Living in an apartment AND going to school where healthy options aren't even an option are pretty tough.
The biggest fear almost every student faces when they first start college is the infamous "freshman 15:" a myth that you eat everything in sight as a freshman and gain a ton of weight.
Well, I wouldn't consider this a total myth, because you do want to eat everything in sight. You end up learning the hard way and force yourself to use your campus gym. See, as a freshman, you have a meal plan that allows you to eat as many meals as you can per semester and not have to worry about starving because the meals are already paid for by your parents.
But here's the thing: the food options at the dining halls are extremely unhealthy. Don't get me wrong, they taste AMAZING, but that's why we lived up to the "freshman 15" myth. At my school, for example, we have tons of good food such as pizza, sushi, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Chick-Fil-A, Chinese, Starbucks, and other food court places that are home to fast food. It's all good, but after a while, you get tired of eating fast food.
What makes it worse is that there is only a small portion of HEALTHY options to choose from. We have a small vegan section and salads that are way too expensive for students. This forces students to choose eating out and spending their own money.
But this article isn't a complaint or a cry for help. I'm fine with the food choices. But as you move up in grade levels in college, the choices of eating get more difficult.
As an upperclassman, I am living in an on-campus apartment with three other roommates. We are all juniors with a limited meal plan. In freshman and sophomore year, we had a full meal plan. But when you become a junior or senior, tuition becomes more expensive and increases every year. On top of that, living in an apartment that's ON-CAMPUS adds an extra charge.
I know you're probably thinking, "Why didn't you just choose to live off-campus instead?" Well, I like living on-campus because I am close to everything, and finding a parking spot on campus is like the Hunger Games. I didn't want to pay all of that money to not have a guaranteed spot.
Even though we all chose to live on-campus, that doesn't mean everything gets easier. When I said we had limited meal plans, I meant that we didn't have the full meal plan freshmen and sophomores have. For instance, most upperclassmen get a "block-plan," which gives you only a certain amount of meals per semester, which is way less than what freshmen and sophomores get.
We could get the full meal plan, but that would be way too expensive and a strain on our families (believe me; tuition at my university is NOT cheap). This forces us to be adults and start buying our own groceries in order to get by. Yes, that means we have to cook our own food.
When I said that choosing my college was easy but choosing what's for dinner is not, I meant it.
I love the school I attend, but it's so hard to decide what I want to eat on campus due to my limited meal plan. I only have so many meals that I can use for the semester. But if I need to save them, I have to eat out or cook for myself. It's hard because there are times when I don't have the time to cook due to my busy schedule. The only time that I am free to cook is at night, which is inconvenient because let's face it, I'm ALWAYS hungry.
I do know how to cook, but the "lazy college student" takes over me and I would rather look for something that isn't so time-consuming to make. That is why I resort to those unhealthy meals, as they are cheap and easy. It is hard, because I would rather eat a quick meal than cook a healthy one.
I am learning to budget and save my own money, though. We can only use a certain amount of meals per semester and once you use them all, that's it! (You can always purchase more, but they are expensive to have in the first place.) When you don't have meals, you have to spend your own money. The majority of college students living on-campus don't have a job simply because it is also time-consuming. This is the moment when you have to think and be in adult mode. I had to learn how to save money and meals and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
These issues forced me to set a budget for myself each semester with my own money and make a plan about how many meals I want to use per week. I would use one meal during the day and then cook at night. This method allowed me to save meals and actually get my lazy self up and start cooking.
I was buying healthier options instead of relying on unhealthy campus meals. I ate everything in moderation and balanced it out by going to the gym to avoid, in my case, the "JUNIOR 15."
Using these methods as an upperclassman helped me stay healthy, as well as SAVE MONEY and not worry about what I was going to eat for dinner. I now knew how to be an adult, and I learned to stop relying on my parents and focus on myself.
It's not easy to learn how to budget, but it's easy to cook and make a plan for yourself. Sometimes, you have to do what needs to be done in order to survive….especially as a college student without a job.