Avoid the Standard Meal Plan at College

Unless you are an athlete that must eat copious amounts of food to maintain weight, muscle, and stamina, the standard meal plan is not advisable.

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Most schools will offer a variety of meal plans involving set number of meals and money. Those with a high number of meals (say 15) and low money (say $100) are not advisable for most people. If possible I would recommend a card with only money and no meals. The money can be spent towards meals, but can also be used at other on-campus dining venues.

Meals typically only come from dining halls. Thus, those with high meals per week can only eat at select locations, from food that is often the same every day. If you like variety or are a picky eater this type of meal plan is not for you. It is also a poor use of money for light eaters.

By Brandi M. Seals

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May 13, 20060 found this helpful

I can't agree with this comment. We found the meal plan for our daughter to be most economical at her college (UNL). She has had a 7 day a week plan that allows her to eat everyday for much less than if she had to buy food and cook it herself, or eat out!

Check with your school, and of course, each situation is different, but when weather is bad, and snowing, it sure has been nice for her to just go to the dining hall in her building and eat. There is always a good variety of foods, not the same everyday as you have said. Some days are better than others, of course, but this has worked out well for our family and our student.

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May 15, 20060 found this helpful

Previous comment apparently did not understand the tip I provided. I did not advocate eating out or buying food to prepare. I stated that many colleges offer a debit meal plan - in which they receive a set dollar amount to spend on food prepared and available on campus - as well as shop at the college's convenience stores.

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May 17, 20060 found this helpful

I would strongly recommend that students go with the meal plan for the first semester, at least until they know what they need! Most schools have excellent facilities for accomodating picky eaters and those on special diets. AFter the first semester, you can make adjustments. I have seen kids run out of the money on their cards (buying a la carte) very early in the semester! They can be "recharged"; but there go any percieved savings!

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