College Drop-Off Plan and the Related Panic

I am not panicking, I am NOT panicking. But. We have four children who are not going to be coming with us to drop Rob off at college and so we kept a close eye on Rob’s college’s freshman move-in date: we had to know as far ahead of time as possible, so that we could figure out where to PUT all those children.

For months the college website still showed the 2016 information. Then, suddenly, in early July it showed the 2017 information! There it was: the move-in date, and the times: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.! We made a plan to drive up the day before, stay overnight at a motel, drop him off fairly early the next morning, and then drive back home that same day. My brother and sister-in-law agreed to take four (FOUR!) extra children for a day and a half (FOUR!). I immediately phoned and booked our motel, figuring that demand might be high for that date. We were ALL SET.

Then, two days ago, an email from the college: it turns out the check-in time frame is DIVIDED INTO ASSIGNED SEGMENTS. This was not mentioned before. I LOOKED CAREFULLY. IT WAS NOT MENTIONED. IT JUST SAID DROP-OFF WAS 9:00 TO 5:00. Our segment is 12:30-2:30. That…does not work. We need to fit in approximately eight-and-a-half hours of driving (distance between us and my brother/sister-in-law’s house + distance from there to Rob’s college) on that same day, either BEFORE or AFTER the drop-off (and if “before,” we need to change our motel reservation). This is why I had it all planned for an EARLY drop-off: so we could fit this whole thing in and get back at a reasonable time, ideally before my brother and sister-in-law were regretting not only this favor but also their own births.

Well. I have emailed the college. Probably one of fifty thousand emails they are going to receive on this topic. My hope is that however strict they act in the presentation of the schedule and how crucial it is that everyone follow it, their response will be, “Sure, no big!” Surely with families traveling from literally all over the world, they will realize an assigned two-hour window won’t work for everyone. Some people will have FLIGHTS booked. Surely just as we REALLY NEED a drop-off time that is either EARLY or LATE, there are OTHER families who REALLY NEED a mid-day drop-off time, and it will all work out. Surely.

And if they WON’T bend, they are making things so unnecessarily stressful for already-stressed parents of freshmen, it’s hard to believe this would be their established plan, and it would considerably affect my feelings about them. But the first-semester payment has already been made, so we have Plan B1 and Plan B2. Plan B1 is Paul’s idea, which is that in situations like this, you just show up at the time that works well for you and you shrug off the disapproval. “Sorry, I didn’t realize we weren’t supposed to be here for four more hours, but we’re here now and we’ve got to get back to our other kids, so…*deposits student and all his stuff on the lawn*.” This is not a plan I feel I can psychologically handle.

I don’t know how Paul and I were both firstborns and yet he lacks the stereotypical firstborn respect for authority and rules. I think the difference is that he was raised as an Indulged Male. Over the years I have thought repeatedly of a story his mother told me, about how she’d tell him to go mow the lawn, and he’d mow for a little while and then she’d find him inside reading a book. And here is the part of the story that makes me feel lightheaded: SO SHE WOULD ROLL HER EYES AND GO FINISH THE LAWN FOR HIM. I will pause to let you really let this sink in.

She told me this story with fond, proud exasperation. Do you know that tone? Like when a parent is pretending to complain, but they’re actually bragging. Anyway. I think of her when I wonder why Paul is the way he is.

Where was I? Oh yes: Plan B2 is my plan. I don’t know why I’m calling it B2 when it should be B1. In fact, it’s B. Paul’s plan is C now. Or D. Let’s just call it Plan P. My plan is we suck it up and do it how the college wants us to: it’ll be one inconvenient day and then it’ll be over. We’ll drop him off right at 12:30 and we’ll leave when that’s done, and we’ll drive late into the night and we’ll pick up the kids very late and we’ll drive the rest of the way very late, and everyone will be tired the next day, and then some of us will take naps and some of us will just be cranky, and then the day after that everything will be normal again except for my lingering simmering resentment.

…Paul and I are evidently thinking about the same thing this morning, because while I’ve been criticizing his upbringing and dissing his mother, he’s been researching a Reddit forum dedicated to questions about this particular college. He just sent me an email with a screenshot of a question about the move-in times, and the answer is that the schedule is really just a suggestion in order to keep everyone from showing up at the same time, and that nobody cares if you come at a different time. Well.

…Oh, and here is a email reply from the college to me, saying the times are flexible and students can check in any time. Well. Well. Good thing I did not panic.

48 thoughts on “College Drop-Off Plan and the Related Panic

  1. Elizabeth

    Aha. As a youngest who was raised to be a rule-follower but have a few years on me, I was going to applaud your email to the university. It has always appalled me when others did not follow the rules, but the powers that be just let it slide. [e.g. Kids who would show up to the class where a paper was due and say, “I didn’t have time to type it,” and the professor would say, “Oh, well, just turn it in on Monday then.” I was always sure if I tried that, they would say, “That’s a zero for you!”] It doesn’t hurt to ask, I’ve learned.

  2. Suzanne

    I read this with growing horror and breathlessness because like you I would be psychologically unable to deal with Plan P (that plan names part was hilarious btw) and I AM SO RELIEVED FOR YOU. PHEW. WHAT IS WRONG WITH INSTITUTIONS? DO THEY NOT REALIZE HOW THEIR “SUGGESTIONS” AFFECT SO MANY PEOPLE?!?!

  3. LeighTX

    Oh, Swistle, I would be right there with you on the low-grade panic. I like having things well-planned far ahead of time so everyone knows where they’re supposed to be at every moment, and that sort of last-minute email over something that’s already emotionally difficult would probably send me over the edge. I’m glad it all worked out but sorry you had extra fuss. :(

    Also . . . she would finish the mowing? She just sounds like such a treat.

  4. Mommyattorney

    I am an only-first-rule follower. I would have been with Paul on this, though. I have limits for “rules.”

    But the lawn thing??? Holy cow. No words.

  5. Squirrel Bait

    I live in a college town, and dorm move-in day is total pandemonium. The local newspaper prints a reminder about what day move-ins are every year so all the townies know to avoid the entire campus that day. I am charmed that Rob’s school tries to herd the cats with small suggested drop-off windows that everyone will ignore. It’s memorable experience. Wear clothes you don’t mind getting sweaty or dirty. Try to look at parking options beforehand. Hug Rob extra hard and try not to inadvertently use an embarrassing childhood nickname in front of his new roommate (thanks, Dad!). You will all be totally fine.

  6. yasmara

    This is funny to me because I’m a First Born Lady Person and I’m totally in Paul’s camp on the “just show up” plan (and for the record, my parents would NEVER have let me get away with that lawnmowing BS), but perhaps that’s because I used to work in college Admissions as a student worker when I was in college & I remember move-in day just being a total chaotic crazy mess. My husband, however, is a second-born rule follower and would hate to break the “show up at X time” rule. It would stress him out! Meanwhile, I’d be all, “What are they going to do, kick the kid out of college? Just haul some stuff up the stairs…”

    But I’m glad the college spelled out that the REAL plan is actually “just show up whenever.” It seems like they could have saved themselves a lot of hassle by indicating that the times were only suggested. Also, the people at the later time are NEVER going to find parking. In fact, be prepared that one of you will have to help unload & lug the stuff to Rob’s dorm room & one of you will be driving the car around in circles because there is NO WHERE TO FREAKING PARK ON CAMPUS, WHO CAME UP WITH THIS DUMB IDEA TO HAVE EVERYONE MOVE INTO THE DORMS ON ONE DAY.

    So maybe have a plan in advance (especially because I know you have driving anxiety) about who will help with the stuff/room and who will frustratedly drive around campus in a hellish traffic jam.

  7. Kara

    Does everyone move in on the same day, or is it just Freshmen? My college had Freshman orientation weekend and only Freshmen moved in on Saturday. The rest of the college showed up when they wanted to, as long as they were on campus before Tuesday at 6 PM, as classes started on Wednesday. After my Freshman year, I moved in late on Tuesday, with 1/4 of the stuff I took up Freshman year.

    Does he have a car, and does he have to “move out” for Winter Break as well? I ask because we had to do so. Only International students were allowed to store things on campus over the Winter Break. Moving in second semester was much easier, because I didn’t need most of the stuff that I thought I did first time around.

    1. Swistle Post author

      Just the freshmen; everyone else comes another day. He won’t have a car. He doesn’t have to move out over winter break.

  8. Mika

    I think this is a case where the school administration is trying to prevent mass chaos on campus as everyone tries to get there early, and is also COMPLETELY aware that there are going to be many people who can’t sign in at the designated two hour slot and will show up when they can. its just like the camp pick up at my kids camp where we get a very firm letter with our pickup slot clearly printed:
    last names start with A-K: 3:40-3:50.
    L -Q 3:50 to 4.
    Q-Z 4:00-4:10.
    And then do nothing at actual pickup to enforce it because they really don’t care that much, they just want to make sure the line is not out into the street because everyone shows up at 4 PM on the dot.
    They absolutely know that not everyone is going to show up in the right time slot but this way it is hopefully more smoothed out than otherwise.
    I would show up when you can unless the email back says anything different. (And I’m a first born rule follower kid!).

  9. Elizabeth

    The main thing that frustrates me about things like this is when there is a rule, made by the rule-makers, that the rule-makers have no intention of enforcing. From the beginning they should just have SUGGESTED windows for move in (with a note that they understand that the time slots won’t work for everyone, so if you need to adjust, please go ahead) and people like you could avoid all the angst.

    I have similar feelings when there are speed limits on certain roads and police are actually quite happy with everyone going 15kms over. Just make the speed limit what it should really be and enforce from there…

    Glad it worked out…!

  10. JMV

    Plan P for the win! We live in a college town and see the mass chaos so time slots seem hilarious to me. I’m shocked the university would even suggest that. I hope whoever put that info out gets forwarded all the anxious parental emails.

    Swistle, as a rule follower, prepare yourself for all kinds of parking violations that day.

  11. StephLove

    I’m glad it worked out for you.

    Bonus: I am feeling better about my parenting, as my son does not sneak out of mowing because he knows I wouldn’t finish it for him. Geez.

  12. Slim

    I grew up in a university town, and we can’t visit my parents during dorm-move-in days, because they *do* enforce the rule (at least as far as they can), and thus people who are coming from less then four hours away are still staying in all the hotels the night before.

    In other WTFness, my parents left us alone when they went to take siblings to college (always required an overnight stay, except for mine, and I am the rule-following youngest). So a 15YO in charge of her 11YO and 9YO siblings. I can’t imagine. Then again, all the neighbors were keeping a close eye on our house.

  13. Mary

    I swear every time I read one of your posts like this I flash forward into my future and see future me reacting to situations in the exact same way.

    Glad it turned out not to be as big a deal as it first appeared.

    In my world I am planning a DIY wedding from the other half of the country and trying not to hyperventilate…

  14. Cara

    I snort laughed so much my two year old asked me why I was laughing. I love that you can see the humor in your own reactions.

  15. Heidi J

    I’m a second born and personally, I’d be down with plan P, though I probably would’ve also sent a similar email and been relieved when they said it was totally fine to come earlier.

  16. April

    How many flights of stairs are between the car and his room? My parents brought my younger siblings to drop me off and made them do a massive amount of the “the running up 8 flights of stairs with loads of stuff” task when the elevators were overloaded with a line so long you couldn’t even get on them. So maybe taking an extra kid or two with might not be a terrible idea………. ;)

  17. Jd

    My dad had a commitment on move in day so I told my future roommate that I would move in the next day. My dad wiggled out of the commitment and I showed up late morning of move in day. But neglected to call roommate back because I didn’t think it mattered to her when I moved in. Roomie showed up that evening and was ANGRY because she wanted to select which desk was hers FIRST. That this would be an issue never occurred to me. It was a long year.

  18. C C Donna

    Oh Swistle! You do make me laugh!

    I am a firstborn. Like you, I also respect authority BUT only when the authority is fair and RIGHT. I’m happy it all worked out but if it hadn’t, I would have sided with Paul! (because firstborns are most always right) XXOO

  19. Emily

    I hate to cause more panic but if it was me, I’d probably try to get sitters for 2 nights….. it will probably take several hours to get moved in…. lines for elevators, traffic, parking issues, meeting the roommates and their parents, eating, say goodbye, the emotional side to it…. being stressed to leave asap may not be good for anyone. I like the other commenter’s idea of taking one child along to help with carrying stuff. It would be helpful and then your brother would only have 3 extra kids for 2 nights??

  20. Jessica Meierotto

    I am glad it all worked out! I am a firstborn as well, and while I like structure and efficiency, I also tend to think silly rules don’t need to be followed. Paul’s plan would definitely be my plan. I’d show up at the time I CAN show up and I highly doubt they’d turn me away. If they did…I’d just hang out until 12:30 and go with your plan. Seething the whole time, probably.

  21. Michelle

    I second the suggestion that you should bring another kid to help carry everything up to Rob’s room. Good luck!

  22. Shelly

    Did you know the lawn mowing story BEFORE you married Paul?? I feel like as if that is something that may have given me pause were it known beforehand.

    1. Swistle Post author

      I did not know it beforehand, no. In fact, he wisely didn’t put me in the same room with his mother until the ring was on the finger. Certainly contact with his mother would have given ample pause for thought all on its own, but that story of hers in particular gives additional pause.

  23. ernie

    Oh, the lawn mowing thing . . . that is TOO much! That mom is my kids’ dream mom.

    I am the middle of 5 kids. My folks stayed the entire weekend when they moved in my oldest sister. They were in Ireland at my brother’s Irish music competition when my next sister moved in, and my single uncle got move-in-to-dorm duty. When they dropped me off in 1989, I stood on the steps of my dorm (they didn’t stay the night – atteneded nothing, just brought my stuff in) as they pulled away from the circle drive. They were driving a 1976 Chevy Impala station wagon covered in rust. My mom rolled down the window and started to wave, maybe she was going to tear up? Then my dad revved the engine, and yelled out ‘three down, two to go!’ He thought he was hilarious. I dropped my hand to my side, abandoning my wave, and pretended I didn’t know them.
    I too like to plan in advance. Rather than farm out Laddie’s younger 5 siblings, we opted to take a family trip to Boston before we drop Lad at the school he is transferring to in New York. His new college gave him the wrong move in date initially. He’s going to play D1 water polo there, so athletes move in early, but getting bad info the first time around screwed things up. The high school where Ed and Tank are going changed their start dates in late June. Lots of moving parts. We are still going to Boston (assuming Lad’s summer school grades make him eligible to play wp and he is still going to school there – should know today, good times), but we get Lad in his dorm and then have a 12 hour drive back to Chicago so the high school boys can be at school on the frist day. At least the day we move him into his dorm is only for athletes, so I’m hopoing it will be fast. All hands on deck with all his sibs there!

  24. Gigi

    Oh Swistle! I feel as if I should have warned you about this but it completely slipped my mind! I’m glad they told you it was just a suggestion though. Although up until I got to that part, my comment was going to tell you that it’s just a suggestion and not a hard and fast “RULE.”

    Now, shall we talk about Paul’s mother? Seriously?! I’m sure she’s a lovely woman but still…

    1. yasmara

      Search the archives…there are many MIL stories & they make my MIL look like a saint (and my MIL once let a 3yo walk out the door & through the neighborhood alone on her watch). Swistle’s MIL died a while back, though, I think.

  25. Ruby

    I feel like this whole system could be vastly improved by letting people request a specific move-in time. I’m sure there are also people who would have preferred a later time slot who got one in the morning. Maybe they wouldn’t be able to accommodate everyone’s requests, but surely it would be better than just randomly assigning them.

  26. Anna

    Love the REAL TIME PANIC UPDATES here. I totally understand your desire to adhere to the assigned schedule, even if it is inconvenient for you. What if they got MAD at you?? And you are leaving your BABY with them! But, having volunteered in college as a moving-in-assistant (aka mountain climbing, load bearing donkey) (in exchange for moving in early), I cannot imagine that assigned times would work. What would we do, turn people away? I don’t think we (the student volunteers) even knew who lived where.

  27. Becky

    I also agree that it will take way longer than you think it will, and that bringing another helper, like William, might be a good idea. When we brought my stepson to college, he had a room on the first floor, so no stairs or elevator to wait for and the college had football players to help the freshmen move in. We also rented a loft, which was great for room in the tiny dorm, and we didn’t have to take it home at the end. It took at least two hours to carry stuff, set up the loft, unpack, make the bed, small talk with the roommate, etc. Then there was the lunch they offered families, saying goodbye, etc. Plus, you don’t want to have the extra stress of feeling like you have to get out of there at a certain time when so much is out of your control. It is a really tough and stressful day. But, next year will be much easier!

  28. Maryanne

    This will be me (a first born and oldest daughter- double respect rule follower) and my husband (also oldest child/indulged male) in 13 years. Thanks for prepping me!

  29. Alison

    I’m a long time reader, and I Feel Deeply for you with every single Paul’s mother story.

  30. Sarah!

    Happy ending at the end, but yes, just show up when you can! Build in time for a last-minute Target run before you drive home, since he won’t have a car. Try to do it ASAP before all the crucial command strips/trash cans/whatever are snatched up!

    Be prepared for chaos and to go with the flow as best you can- and don’t be offended if he wants you to leave and not help him unpack! Also be prepared for parking mess- what we would do at the bigger buildings was pull up to the curb, pull EVERYTHING out to a heap on the grass, then have one parent go park, one parent/sibling stand and watch the pile of stuff, and everyone else start carrying loads up the stairs. Wear good shoes.

  31. HKS

    Now as an adult, I would go with Paul’s plan but as an 18-year-old, I would have wanted to follow the rules! My parents dropped me off in the morning and then left. I wished they had taken me to lunch or made a bigger deal of it. They lived 20 minutes away, so I guess it didn’t seem as big a deal to them.
    I just saw this article about the comfort of shopping when you send your kid off to college and I thought of you. https://nyti.ms/2hfSuTs

      1. yasmara

        This line oh my, “Fathers are mulling around making suggestions that are batted away, and are occasionally handed boxes for the Dumpster, while mothers are making beds with an emotional intensity that is only understood by one another.”

  32. Alice

    My college did that staging thing back in the day. It was a huge state school, and they were trying to manage the glut. I live in a state college town now, and keep a sharp eye on when school starts/ends so that I know the areas and stores to avoid around move-in and departure weeks. They have big plans every year and the town even uses the big lit-up word road signs to help direct people.

    I get the sense that crowds and chaos can get you sort of panicked, so– just be aware that no matter what time you arrive, it’s likely to be pretty crazy from start to finish. Going earlier will help, but it probably won’t eliminate it.

    Thinking back on it, I had it pretty easy. I lived so far from my college, we had to ship my stuff. No family fuss, and I just had to cope with getting my boxes up from the mailing room.

  33. Lawyerish

    I am a big-time rule follower, but my first thought when I read the assigned time frame was, “Eh, just show up and they’ll deal!” This is very uncharacteristic of me, but I think it’s because (a) I have now witnessed so MANY people (mostly Indulged Males) who are not the slightest bit affected by rules and who live by the Just Show Up philosophy and you know what? THE WORLD BENDS TO ACCOMMODATE THEM. It’s infuriating, yet true.

    And also (b) I think universities are not big on Unyielding Rules (except for big important things like tuition due dates), especially for logistics such as this — it’s meant to cut down on, but not eliminate, the inevitable chaos and they figure SOME people will arrive during their window and many won’t, but they’re not going to turn away any families (you are the consumer in this regard, after all) because you arrive early. They just want to keep the wheels in motion.

    1. Ruby

      I second this comment. Universities are very used to accommodating people who don’t follow rules–sometimes maddeningly so. At my own college graduation, for example, I found out just days before the ceremony that you had to have your student ID card to check in. Not just your ID number, or a different kind of photo ID–you HAD to have your official student ID card. Which I didn’t have, because I’d lost mine a few months prior and never bothered to replace because I’d never really needed it anyway. I went to considerable effort to get a new ID in time for the ceremony, only to discover I DIDN’T actually need it and in fact MOST people hadn’t brought them. Ugh.

      Universities will also make it very, very clear when they’re not willing to bend on a rule. They will probably send you multiple emails and letters in the days leading up reminding you that you absolutely MUST have [item] or arrive at [time] or submit something by [date]. And even then, there’s often a backup plan for people who don’t comply.

  34. Maureen

    Your posts are bringing back so many memories!! Luckily my daughter went to a state school, but it is a 6 hour drive. I live in Alaska so we don’t have lots of in state options, I’m just really happy she didn’t push to go out of state.

    What I remember from that first drop off-they were very organized. They had a tiny parking area in front of what was a 3 dorm complex, but as you entered, they asked the student’s name, and you pulled up, they helped unload AND move things to the room. They had a tent where they put all the gear, it was rainy-and it was great. The sweet thing, my husband who had been very stoic about our only child going off to college-when they asked her name, he totally choked up and started to cry!

    For some reason when we got to the room (her adorable roommate showed up a few minutes after we did), there were bunk beds, which the girls didn’t want. Luckily we had brought a tool kit so my husband took them apart and we rearranged the room. A tool kit really does come in handy-my husband did a once over, tightening screws and getting everything shipshape.

    We also brought a small two wheel cart, which we didn’t really need that first year, but used the heck out of after her freshman year. After that first year, you are on your own!! It is a fold up, adjustable one, that takes up very little room, but holds quite a bit. Elevators are so crowded, and we would strap her boxes, fridge on there and tote it up the stairs. One of her dorms was four floors (of course she was on the 4th) and no elevator-which doesn’t sound like a lot until you are carrying all this crap up those stairs!!

    One more thing-I cried almost the whole way home that first drop off. While it is a hugely exciting thing for your child, it is a very real loss to not have your child in your life, every single day. I remember reading some article, saying it is OK to grieve when your child goes off to college. I kept going to my daughter’s bedroom to tell her something-and it was pretty rough. I wish I would have planned a bit more self care for myself, looking back I would have scheduled something fun to look forward to. I was at a loss for a few months, and it was very tough. So while you are taking care of everything for Rob, don’t forget to take care of yourself!

    P.S.-Do not forget to get that FERPA signed and turned in!! They will tell you nothing unless that is done!

  35. vanessa

    I second bringing along William (if he and Rob get along decently) or Edward (if William and Rob do not get along, which I feel like you once mentioned) as a helper…with the expectation that he’s there as a helper…

  36. British American

    So glad to hear they are flexible. I’m a first born child too (as is my husband) but I was totally rooting for Paul’s plan of just show up and be like “Oh, sorry we’re early.” :P

  37. Phancy

    I also second the idea of having a second child there to help, and if it the one who might attend college next, it would be possibly helpful for him to see the process for his future.

    And, thinking back, I did not have a tool kit at first at college, but I do recall my dad having one in his vehicle and that became very very helpful to the whole floor. And it helped break the ice amongst some of the parents, especially the male versions.

  38. Shawna

    I’m usually a rule-follower, but I would have not only agreed with Paul’s plan, I would have come up with it myself.

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