How universities and colleges are handling move-in days

Providing a safe, seamless experience will be a challenge, but institutions are taking proactive measures for reopening.
By: | July 14, 2020
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Move-in can be a stressful experience for higher education students, especially those who are arriving on campus for the first time. That will be heightened this year when doors to residence halls and dorms are reopened in August and September.

Most colleges and universities across the country have developed strategies to provide as safe and as smooth a return as possible, though those plans will look quite different from years’ past.

From parking restrictions to limited traffic flow inside buildings to new policies on guests that will be in effect for the foreseeable future, institutions have unveiled strict guidelines to help protect both staff members and student populations. Almost all are adhering to CDC and/or state directives, while some are going a step beyond. Duke University, Tulane University and Clark University, for example, will be testing  incoming students for Covid-19.

Though every college is taking its own unique approach to move-in, most are trying to stay positive and allay any fears. Ole Miss has promoted the process as “Groovin at Move In”; Miami University in Ohio has prepared a “Healthy Together” plan; and Auburn University has announced a “Safe and Simple” strategy.

At Clemson University, school officials have launched a website and video – while connecting its community through the hashtag #ClemsonMoveIn – to ensure move-in runs seamlessly. It is also providing calming messages for concerned parents.

“We know there are residual risks because this is a fluid situation, but we are doing everything we can to mitigate them,” Christopher Miller, Interim VP for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Clemson said in a release to Clemson students. “Even with our best efforts, our students’ traditional on-campus experiences will look and be completely different when we return in August. That is a reality we face.”


Student compliance with social distancing: Ways to encourage and enforce.

Students services: How to ace your reopening.


What will be different

The most significant change to move-in will be to the days themselves. Previously, most institutions handled the process over one or two days. This fall, colleges are looking at as many as one or two weeks of staggered schedules to get students safely into residences.

  • Montana State University and Miami University have extended their typically tight move-in days to Aug. 10-16. Miami University is also assigning specific times to individual students to arrive on campus.
  • James Madison is asking its first-year students to perform an online room selection later this month that will determine their move-in date, from Aug. 21-24.
  • University of Michigan students will arrive from Aug. 24-31 but not before they and any guests self-quarantine for 14 days prior to arrival.
  • The University of California, Santa Cruz is asking for a “14-day period of sequester after a student’s arrival on campus before classes begin.”

How those students arrive will look markedly different. Many schools such as Miami of Ohio will not be offering volunteers to assist in the process, instead opting “no-touch, self-service.” Other schools will have a few volunteers there as greeters and to help point out the locations of sanitizer stations.

Strategies for a safe move-in

Many colleges and universities have offered guidelines to students and families for their move-in this fall. These tips can help staff, students and visitors remain safe during the process:

• Stagger arrival dates for students and limit guests inside facilities. Provide separate times or dates for roommates to move in.
• Limit the number of people overall inside residence halls to prevent gathering of students and/or families
• Provide sanitizing stations throughout residence halls, on stands outside of buildings and in arrival zones
• Offer Covid-19 testing areas for arriving students
• Consider quarantining students for 14 days, either prior to or upon arrival
• Have a traffic flow plan (with one-way directional tape) for students inside halls
• Mandate the wearing of face masks inside building throughout the process
• Limit on-campus volunteers to be greeters only and not assist in moving in students’ personal items
• Lessen the amount of time allowed for move in to residences to 2 hours or less
• Allow students to ship boxes or personal items ahead of time to campus
• Have a Drop and Go option where students can deliver their items to their rooms, then leave campus
• Limit elevator capacity to one person or one family at a time and have sanitizers in elevators
• Advise students to bring their own masks, sanitizers, and even thermometers

Check-in at Auburn will be a curbside process that follows social distancing recommendations from the CDC.

“Residents will drive up to the designated check-in location during their designated arrival time,” Auburn University Housing said in a statement. “They will show staff their arrival time email and a photo ID and will give their name, hall and room number. Staff will check in the resident online and hand the resident their welcome packet.”

In many cases, that welcome packet will include facemasks and hand sanitizers, as well as additional guidance on moving in. The University of Wyoming and many others are mandating students and family members wear masks during the entire move-in process, while “elevators will be limited to one family.”

Institutions such as the University of Akron not only will be limiting times for student move-in to three hours or less, but they also will be restricting the number of people in a specific residence building at one time to 10. Marquette University and the University of Missouri are offering students a 90-minute window.

While some colleges are asking guests to remain outside of residence halls through the entire move-in, Syracuse University is allowing them two hours to assist.

“We recognize this year’s move-in will be very different than past years,” Syracuse said in a release. “We appreciate everyone’s cooperation in adhering to this guidance so that we can safely and effectively assist students.”

Looking different

Universities such as Clemson are doing their best to provide a normal experience over its Aug. 11-16 move-in, but there will be big changes.

Clemson is still planning to hold its annual family orientation but is asking that only one family member participate. It will offer a live stream of the event for those who cannot attend. Working out a move-in plan has been daunting for Clemson Home, which is dealing with the expected arrival of some 8,000 on-campus residents without its usual 1,000-plus volunteers, according to Miller.

“We are doing all we can to promote the health and well-being of our students to ensure a successful transition to campus,” he said.

Many universities have held off on move-in assignments and are weighing options for staggering safe arrivals for students and families. Some are still defining their “what to bring, what not to bring lists” for students. But all are in agreement on one thing: those who feeling ill should probably stay away on move-in day.

In its plan, Miami University officials simply are telling prospective visitors: “Do not come to campus if you are sick, are not feeling well or have a fever.”


Chris Burt is an editor and reporter for University Business