A student’s gotta eat, right? Colleges offer housing and a number of services to its enrolled students, including options for meal plans. What makes meal plans so beneficial is the fact that it allows students to ensure that they have a reliable source of food. Budgeting is challenging as it is and having a meal plan in place helps to ease any additional financial burden.
Incoming freshmen moving into the dorms for the first time undoubtedly have their fair share of learning curves to deal with. Demystifying the meal plan concept for new college students means one less thing to fret about.
What is a Meal Plan?
There are two common types of meal plans that most colleges and universities offer: fixed and debit/credit.
Fixed meal plans typically give students a predetermined number of meals each semester. This requires students to strategically plan how many meals per day on a weekly basis they’ll use. The good thing about fixed meal plans is that in most cases, students can eat in a buffet style manner with each visit.
The debit/credit meal plan arrangement operates by giving a student a fixed amount of credits, which is debited from their account each time they make a food purchase. While this means an unlimited number of visits to the cafeteria and other approved dining facilities, students must be disciplined in order to make sure their account balance doesn’t hit zero early on in the semester.
Some colleges and universities are starting to offer a combination of both types. It is important for students to find out ahead of time which options their school provides.
Where Do Students with a Meal Plan Eat?
While specific dining facilities vary from campus to campus, nearly all schools have a cafeteria or dining hall that’s open to students, which has a variety of food choices. The cafeteria/dining hall is the most common place where students will eat their meals during the semester.
However, many campuses also have partnerships with various outside food vendors, including restaurants. Meal plans that allow for those options means students don’t have to be limited to the dining halls and cafeterias if they want something different.
Are Meal Plans Free?
No. Incoming students opting for meal plans must pay for them. The actual prices vary from school to school so if students want to find out how much they can expect to pay, they’ll want to inquire with the school directly to get those numbers.
Are There Special Diet Meal Plans Available?
Because of the growing number of people with food allergies and dietary restrictions, more schools are expanding the types of meal plans available. In addition to vegetarian and vegan options, some colleges also provide other alternatives, such as gluten-free meal plans.
Students need to pick their meal plans wisely because they’ll be stuck with that choice for an entire semester. The best place to start in selecting a plan is to examine eating habits and preferences and see which meal plan best matches up.