As high school’s end inches closer and closer, the stress of finding the perfect college threatens us. This past summer, like many other students, I went to tour colleges to find “the one”. As I started to rank colleges based on personal preferences, I assumed that the ones I liked had a “good vibe,” but realistically, I made my list of preferred colleges based on food. As a self-proclaimed professional foodie, I am well qualified to give guidance on how to examine colleges from your taste buds.
As I stepped onto the beautiful school, the first thing that struck my eye was the fact that they had an ATM machine specifically for cupcakes!
Students typically forget to factor in food when making decisions about where they are going to spend the next 3-4 years of their life. But why wouldn’t people think deeply about this? Food is something you should be consuming every day so how could someone possibly survive in a place for a few years devouring sub-par meals? It truly impacts your mood, behavior, and ability to study.
The key factors to understand when examining food are general taste, affordability, and of course, aesthetics. Most universities consist of both a dining hall and other available foods on campus. Typically, living in bigger cities allow for a larger variety of off-campus foods; however, many universities scattered around the United States have great on-campus meals.
“I already really liked the school but after I saw the chocolate fountain that honestly convinced me to want to go there!” – Julia Fallows
Based on a combination of visiting several universities and research, here is my list of the top 5 universities in the U.S…based on food:
1) University of Southern California
USC, although located in a rather skeptical location of Los Angeles, have outdone themselves by including everything, and I mean everything on campus. As I stepped onto the beautiful school, the first thing that struck my eye was the fact that they had an ATM machine specifically for cupcakes! Apart from that, they also have a “hipster cafe” and bubble tea in the surrounding area (which most SAS students seem to value highly), as well as a Chipotle, Carl’s Jr, Baskin Robbins, Korean BBQ, Fro-yo, and so much more.
General Taste: 4/5. With the large variety of restaurants and different types of food in the dining hall, it is certain that you will be able to find something you enjoy eating. Compared to several other universities, many people consider the food in the dining hall good, but not fantastic.
Affordability: 4/5. There is a large range of restaurants and cafes on campus with a variety of price points; however, for eating at the dining hall, a meal plan would cost between $2,850-3,450 per semester. This meets the $3,000 average price of meals in universities scattered along the US.
Aesthetics: 5/5. As beautiful as the whole campus already is, the way the different restaurants and cafe look to match perfectly, most of the foods on campus have a mouth-watering appeal to it.
Overall Score: 4.6/5
2) University of California, Los Angeles
UCLA seems to be almost everyone’s dream school and from all the delicious food they provide, I can definitely see why. Located in the Westwood region of Los Angeles, not too far from Santa Monica, their location definitely has an advantage in making many great food options easily accessible off campus. However, you definitely do not need to leave the campus to satisfy your cravings.
General Taste: 5/5. In one of their most popular dining locations, you can find bubble tea, Mexican food, vegan food, and several other foods to meet your needs. Niche has given UCLA the ranking of having the best college food in America.
Affordability: 3/5. After several long hours of searching the costs of meal plans there were no clear prices that have been published by UCLA, however, based on some research it did not seem all too cheap. Most of the different food vendors seem to be of high quality which probably explains the fact of why food isn’t too affordable at UCLA and based off personal experience I can tell you that yes the food tastes great but thinking from a perspective of a broke college student, you probably won’t be to content.
Aesthetics: 4/5. The aesthetics really varies based off of where you go to eat, but if you are looking for food to post on your Instagram there are a few options.
Overall Score: 4/5
3) Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech is considered to be one of the best public schools in the United States and also is one of the best places for good on-campus food. The dining hall contains a bakery, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, and other relatively ordinary food. There isn’t anything too unique about the food they serve, but it does appear to have high-quality meals on an everyday basis.
General Taste: 4/5. Although I have not personally tasted the food at VT, based on looking at hundreds upon hundreds of photos my eyes are telling me that the food seems to be appetizing.
Affordability: 5/5. The meal plan ranges from $1,805-2,070, which is quite a bit lower than the average $3,000 per semester. Considering that they have a large variety of meals this seems like a great value for money.
Aesthetics: 2/5. The food does look tasty and seems to have high quality, however, it does not quite have the whole “Instagram worthy” look to it.
Overall Score: 3.7/5
4) University of Massachusetts – Amherst
Princeton Review has claimed that UMASS – Amherst has the best campus food. To make sure their claims were reliable, I double checked on the handy-dandy source of Niche which gave them a solid A+. Most of their foods are locally produced which ensures freshness and utmost quality, they even have many options open for midnight cravings (useful for those horrible times of stress eating at all the wrong times.)
General Taste: 4/5. UMASS Amherst does not have access to the typical fast food places. However, they do have a variety of restaurants nearby that have good rankings and low prices.
Affordability: 4/5. The price of the cheapest meal plan is $2,779 which is slightly below the average cost and the most expensive meal plan is $3,269.
Aesthetics: 2/5. The same situation as VT: the food looks tasty but still not quite worthy of sharing on social media.
Overall Score: 3.3/5
5) Cornell University
Cornell is one of the most well-known universities as it is a highly prestigious university and is one of the most expensive places to attend college it should have some mouth-watering meals. Princeton Review gives Cornell a high ranking for their campus foods which are unsurprising considering they are located in New York, and New York is known to have great food.
General Taste: 3/5. Much of the food is made by award-winning chefs which must mean they have delicious food; however, a major downside is that many students say that most individual locations on campus do not have many options so it might be difficult to find what you are looking for.
Affordability: 4/5. The meal plans range between $2,380-3,462, hitting right around the average cost of a meal plan in the United States.
Aesthetics: 3/5. The food definitely appetizing; however, it isn’t quite hitting the “wow factor” when it comes to the art of food.
Overall Score: 3.3/5
Overall, many people do not seem to fully value the importance of having good food when viewing different colleges. According to my survey, at SAS the factors that people consider the most are: rankings/acceptance rates, campus appearance, and majors/minors offered. However, some food addicts like me have shared similar views about how after seeing the food on campus it completely shapes their thoughts towards the university.\
A fellow junior, Julia Fallows, said: “This summer I was taking a tour at Dalhousie University, and I already really liked the school but after I saw the chocolate fountain that honestly convinced me to want to go there!”
So many people are not aware how much food impacts their mood but I can assure you that once you arrive on campus, an absence of delicious food will completely impact, and possibly even kill your mood.