Pros and Cons of The Required Meal Plan


During my past few years at Conn, I have consistently heard complaints about the required meal plan that all students have to purchase every semester. However, many feel as though it is ultimately beneficial to the students. As a result, there is a continued debate on campus about whether or not the meal plan needs to change. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of the required meal plan!

The Pros

You don’t have to worry about buying groceries.

Paying for a meal plan allows students to not have to worry about having enough cash on them to get through the semester. Students don’t have to think about about the fluctuating costs of groceries, or how to get to the store to buy food. Once your meal plan is paid for, you are all set for the upcoming semester, and you can enjoy a variety of foods that are consistently prepared for you.

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You don’t have to spend time cooking your own food for every meal.

If you don’t enjoy cooking, or never learned how to, a meal plan will provide you with all of your food pre-prepared for you. For athletes or others who are especially busy, or those that are just running late, having the option of running to the dining hall to quickly grab food is a huge time-saver.

“A meal plan for a collegiate athlete, like myself, is absolutely essential. Between team meetings, morning lifts, afternoon practices, and of course class, homework, and studying, there is not nearly enough time in the day to plan meals, cook, and do dishes. This would leave an athlete without a meal plan to likely opt for fast food or something quick (probably not adequate nutrition), thus eventually hindering his or her performance.”

-Anonymous Connecticut College student athlete

With only one swipe, you can eat as much as you want.

Even though students complain that the meal plan is overly expensive, the food is served buffet-style, and one swipe allows you to eat as much as you can while you are there. If you are an athlete or just have a big appetite, this may be extremely beneficial to you. Also, you are welcome to stay as long as you like– so break out the homework, and when you’re hungry again, go back for more.

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You receive several benefits when you purchase a meal plan.

Along with the meal plan comes several benefits. The specialty dining halls offer vegetarian food, and there are themed meals such as burrito night, stir-fry night, and Soup and Bread. Not only does your meal plan give you access to Harris, Smith, JA, Knowlton, and Freeman, but you receive $45 per semester to spend in Oasis Snack Shop. You will also receive free guest swipes each semester, allowing visitors to eat with you for free.

The Cons

You are limited to the food being served.

When you pay for a meal plan, you don’t necessarily get the benefit of choosing what is being served to you. Sure, there are options, but you do not have the guarantee that you will like or be able to eat the food provided, especially if you have dietary restrictions. An anonymous student claims, “I don’t like the food choices in the dining hall at all. I have a hard time eating well-balanced meals that I actually enjoy when I eat in the dining halls.” If you are a picky eater or have a medical restriction, a college meal plan may leave you dissatisfied and hungry.

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Conn does not offer a reduced meal plan, unless you live in alternative housing.

If you do enjoy cooking, Conn’s required meal plan does not allow you the flexibility to prepare your own meals. Even if you are lucky enough to live in housing that has a kitchen, you are still not allowed to fully opt-out of the meal plan– the minimum number of swipes is 100 per semester, or 7 about meals per week.

You are paying for more food than you actually eat.

Although being able to eat as much as you want can be a good thing, depending upon your appetite, it does not necessarily mean that you are getting your money’s worth. According to collegefactual.com, the  2014-2015 annual meal plan cost $5,565. Assuming you are on campus for about 8 months of the year, and you eat 21 meals per week, that averages out to be about $7.50 per meal.

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You can only eat when the dining hall is open.

Even though students have the option of going to several different dining halls, meal times are limited by dining hall hours. Harris is the only dining hall open on the weekends. Smith is only open for breakfast and lunch Monday-Thursday, although it is one of the most popular dining halls. And lastly, all dining halls close at 7 PM, except Harris, which closes at 8: students who are hungry later than that have to fend for themselves.

“My only issue with the dining hall hours is that Harris isn’t open late enough. I personally prefer to eat dinner on the later side, and often find myself feeling rushed to get there by 8.”

– Anonymous Connecticut College student

Regardless of whether or not Conn’s meal plan is beneficial, students do not have the ability to see what it would be like to live on campus without one.

Do you have a strong opinion about the pros and cons of the required meal plan and dining options that Conn provides? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below! 

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