As international students prepare to head to college inside the US, one of the decisions they will have to make is whether or not to enroll in a school meal plan. It’s not as simple as deciding how much you’d like to eat! Choosing a meal plan at your school will depend on a lot of different factors.
What Are Meal Plans?
A school meal plan can come in two basic forms: a plan that will allot a certain amount of meals and a plan that will allot a certain amount of money. A meal plan at your school with limited meals has the advantage of being cheaper, but is usually limited to your school’s cafeteria-style offerings and not specialty restaurants (including fast-food locations on campus). Meal plans that charge money from an account can generally be used at any restaurant on campus (and sometimes even at on-campus stores and off-campus restaurants), but you will need to keep close track of your budget so you don’t run out and wind up paying for food out of pocket!
When do I Need a Meal Plan?
Getting a meal plan at your school is almost always a good choice if you fit a certain few criteria. First, a school meal plan will be most useful if you live on or very near campus, allowing you to make it to participating cafeterias/restaurants regularly and get the full benefit of your school’s meal plan. Second, look at the lifestyle you’ll be living in the coming school year. Will you be in a tiny dorm room with just a microwave and mini-fridge? Will you be so busy that cooking your own food is out of the question? If getting a meal plan at your school would positively complement your lifestyle for the semester it can be a great option.
When Don’t I Need a Meal Plan?
If you have specific dietary restrictions, contact your school to find out if any of their participating options available are acceptable to you. Many larger schools will work to accommodate a variety of dietary choices, but if you don’t think you would be happy with what your school offers then skip the meal plan and prepare your own meals. Also, if you’re far away from campus and unable to fully benefit from a meal plan or if you would simply rather prepare your own food, a meal plan certainly isn’t a necessity!
A school meal plan can be a great way to make life easier and to manage your budget. Look into what your school offers and get ready to eat!