Meal Plans: Do You Need Them?

College Beginner Purchases

The process of entering a college or university can be somewhat haphazard and require you to make many decisions on a whim. Before moving in to your new dormitory you will have to decide if you wish to choose a roommate with whom to live or be assigned one by your college. You need to choose your wardrobe as you begin the transition to life and education with new peers. You have to enter a store and purchase a variety of school supplies including some major purchases like a computer. One other thing to decide is the need for a meal plan.

What are Meal Plans?

A meal plan is a package of meals that can be purchased from your college or university which allows you to partake in the food available at your college or university's cafeterias. These are generally sold in certain blocks of food for different rates depending on the amount of meals purchased. They are usually bought on a per semester basis, and if you run out of meals during a semester you can purchase additional meals.

Benefits of Having a Meal Plan

A meal plan allows you to be able to eat conveniently during your time in college or university. Whenever you have a desire for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you can head over to the cafeteria which is sure to be close to you and grab a bite to eat. You do not have to worry about having enough money to get a decent meal since you paid up front for the meal plan and can eat whenever you want.

Downsides of Having a Meal Plan

The problems of having a meal plan are generally financially related. It is difficult to choose the amount of meals you need. This is because choosing too many meals mean you will overpay for meals you did not use. On the opposite end of the spectrum, choosing a meal plan that does not provide enough meals will make you wind up overpaying as purchasing additional meals will cost more on a per meal basis. The other problem that stems from purchasing a meal plan is that they generally cost a significant amount of money. For example, the per-meal price of meal plans at Rutgers University ranges from $8 to $14. You can eat for much cheaper than this by preparing your own food or eating out at different places.

Should You Get One?

The question of purchasing a meal plan can be answered based on certain factors. First of all, many colleges and universities require you to have a meal plan in your freshman year or if you live in some dormitories. If you are not required to have one, then you need to take account of your financial aid. If you are receiving enough financial aid to cover the meal plan, then you should take it. This is because it is convenient and will be reimbursed through financial aid. If you must pay out of pocket for it, you may want to think twice regarding purchasing a meal plan.


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