What I Like & Don't Like About My College Meal Plan
|By Nell Jones - daughter, writer,
Lots of changes happen when you go to college, most importantly, meals. Mom and Dad's fresh, handcrafted home-cooked meals get replaced by a meal plan.
This meal plan, at least for me, consisted of swipes and points that, in combination, got me every breakfast, lunch, and dinner at an on-campus dining spot. While having easy access to food in college with so much going on is helpful, there are some cons to the sometimes-unexciting meal plan.
Pros of a College Meal Plan
First off, the pros. A meal plan is great for easy meals without worrying about allotting the money. Every morning and evening you can just swipe your card without having to worry if you have enough money to cover the meal.
Similarly, since the “points” are put on the card each semester, you have an excuse to use them all so they don’t go to waste. So, go ahead and splurge on that poke bowl!
That’s the great thing about meal plans; it is paid for in a bundle so each individual meal does not seem so costly anymore. Unless of course you get into the habit of drinking coffee every morning and by the end of the semester have to start reloading those food points (at an additional cost, of course).
Another pro when it comes to meal plans, at least my freshmen one, is that a card swipe at breakfast and dinner at my dining hall get you access to unlimited buffets. As small, growing freshmen, this is a major bonus.
Before you know it, you will have spent hours in the dining hall going back and forth for food with your friends instead of in the library. It’s crazy how that works.
Cons of a College Meal Plan
This excitement for unlimited food does not last long however. As much as I love the stir-fry station and the various pizza, pasta, and French fry options, they soon get boring.
When it does get boring and you want to start trying food from the vast number of restaurants in town, it comes with a side of guilt and wasted money. While it is nice to have all your meals prepaid for, it also forces you to eat what seems like the same meal every day.
When you go to a school in a town that is known for its food options, it becomes a struggle. For me, I treated myself to eat out on weekends with my friends but by the end of the year, I especially found myself justifying my fine dining on weekdays because I just could not go for the same combination of chicken, rice, and peas another night. And this is with school dining that is top ranked in the country.
The meal plan, including swipes, is great when you need a quick and easy meal throughout the week, even if these meals do start to repeat themselves. I loved the fact that a personalized omelet became a staple for me in the mornings, and I definitely miss that privilege now that I am home and in charge of making my own breakfasts.
There is also no responsibility in a dining hall to prepare or clean up after your meals, taking all the chores away from us students. That said, there is no “requesting your favorite risotto dish” from your mom on a day when you really need it.
That is why when you are having that post midterm study craving, you look towards the local Italian restaurant instead of the dining hall, creating a sense of guilt from a meal wasted. There may be no solution other than enjoying the free seconds, thirds, and fourths you are able to get until the next year when you are no longer a freshman, and therefore no longer get your swipes.