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How to Easily Ship Items to College Dorms

Updated Jan 24, 2024

Navigating the world of shipping items to a college dorm or a residence hall isn’t difficult if you follow a few key guidelines. Here’s a primer for how to ship to dorm rooms as well as tips for both sending and receiving packages on a college campus.

The State of the Campus Mail Room

Package Overload

COVID not only sent students back home but also introduced to them the ease and convenience of online shopping. By the time students returned to campus, the preference became a habit. Instead of “schlepping” boxes, students quickly learned that everything from a mattress to a dresser can be easily ordered and shipped directly to their college dorm room. And with Amazon offering a free 6-month trial of its Prime shopping with free shipping to first-year students, the growth of dorm room deliveries is exploding.

Outdated Mailrooms

Whereas college dorm mailrooms were typically designed for a mix of 70% mail and 30% packages, today, it is the reverse. Most traditional student mail service and campus mail service centers were created before the meteoric rise of e-commerce. As a result, they were intended to handle the odd package but the university mail center was predominantly meant for letters and other items from the United States Postal Service (and other major couriers) that could be sorted into the student’s personal mailbox. This meant students weren’t alerted by their campus mail service when they recieved a mail delivery, they simply swung by their mailbox or the mail room occasionally to see if any mail had arrived.

Now, most universities have adapted to provide some kind of package delivery option for students and their loved ones who are shipping to college dorms. Institutions can offer campus mail pick-up, student mail service centers within university housing, or some combination of the two (depending on the size of the campus).

Sending Packages

Get the Label Right

Details matter when it comes to learning how to ship to dorm rooms. One typo or missing piece of information on a shipping label can translate into your package going awry. Ask your recipient for their specific residence hall address and any other details that must be on the label to ensure it safely reaches their college dorm. Some colleges, for example, direct all parcels to a central mail room while others allow for direct delivery.

A typical address label for a package sent to a college student should look like this:

Ms. Jane Wonderful
22 University Avenue
The University of Maryland, Terrapin Hall Dormitory #101
College Park, MD 20742

Try not to ship your package just as the semester begins, as dorm rooms often change before the official start of the term. Also, remember that most university mail rooms will not hold mail for students who haven’t moved in yet.

Know the College Shipping Rules

Colleges are a maze of different rules and regulations about what can and can’t be shipped. A typical restriction at college dorms, for example, is perishable food. Prescriptions also are troublesome, especially if they require refrigeration. Be sure to check online for the institution’s “dos and don’ts” during the packing process and/or before you ship.

Shipping Laptops Requires Extra TLC – Tender Labeling Care

Wondering how to safely ship a laptop? Shipping laptops require extra care. The most important item to note is that they contain lithium-ion batteries. Since lithium batteries are classified as dangerous goods due to their chemistries, cathodes, and electrolytes, the outside package must clearly indicate their presence. Wondering what’s the big issue with lithium-ion batteries? The crucial issue is that damaged batteries can become an electrical and chemical hazard causing burns, shock, and extreme heat.

The IATA (International Air Transport Association) requires shipping packages containing lithium-ion batteries to have durable labels applied to display the correct information and warnings to ensure safety of any individuals handling the package in transit1. These labels must meet be printed on synthetic materials that are tear and scratch-resistant and have a resilient adhesive necessary for various climate conditions and environments. (Whew!) Plus, you should label your package as “fragile.”

Receiving Packages

Understanding Where Packages are Delivered

Not surprisingly, college students receive a ton of packages –including those from loved ones and online retailers. In fact, 91% of college students made an online purchase within the past year2. Where to retrieve packages once they arrive on-campus is the tricky part of the equation. Most colleges have central mail rooms, but others allow for delivery directly to the dorm. Regardless of where the package is received, it’s important to pick it up as soon as possible as mail and package storage areas are notoriously short on space.

The Joy of Using Smart Lockers

In 2019, less than 10% of college campuses with more than 2,000 students employed smart lockers3. Two years later, the numbers are climbing rapidly. An electronic locker solution can simplify the package retrieval process for mail services staff while also boosting safety, security, and peace of mind for college students receiving packages at their college dorm.

Smart lockers typically allow recipients to retrieve their parcels 24/7 without standing in line or waiting for assistance from mail services staff. The student is automatically registered to use the parcel locker system in advance of their move-in date. Then, when a package arrives, the student is automatically alerted that they have a parcel.

The smart parcel locker system sends the recipient a unique access code and/or a barcode to their smartphone, allowing for easy and safe package pick-up without ever touching a keypad. In fact, it typically takes less than 10 seconds to retrieve a parcel with no signature required!

A key benefit with smart lockers is package visibility and accountability. Parcels are scanned and the mail room administrator knows exactly when a parcel has been put into the locker and when it was retrieved.

For more higher education insights, check out our blogs on IoT applications in university settings and how IoT is influencing smart campuses.

Here’s to safe shipping!

Parcel Pending by Quadient is the leading provider of package management solutions for residential, retail, commercial, and university properties. Parcel Pending by Quadient’s state-of-the-art solutions and world-class customer service support more than 3 million users worldwide, helping our customers deliver a safe, secure, and accessible parcel delivery experience.

Are you a Parcel Pending user looking for additional support? Visit: parcelpending.com/faqs/



  1. “Your Durable Label Applications.” Smith Corona, n.d. https://www.smithcorona.com/blog/durable-label-applications/.
  2. Deborah H. Lester, Andrew M. Forman & Dolly Loyd. “Internet Shopping and Buying Behavior of College Students.” Services Marketing Quarterly, 27:2 (2005), 123-138. 10.1300/J396v27n02_08
  3. O’Brien, Christopher. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Intelligent Parcel Lockers Streamline the Campus Mailroom”. Spaces4Learning, February 6, 2020. https://spaces4learning.com/articles/2020/02/06/campus-mailroom-lockers.aspx.