Lessons Learned at College Move-in

We moved our youngest child to college on Friday. 

The cocktail of emotions at college move-in leaves parents and students exhausted. Simultaneously feeling proud, worried, excited, sad, concerned, loss, and gain puts everyone on edge. (If you haven’t moved a kid to college yet, be prepared to freak out about the most insignificant thing. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s emotional exhaustion.) 

That’s why I respect the Student Services employees and student workers who have to deal with all these emotionally-charged individuals.

I was also very impressed with how they made move-in into a semi-large university smooth and easy. 

Four things that I noticed that will make me a better leader. 

  • The goal was clear. On the move-in weekend, everyone had a clear goal: “Get every new student into their dorm room WITH their stuff in a timely manner.” This clear goal created the framework for every decision along the way. 
  • The directions were explicit. Before we arrived, we were given a blue card to place on our dash. When we drove onto campus, all the signs for our child’s dorm matched the color of the card. At first, we simply followed the signs, but as we got closer signs gave way to people who provided us with more detailed directions. 
  • The tools were provided. After receiving our keys, they gave us large laundry carts to move her stuff to the dorm. With the huge carts, it only took two trips to unload the car.
  • Help was available. Every time we needed assistance, someone was available to point us in the right direction for recycling, trash, and snacks.


This left me with four basic questions I need to ask myself as a leader:

  1. Is my goal clear? Do others understand it clearly, too?
  2. Am I giving explicit directions?
  3. Am I providing my teammates with the tools they need to succeed?
  4. Do I have enough margin in my schedule to help when needed?


My hunch is if every leader forced themselves to wrestle with these four questions, their leadership level would rise exponentially.


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Director of Content and Product Strategy for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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