with no easy solution. For students and their families, it’s a sometimes-scary milestone that marks the beginning of a new, more independent life. A packing checklist is great, but it can only get you so far.

There is no simple solution to many of the logistical challenges college move-in day brings. But interactive maps can go a long way toward alleviating some of the stress factors. They also create a more streamlined and positive experience for everyone involved.

That process happens on multiple levels. Join us for an in-depth exploration of how interactive maps can enhance the college move-in day experience, from basic improvements to advanced features that will make the event a success for students, parents, and the campus community alike.

Just the Basics: Parking and Wayfinding

On the most basic level, no move-in day experience can be successful if your audience’s basic needs aren’t taken care of. As they begin to plan their day, they’ll need to have answers to two fundamental questions:

  1. What building (or buildings) do we need to get to?
  2. Where can we stop to unload, and where can we park while moving the student in?

Let’s Look at the Answers

Naturally, interactive maps can answer both of these questions. For example, the map’s parking layer can include a filter that focuses specifically on parking available for campus visitors. It can also include notes of drop-off spots near the residence halls to make them easier to find. If a hotel is closely associated with your school or campus, it might also be worth highlighting it here.

Every interactive campus map also includes the buildings available on campus, from residence halls to academic and student affairs-related buildings. That way, students and their families will easily know where they need to go and what that means in relation to the campus as a whole.

Technically, this same information could also live on a PDF map handed out to prospective students. However, interactive maps come with a few advantages compared to print-out alternatives that specifically apply to college move-in day:

  • Interactive maps can be shared virtually with students and parents before move-in. This helps them plan their day and reduce stress levels.
  • Interactive maps include directions to individual parking lots, drop-off spots, and buildings that link in directly with Google Maps and other GPS services.
  • Modern interactive maps are more dynamic. This allows for real-time updates like construction zones on campus that could otherwise complicate the day.

Every one of these advantages, on its own, can alleviate college move-in day stress. But, combined, they offer a powerful reason why even on the most basic level, interactive maps can play a significant role in enhancing the experience for students and their families alike.

Getting More In-Depth: Enhancing the Move-in Day Experience

Removing stress factors is important. But on its own, it only removes negatives from the equation. It doesn’t add positives to the move-in day experience for your audience.

To do so, you have to think beyond the functional tasks that new students and their parents have to accomplish. Instead, begin to think about the extra things they need to make the day as successful as possible. While you might think of your interactive map as a largely functional tool as outlined by the features mentioned in the first section, you can also use the same tool to share more in-depth details. This is essential for creating a successful move-in day experience.

Explore the Process

Start with outlining any host buildings or campus spots for move-in day events designed for new students. For example, there might be a get-together for new students, a picnic, and informational sessions for parents. Most of that information will likely live on a separate web page. But your map can showcase its location and make getting there easier for your audience.

Parents, especially, will also relish the opportunity to explore campus with their students to get a better idea of what they can expect. Consider pointing out some of the additional spots parents and students may want to visit during that day together on campus, including:

  • The campus bookstore
  • The dining hall or cafeteria and other eateries on campus
  • Any off-campus hotspots, from food to coffee shops and local attractions

You can even go one step further, creating a self-guided map tour for parents and students that moves them through campus. It’s a perfect way to create a more unified experience that also highlights spots like the dining hall, library, and other important areas every student needs in their daily life.

Adding features like these to create a more comprehensive college move-in day experience doesn’t just bring theoretical benefits. In fact, a 2021 study found that students who more actively participate in a move-in day will be more likely to remain engaged with campus activities and events through their senior year in college.

Advanced Advantages: A Move-In Day Navigational Hub

New dormmates using an interactive map to plan out college move-in day

Let’s pull it all together. All of the above features, from wayfinding to listing important spots on campus, are enough on their own to enhance the college move-in day experience for your incoming students and their parents. But building them all separately may not be enough to truly create an integrated experience. After all, those audiences will have to look for the individual areas they need in the moment to take full advantage.

That’s why the final level of enhancing that experience is more than just a single feature. It’s about pulling all those features together in a single informational hub—a navigational category on your campus map specifically designed for move-in day.

In your college move-in day category, you can include everything your students and parents need to know about their big day in a single space. This makes sharing with audiences via email and other communication easier. It also helps them know where to turn when they have any questions about the event.

Consider the Details

A move-in day interactive map category may include:

  • Your first-year student resident hall(s), including drop-off spots with temporary parking abilities to unload
  • Parking lots and spots designated for students and families moving into the resident halls
  • Administrative offices where students may need to pick up their keys or get their student ID card
  • Pre-established traffic routes for move-in day, especially if those routes differ from the way traffic typically navigates around campus
  • Eating spots on and off campus, including anything from your dining hall to local restaurants
  • And more

Even better, you can turn the category on and off depending on the time of year. This is especially beneficial for communicating with move-in audiences around different times; a move-in day category live in January, for example, might be confusing to new students for the spring semester whose process will likely differ from typical students during the incoming class.

See It in Action

Framingham State University, home to about 3,300 undergraduate students in Massachusetts, has successfully leveraged this category to help students during their first big day on campus. As Sara Mulkeen, Public Information Officer at Framingham State, puts it:

“Creating a Move-In category on our map has been especially helpful for communicating traffic patterns on our small, semi-urban campus. We have sent students maps with details specific to their residence hall to minimize confusion on move-in day… We also highlight parking areas for parents and families who want to spend time helping their student set up their new dorm room, as well as popular spots to eat and shop for school merch while they’re here.”

It’s easy to see how a move-in day category can pull together all relevant information and enhance the entire experience for prospective students and parents. From functional to optional experiential information, it allows your interactive map to become the central hub for all things move-in. You can also share it with your audience long before the big day for their benefit.

Make the Most of College Move-In Day With an Interactive Map

The planning for college move-in days around the country is beginning. As you read this, committees everywhere are likely meeting to determine how to improve the experience. While interactive maps cannot be the entire answer, they can certainly play a significant role in that solution.

Through both individual features and a more comprehensive navigational category, the campus map tool provides everything incoming students and families need to make the day a success. That’s where Concept3D comes in.

Our experience and expertise in higher education have led to an interactive map product that is second to none. We’ve worked with schools from the University of Alabama to the University of Vermont to enhance their move-in day experience, and we’re ready to do the same for you. Contact us to start the conversation.