For incoming college students, college move-in is right around the corner! Something new that a lot of incoming college students will experience is living in the dorms and sharing a bathroom with roommates and potentially 30 to 40 strangers!
When living in the dorms, there are a few different popular styles of bathrooms: traditional, suite, and apartment. The traditional-style bathroom is where 30 to 40 students are living on a floor and everyone shares a communal bathroom that is located on the floor. The suite and apartment-style options are similar where there will be three to five students (and sometimes more) sharing their own private bathroom. The suite and apartment-style bathrooms have a lot more privacy than the traditional-style bathrooms. It depends on the college and the bathroom-style, but most colleges will have custodial staff cleaning the dorm bathrooms periodically.
Living in the dorms at UC Berkeley all four years of college, here are some of my tips on how to survive communal bathrooms:
1. Bathroom layout: In the traditional-style bathrooms, you would have a handful of showers and toilets in a row with separate stalls. There will also be a row of sinks for students to use when washing their hands or getting ready for bed. This layout is probably very similar to the bathrooms you had in high school, but now there will be more stalls in the restroom as all of the students on the floor would be using the same facility.
In the suite and apartment-style bathrooms, these will be more similar to the bathrooms at your house - with a toilet, sink, and shower with one door that locks. If you are sharing the suite or apartment with more students, then you may have a separate stall for the toilet and shower so that numerous students could be using the bathroom at once rather than waiting in line.
2. Buy Shower Shoes: This is a must-have for college! In these communal bathrooms, even if they are periodically cleaned, you should not be walking in the bathroom barefoot or with socks. Purchase some shower shoes, like slides or flip flops, that you can easily put on when you leave your room to use the bathroom. This may be new as you might not be used to wearing flip flops in the shower, but wearing shoes in the bathroom can prevent fungus or other diseases. Plus, you don’t want to walk barefoot into the bathroom and then you go back to your room and hop into your bed - gross!
3. Shower Caddy and Locker Lock: Two other things to buy when dorm shopping would be a shower caddy and locker lock. For the shower caddy, a mesh shower caddy is better than a plastic one as the mesh caddies are more flexible, can be stored away in smaller spaces, and dry out quicker if they get wet. A shower caddy is useful if you need to transport all of your bathroom materials, rather than carrying everything in your hands, you would put everything into the caddy to carry. This makes carrying all of your bathroom essentials easier!
At some colleges, they may also provide little lockers in the bathroom for you to store all of your bathroom items. If this is the case, then having a shower caddy is still useful so you can transport your items from the lockers to the shower or sink. If these lockers do not come with a lock, then you will need to purchase a locker lock. Keeping your items secured will help to prevent theft or others touching your belongings.
4. String Bag: Last on this short list of items to buy for the college dorm bathrooms would be a string bag. I used a string bag to store my dirty clothes after I showered. If you didn’t have a bag, then you would be carrying your dirty clothes and underwear down the hall back to your room in your hands, which then you may accidentally drop your items! Having a string bag makes it easier to carry your clothes and other items back and forth.
5. Change in the Shower Stall or Room: When you go to college and start using the dorm bathrooms, something to think about would be whether you are going to change into new clothes in the shower stall after your shower or go back to your room and change. In my experience, the shower stalls are really small and after your shower, everything is wet, so it is uncomfortable to change into new, dry clothes directly after showering. Especially if there are lines for the shower, then you won’t have a lot of time to fully dry off in the shower stall before putting on your new clothes. Because of that, after my showers, I would wrap my towel around myself and walk back to my room to dry off and change. This was a lot more comfortable for me because I could fully dry off and had a lot of more space in my room to change versus the small shower stall.
With this, you can see what a majority of other students are doing on your floor. After the first few weeks when everyone becomes comfortable, a bunch of students usually walk around in their towels and everyone minds their own business.
6. Find the Best Shower: A trick in the dorm bathroom is to test out all of the showers in order to find the best shower possible. In my experience in the dorms, I always found one shower that was way better than the rest of them in the row in terms of shower pressure and water temperature. I would usually wait for my favorite shower to open up in order to use it because the other showers could not compare. You can test out all of the showers your first few weeks of school to see which shower you like the best!
7. Don’t Forget Your Room Key: In many dorms, if you leave your room, your room will auto-lock. When going to the bathroom, you never want to forget your room key because then you will be locked out of your room when you come back. This is especially awkward if you are locked out after your shower and then need to go all the way to the front desk in a towel to get a spare key. Very awkward! I always made sure I had my room keys on me. When going to the shower, I would throw my room keys into my string bag so I would have them.
8. Know when Custodial Staff is Cleaning the Bathrooms: This is something handy to know so you can plan your bathroom times around when the bathrooms are open. When the custodial staff is cleaning the bathroom, they usually close down the entire bathroom in order to make cleaning easier. For example, if the custodial staff cleans the bathrooms in the morning, then maybe you have to wake up earlier to use your floor bathroom or potentially shower in the evenings. If you wanted to use the bathroom when the custodial staff is cleaning, then you would have to go up a floor or down a floor in your dorm to use another floor’s bathroom.
Remember to talk to and thank your custodial staff! They are the nicest people and it is so sad to see when students disrespect them.
9. Don’t do Gross Things in the Shower: Please do not pee, poop, or relieve any other bodily functions in the shower. Doing this makes the custodial staff’s jobs infinitely harder. It is your responsibility to respect your dorm bathroom space, so please clean up after yourselves and do not do gross things in the shower.
If you’re currently doing dorm shopping, definitely check out two of my other blogs:
Also check out Sarah’s blog about pros and cons of living in the dorms: www.shcollegeconsulting.com/our-advice-blog/living-in-the-on-campus-dorms-pros-and-cons
If you’re interested in learning more about what dorm-life is like and surviving communal bathrooms in college, schedule a College and Career Coaching call with me!
Rachel is the Founder of Study Hall College Consulting. Rachel graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2020 where she double majored in Cognitive Science and Legal Studies. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.