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Back to School: The Freshman’s Move-In Guide to Chicago Universities

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This is the freshman's move in guide to Chicago Universities.

The first year of college is an exciting time. Freshman students are about to embark on their higher education journey. When it comes to picking a college, freshman students’ top hopes include:

  • Finding a college with the best overall fit: 42 percent
  • Finding a college that matches their career interests: 41 percent
  • Finding a college with a strong academic reputation: 9 percent
  • Finding an affordable college: 8 percent

When it comes to picking a college, freshman students have a few top hopes.

Chicago is a great place for higher education opportunities. The city is home to the DePaul University, University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University and more. Each of these universities has a strong academic record, as well as a variety of specialty programs.

Once you have picked your college and received your admissions letter, you have to start thinking about everything you need to do on move-in day. Here’s a comprehensive guide to making the big freshman move and settling into your new home. Welcome to the Windy City!

What to Pack

Picking your classes and planning out your academic year is a big part of preparing for college. Once that is all done, however, freshman students still have to think about what they need to bring from home to get through their first year at college – and their first year away from home.

Before you start making a list, try to schedule a visit of your college’s dorms before move-in day. If that isn’t possible, look up photos and the typical dorm room’s dimensions. You don’t want to be surprised on move-in day with a bunch of items that are too big to fit in the room. Additionally, double check any sort of restrictions that dorm might have. For example, some dorms do not allow appliance over a certain wattage.

Another good idea is to get in touch with your future roommate. Maybe your new roomie is a friend from high school, or maybe you are being paired with a random roommate. Either way, you will want to coordinate to make sure the two of you do not end up packing a bunch of duplicate things that will just take up space.

You won’t be living in your dorm room for 12 months, so don’t pack up all of your belongings. Instead, stick to the essentials. Of course, everyone’s definition of necessities varies, but here is a great starting point for your college packing list.

  • Room essentials: This category is going to cover everything you need to make your dorm – the room you will sleep and study in – as habitable as possible. You will need a full bed set. Note most dorm rooms have twin or twin-XL size beds. Remember to bring sheets, a comforter, and pillows. Other room essentials include a lamp, storage containers, bed risers, a fan, and a trash can.

    Every school’s dorm will differ on what it includes, but most will be completely furnished. This means you will have a bed frame, a mattress, a desk, a chair, a closet or wardrobe, and a book shelf. That means most of your furniture can stay at home.

  • Your dorm will have a bed frame, a mattress, a desk, a chair, a closet or wardrobe and a book shelf.

  • Clothes: If you have an extensive wardrobe, plan on leaving the bulk of it at home. Bring only seasonally appropriate clothes. You can swap your shorts and tee-shirts for jeans and sweaters on a trip home. If you’re too far away from home for regular visits, consider asking your parents if they can ship your clothes when the season changes.

    Dorm room life means you’re also responsible for your own laundry. Remember to bring a hamper, laundry detergent, bleach and dryer sheets. Some dorms have a swipe card system for laundry, while others have coin-operated machines. If you are in a coin-op dorm, remember to stock up on quarters.

  • Food: You will likely be using the dorm’s meal plan while you’re at school, so you won’t need an entire pantry’s worth of food. But you will either have a dorm that comes with a mini fridge and microwave or the option to bring your own. Stock up on plenty of nonperishable snack foods, like popcorn and granola bars. You can also keep some bottles of water or soda if you have a fridge in your room.
  • Toiletries: College students with lots of siblings will probably be familiar with the shared bathroom experience, but only children might be in for a little culture shock. If your dorm room shares a bathroom with another room or an entire floor, be prepared to carry your toiletries back and forth from the bathroom to your room. A shower caddy can make this an easier task.

    Pack your basic toiletries like a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, deodorant, shaving cream, makeup, and a hairbrush. Everyone knows their morning ritual. Run through it in your head, and add everything you use to your packing list. You will also need to bring your own towels and a pair of flip-flops to wear in the shared showers.

  • Documents: Living on your own means you are going to be responsible for all of your own documents. It will be easy to remember the basic things like your driver’s license and student ID card. But, there are other important papers you should keep with you too. Pack your health insurance card, your Social Security card, your birth certificate, your passport, and any financial aid documents you might have. If you’d be more comfortable leaving some of those important documents at home, you can always keep copies with you at school instead.
  • School supplies: Last but certainly not least, you’ll want all the supplies you will need to be prepared for your classes. Bring plenty of pens, pencils, notebooks and folders. You will also need to buy your textbooks ahead of time. You can make a trip to the campus bookstore, or look for your books online ahead of time. What you need for your classes might depend on your major. For example, a major with plenty of math courses means you will need a calculator. And of course, all majors will need to bring their own computer.
  • Miscellaneous: A few additional things you should bring include cleaning supplies, a first-aid kit, a mirror, extra batteries, and basic kitchen supplies. You can also bring entertainment like your own TV, movies and books. A few decorations are also a great way to make your new dorm feel like home.

As with any packing list, there are always a few more things you can add. Remember, less is more when it comes to packing for college. If you stick to just the basics, move-in day and move-out day will be a lot easier on you and your family. Just remember to make a list and stick to it when it comes time to pack up and move.

How to Get There

The best way to get to your university will depend on your starting point. Whether you live less than an hour away in the suburbs or halfway across the country, do not leave transportation to the last minute. Talk with your parents or the people who will be helping you move about the best way to get to your dorm. Plan ahead to cut down on as much stress as possible.

Plan ahead on how to get to your university to cut down on as much stress as possible.

Traveling with all of your freshman dorm room gear means there are two basic ways to arrive with all of your things.

  • Drive: If you are located within driving distance, taking a car trip will be the easiest option. If your parents are willing to drive, you can find a creative way to fit all of your things into the car or cars. You can also rent a small truck if the family car is too small for all your movers and your things. If you live close enough, you can always take multiple car trips. It’s also helpful to remember your family can bring non-essentials on a future trip. Pack only what you absolutely need.
  • Fly: If you are taking a big leap and coming to Chicago from across the country, flying might be a better option. Chicago is served by two major airports: O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport. Bring your essentials in your checked and carry-on bags. You can have more of your belongings shipped from home as you settle into the school year and your new home.

    Once you have made all of your travel arrangements, make sure to double check your university’s move-in day policies. Do you need a parking pass for your car as you move your things? Do you need to schedule a move-in window? Will there be an elevator, or will you need to carry your things up the stairs?

  • Getting Around the City

    Once you’re settled, you’ll want to know how to explore the city and figure out how to get to your classes. Some of Chicago’s college campuses are spread out across the city. For example, Columbus College’s campus has multiple locations throughout Chicago’s South Loop. Other universities have a more centralized campus. UIC’s campus spans a total of 240 acres.

    Chicago has plenty of transportation options, including:

    • Walking: Chicago aims to be a pedestrian-friendly city. Once you map out where all of your classes are, you can build a walking routine. If you are looking to enjoy a walk or a run in your spare time, the city has plenty of options. The city’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail curves around Lake Michigan. You can walk, run or bike on this path.
    • Biking: Biking can be a great way for students to get exercise and save money on transportation. Chicago has more than 200 miles of protected bike lanes and paths, as well as 13,000 bike racks. Students who don’t own a bike of their own can use the Divvy system, the city’s bike-share program. Approximately 5,800 Divvy bikes are located at more than 580 places throughout the city. You simply rent a bike from the station, ride it where you need to go and return it any Divvy station in the city. Regular riders can get an annual Divvy membership for $99.
    • CTA: The CTA is Chicago’s extensive public transportation system. The CTA includes trains – known as the L – and buses. This system takes riders throughout Chicago and to nearby communities. Many Chicago universities and colleges participate in the U-Pass program, which gives students unlimited rides on the CTA.
    • Ride-sharing services: The ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft operate in Chicago. Students can simply download these apps on their smartphones and hail a car.
    • Cabs: Chicago also has plenty of cabs, although it is easier to find one in some neighborhoods than in others.
    • Campus shuttles: Most Chicago universities offer shuttles that operate within the bounds of their campuses. These shuttles are typically free for students. Students can simply wait at a stop for a regularly scheduled shuttle. Additionally, many Chicago schools offer students the option to call a shuttle at any time of day, even the middle of the night, as long as they are on campus.

    Chicago has more than 200 miles of protected bike lanes and paths.

    It is important for students to exercise their best judgment when deciding how to get around the city. Safety first is a good rule of thumb. When it is late at night, try to travel in a group. If you are by yourself or unsure of where you are, use one of the ride-sharing services or hail a cab instead of taking the CTA.

    What Parents Can Do

    Dropping a college freshman off can be as difficult for parents as it is exciting for the student. Going off to college is a big step toward adulthood, and parents might worry there isn’t much they can do to help their children anymore. But while it’s true that college means a lot more autonomy for students, there is still plenty parents can do to help out with on move-in day.

    • Build in time for a shopping trip: As much as you plan for a big move, it always seems like something gets forgotten. Parents can help their new college student out by planning a post-move shopping trip. A quick run to the grocery store or the home goods store can be a quick fix for the forgotten snacks or the floor lamp that got left behind. A shopping trip can also be a good way to limit the number of things your teen will need to pack and bring from home.
    • Trust your teen: A parent’s first instinct is going to be to help as much as possible. Let your college student unpack themselves and set up their room. Let him or her figure out where all of their classes are. College is a big exercise in independence. Let your child experience that and grow because of those lessons.
    • Make memories: Saying good-bye might be a little sad for parents, but try to keep the day as happy as possible. Take pictures and laugh. Your freshman is starting a new chapter in life, and you are there to see them off.

    After all the hustle and stress of moving, take some time to grab a meal with your family. Go out and grab a Giordano’s pizza, or order one for delivery. There’s no better way to celebrate a successful moving day than with a classic Chicago pizza. If parents want to surprise their new college student during the school year, try Giordano’s shipping. We will send two, four or six of our delicious 10-inch stuffed pizzas nearly anywhere in the country, including right to your student’s dorm. Pizza is the classic dorm room food, and no one does pizza better than we do.