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Making Move-Ins Memorable: 6 Expert Tips

College Students Studying in Library

By Summer Palma

It's that time of year: a fresh flock of students spreading their wings and heading off to their new digs at school. Move-in day is a critical opportunity to connect with residents and their parents.

I still clearly remember the day (it couldn't be 20 years ago, could it?) that I moved into my first off-campus apartment, a lovely four-bedroom in Rams Village near Colorado State University. It was such an exciting time for me and my roommates, not yet realizing the real struggles ahead, such as who will be responsible for buying toilet paper.

Many students leaving home to attend school will be living on their own for the first time, and priority number one (whether or not they realize it) will be to immediately seek out a community to feel a sense of belonging. As a student housing manager, how can we better connect with residents and parents throughout the leasing lifecycle? According to Kim Cory, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for EdR Collegiate Housing, it all starts by making move-in day a positive, memorable experience.

"Think of move-in day like your wedding day: The rehearsal, the ceremony and the reception," Cory says. During a June 28 Webinar, "Preparing for Move-In Day Mania," she emphasized the importance of involving parents, over-communicating expectations, personalizing the move-in experience and making it fun.

If you need some inspiration for making a great first impression, keep reading. I'm spilling six of Kim's expert tips here.

The Rehearsal: Planning and Preparation

Tip 1: Utilize Online Leasing

According to Cory, one technology that has revolutionized the student housing sector during the past several years is online leasing. EdR relies heavily on this to expedite leasing and renewals. Students apply to floorplans, pick lease terms and payment options based on the school semester or quarter, qualify separately from their guarantors and immediately execute the lease via electronic signature. That way, when they walk in on move-in day, all that's left to do is grab their keys.

And for students who walk in that haven't pre-leased, staff can quickly see what's still available and electronically execute the lease documents.

Tip 2: Communicate Via Mail and Email

Don't be afraid to over-communicate. Start communicating with students and parents well before move-in day. Some ideas beyond the standard welcome letter include:

  • A "Save the date." Get them excited about move-in day coming soon.
  • "Things to know before move in day," with reminders and information about what the experience will be like.
  • "Don't forget" information. For example, renter's insurance is due by move in!

The Ceremony: The Big Day

Tip 3: Have Big, Bold Signage

Again, don't be afraid to over-communicate, and that certainly extends to written directions and signage. For example:

  • Have "help" signage that assists residents in navigating to check-ins and various stations.
  • Have staff wear fun, matching shirts. Go with something unique that shows you're a united team, you're here to have fun and you're here to help them.
  • Make them feel excited and confident that they made the right choice to live at your community by displaying big posters that include lifestyle photos.

Tip 4: Personalize the Move-in Experience

Personalization isn't just for sneakers and junk mail, it can truly assist new students (and their parents) in feeling at home, such as:

  • Give branded move-in gifts for both parents and students. For instance, maybe a cleaning kit for parents and a kitchen utensil set for students.
  • Set a "memory jar" out asking something like "What are you most excited about this year living at [Community Name]?" Ask if they are comfortable sharing their favorite memory on social media.

The Reception: Where the Fun Happens

Tip 5: Appoint Welcome Ambassadors

Make your residents feel at home! Publicize a "Welcome Week" where you have something planned each day to get them excited about what's in store while living at your community.

Send your troops out as welcome ambassadors, knocking on doors with beverages and goodies. Checking in with new residents to see how they're doing and if they need help with anything not only helps solve immediate challenges, but also clues them in about who to go if questions arise in the future.

Tip 6: Make It Social

Your newest residents have been raised on a steady diet of social media and messaging apps. There are many ways to leverage this fact, including:

  • Hold social media contests that engage residents. Encourage them to tag you in their move in day picture using your designated hashtag.
  • Have "selfie stations" around your community, such as the pool and fitness center. You might even give out selfie sticks as swag during move-in.

Summer Palma is Online Marketing Manager at in San Francisco. Get the full set of Cory's tips in the webinar "Preparing for Move-In Day Mania." It's one of four topics in the Student Housing Essentials Series via NAAEI, Multifamily Insiders, and the Apartment All Stars.