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Articles / Campus Life / Do I Have to Clean the Toilet in My College Dorm?
Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Jan. 25, 2017

Do I Have to Clean the Toilet in My College Dorm?

Question: I know that this is a really dumb question, and I'm sorry for taking your time because of it, but I don't know who else to ask. I'm afraid that if I asked it in a college interview, the admissions person would think I was spoiled or lazy but I'm really not. I help out around the house a lot, I always mow the lawn, and I really want to dorm when I start college, but I just can't stand the thought of cleaning someone else's toilet.

Over the Christmas vacation, I was talking to another girl from my high school who is in college now. She mentioned that she cleans the bathroom in her college dorm. Now I can't stop thinking about that and wondering if it's normal for college students to clean bathrooms. I'm worried that it's something I just can't do. Even in my own house, it makes me gag to clean the toilet. I don't mind cleaning the bathtub or the kitchen sink, but I can't bring myself to touch the toilet, even the one that is mainly used by just me. So when I get to college, will I be expected to do this? Does this happen at every college or at most?


This is the second time today that “The Dean" has received a “dumb" question that really isn't dumb at all. College life can seem very confusing and overwhelming to someone who hasn't yet experienced it, and asking questions beforehand—even those that feel silly or awkward—is really a wise way to prepare and not stupid in the least.

Fortunately for you, toilet cleaning is not usually a mandatory part of college life. The typical college freshman lives in a dormitory room with a bathroom on the hallway, and that bathroom is serviced by professional janitorial staff. Sometimes, however, freshmen live in suites (a cluster of two or more rooms sharing one or more bathrooms). Commonly, residents of suites are responsible for bathroom maintenance.

However, the majority of colleges that offer suite-style residences for freshmen will usually offer a more traditional dorm option (with hallway bathrooms) as well. Yet even if you were to live in a suite where residents are expected to clean the latrine, you could probably beg your suite-mates to take over this duty if you take on other unwelcome responsibilities (e.g., laundry, dishwashing) in exchange.

Some students who hold “work-study" jobs as part of their financial aid “package," may have the option of serving on a maintenance crew and could encounter the dreaded toilets, but this situation is both infrequent and avoidable because students—even freshmen–do have some leeway when it comes to selecting a work-study assignment.

However, after your freshman or sophomore year—which is when traditional dorms are most popular—you may be more likely to land in a suite or in an apartment, either on-campus or off-campus. In those situations, you will have to clean your own toilet or cajole your roommates into doing it. (Or you could endure a bathroom that will not thrill your friends–and, especially, your parents!–when they visit.)

Being able to tackle unpleasant but not truly heinous tasks, like toilet scrubbing, can help you to navigate your colleges years and adult life beyond. So it wouldn't be a bad idea if you try to find your comfort zone at the comfort station before you leave home. But, if not, all you need to do is to research housing options at the colleges you're considering and, if traditional dorms are available, you can probably bypass the dreaded commode-cleaning. And don't give up on a top-choice college just because only suite-style living is offered. Instead, just start saving your money so that you can bribe your roomies with pizzas or double lattes when it's your turn to sweeten the potty. 😉

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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