How To: Choose the Right College Meal Plan
After all the paperwork you’ve trucked through, like your application and financial aid, you’ve probably got one last little bit of the registration process to take care of: figuring out your college cafeteria meal plan! My College Guide has hints and tips to help you figure out the best option for you.
The College Cafeteria Meal Plan
Cafeteria meal plans are covered by your tuition – but you need to decide how much you want to tack onto your total college tuition bill!
You’ve got a lot on your plate right now (pun intended). Some schools don’t give college freshmen a choice about their meal plan. This means you will usually receive three meals a day each weekday and at least two meals on the weekends. But for others, you’ll have to decide! When you look at all that your school has to offer, how do you make the right college meal plan choice?
Make a List
Okay, so you don’t have to be all formal about it and physically make a list, but it helps to think about your eating habits. Do you always eat breakfast? Is your first class scheduled at 8 AM but you aren’t exactly get up and go in the morning?
You should also consider your extracurricular activities. If you are involved in track and know that you will meet and train most mornings each week, will you be able to fit in a long walk to the college cafeteria or will you need to chow down in your dorm room?
In many cases, new college students just aren’t going to use the largest meal plan around. There’s all sorts of other commitments that can get in the way of on-campus meals, like involvement with college extracurricular activities, clubs, organizations, and eating out with friends.
Fixed or Flexible
Some colleges have a meal plan where you purchase so many meals each week for the whole year. You can enter the college cafeteria for dinner only so many times but each time you can eat as much as you want (just beware the Freshman 15!).
At other schools, you will be charged for the items you pick out. It’s a declining balance system much like a debit card — you will present your pass or your I.D. card, whatever your college uses, and that amount will be deducted from your balance for the year. In this case, you will need to make sure you don’t zip through your balance too fast so pay attention to the start and end dates of your college meal plan! Bonus: you are often allowed to treat your family or visiting friends with the declining balance system, just make sure you aren’t too nice about it!
If you are lactose-intolerant or have a different diet for other reasons, you should have already made sure that there is something at the college cafeteria for you! Some schools will really work with you but you may also be charged more, too. It’s something to consider and remember as you budget out your first year of college.
Remember, you won’t always eat at the college cafeteria. You’ll go out with friends, on a date, or get free food for involvement in on-campus activities and organizations.