Freshman 16: A Foodie's Guide to the Best US Colleges

It's time to throw your traditions out of the door and get ready to partayyy!

Gone are the days of picking where you should go to university based on your academic scores.

How boring!

Say goodbye to choosing a university based on your IB, GPA or CIE results and hello to the ultimate millennial way of choosing a place to study.

Drumroll please, based on your favourite food!

Whether you're in the US already or considering moving abroad for your education, i’m going to help you decide where you should spend the next four years of your life based on what tickles your tummy!

Let's get to it, we have a lot to digest.

Cheesin’ for Pizza?

Do you go crazy for ooey, gooey cheese? Do you wish you could order a box of pizza (or five) every night? Well, you’re in luck because these three unis are for pizza lovers only. 

University of Chicago (UChicago): Chicago, Illinois

Ever heard of deep-dish pizza? Think a cast-iron skillet filled with pizza dough that's packed like a “pie” crust, layered with cheese, meat, cheese, meat and finally sauce.

ON. THE. TOP.

Thankfully, Medici on 57th is here to satisfy all of your deep-dish cravings! 

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from UChicago: A ten minute walk.

Stand Out Menu Items: Garbage pizza, Hans’ Smoked German Ham Pizza, Spinach Goat Cheese Pizza

Google Rating: 4.3 stars based on 564 reviews

What You Need to Get Into UChicago (so you can eat this delicious pizza)

Acceptance Rate: 8.7%

Average SAT Score: 1505

Average ACT Score: 33

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): $63,768-$74,526 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: A love for deep dish pizza and a lot of creativity: UChicago is known for its weird essay prompts

Yale University: New Haven, Connecticut

Are you still recovering from deep-dish pizza shock?

The good news is New Haven-style pizza (apizza) is completely different than deep-dish, aside from the fact that it still has a crust, cheese, sauce and toppings. 

New Haven pizza is less intense than its deep-dish cousin, which means you can eat a lot more of it in one sitting.  

Woohoo!

So what makes apizza, apizza?

A few key components:

  1. A charred, not burnt, thin crust created by the coals in a ridiculously hot brick ovens.
  2. Mootz, a.k.a. whole milk aged mozzarella, which must be specifically requested otherwise you’ll find yourself “mootz-less." The first apizzas were made without any cheese, just tomatoes!
  3. A chewy bite created by a long, cold fermentation process.   

Hungry yet? I sure am. 

Time to run over to Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana for a slice! Or two. Or three.

Forget it, just get a box!

What makes Pepe’s so great?

I’m glad you asked. Pepe’s invented the white clam pizza.

Yes, clams on pizza.

Don’t knock it 'till you try it because the flavor combination of Romano cheese, fresh garlic, parsley, olive oil and clams will knock your socks off. 

Time for a study break!

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from Yale: Well, it's about a 28 minute walk but it's totally worth it. 

Stand Out Menu Items: White clam pizza, white clam pizza with bacon, white clam pizza and the white clam pizza

Google Rating: 4.5 stars based on 1,318 reviews

What You Need to Get Into Yale (so you can eat this delicious pizza)

Acceptance Rate: 6.9%

Average SAT Score: 1540

Average ACT Score: 33

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): $70,570 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: A love for clams on pizza and a thick skin. New Haven can be kinda scary. 

New York University (NYU): New York City, New York

Ah, the pinnacle of US pizza. 

The New York-style pizza.

Remember when I said New Haven pizza was easy to eat?

I lied.

New York-style pizza may be the easiest pizza to consume.

Why?

Because the slices are HUGE, the crust is thin, the toppings are light and it’s unbelievably delicious!

One of the best places to grab a slice is Joe’s Pizza.

Joe’s is a chain but the original one is on Carmine St., right by NYU and is far superior to all of the other outlets.

Plus, it’s open ‘till 4AM and each slice is only about $3.50 USD! 

Obviously, the right thing to do is to go for lunch, dinner and a late night (or early morning) feed.

P.S. Don’t be afraid to up your pizza game by using the parmesan, chilli flakes and oregano shakers.

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from NYU: 3 minutes!!!!

Stand Out Menu Items: Pizza.

Google Rating: 4.4 stars based on 1,383 reviews

What You Need to Get Into NYU (so you can eat this delicious pizza)

Acceptance Rate: 27%

Average SAT Score: 1410

Average ACT Score: 30

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): $60,098-$77,672 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: The ability to eat an insane amount of pizza.

All About the ‘Que?

Like pizza, American BBQ differs from region to region.

While all American BBQ involves tender meat with burnt bits, the finger lickin’ sauces and specialised cuts vary based on your location.

If BBQ is your favourite food, you’re bound to fall in love with any of these regional delicacies!

Vanderbilt University: Nashville, Tennessee 

Aside from the fact that Vanderbilt is an excellent uni, it’s also near one of the best BBQ restaurants in Tennessee. 

Say hello to your new best friend, Martin’s Bar-b-que Joint.

Martin’s will be there for you throughout all four years of uni, through the good times and the bad, Martin’s will hold your hand.

What makes Martin’s so special?

It encapsulates everything that makes Tennessee BBQ great!

From whole hogs, to wet and dry ribs, Martin's Tennessee BBQ is the only ten I see!

Jokes.

Whole hog BBQ is a staple in Tennessee. In order to create this delicacy, the pit master takes a whole hog and cooks it for 12-24 hours, lowww and slowwww. The end product is tender and incredibly smoky. It’s so good, some people don’t even put sauce on it!

A meal at Martin’s is bound to leave you smiling from ear to ear all semester long!

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from Vanderbilt: 5-8 minute Uber ride

Stand Out Menu Items: Whole hog, wet or dry ribs, Redneck taco

Google Rating: 4.4 stars based on 1,058 reviews

What You Need to Get Into Vanderbilt (so you can stuff your face with BBQ)

Acceptance Rate: 8.6%

Average SAT Score: 1500

Average ACT Score: 34

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): $67,392 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: Must love country music. 

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin): Austin, Texas

Make your way down to Austin to try some of the country's best brisket.

Brisket is the cut of meat from the lower breast or chest of a cow, which when cooked correctly, melts in your mouth and leaves you feeling as happy as a cowboy on a summer's day, 

Looking for excellent brisket near UT Austin? Run over to Franklin’s BBQ. The line may be ridiculously long but the food will keep you coming back.  

I’m guessing you’ll be at Franklin’s at least once a week but hey, no one blames you! 

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from UT: 3 minute Uber ride

Stand Out Menu Items: BRISSSSKEEETTT. But really, get everything on the menu. 

Google Rating: 4.7 stars based on 1,345 reviews

What You Need to Get Into UT (so you can stuff your face with BBQ)

Acceptance Rate: 31% for out-of-state (and international) applicants, 48% for in-state applicants

Average SAT Score: 1275

Average ACT Score: 29

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): In-state: $17,020-$26,434 USD a year (not including financial aid), out-of-state: $50,332-$55,490 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: Not afraid of waiting in line for hours. 

University of South Carolina: Columbia, South Carolina

South Carolina is best known for its special mustard-based BBQ sauce, lovingly referred to as "Carolina Gold."

However, you’re likely to find a variety of sauces throughout the state due to its large immigrant population and proximity to North Carolina. 

One of the best places to get a taste of all the BBQ sauces South Carolina has to offer is at Southern Belly BBQ, conveniently located right by the University of South Carolina!

Southern Belly BBQ set out to create the best BBQ sandwiches and they are doing a damn good job. Each sandwich is made with slow-roasted pork smoked with oak and piled high with toppings like grilled onions, bacon and cheese. 

Yummmmm.

Finish off your order with some sweet ice tea and you’ll be a real southerner in no time!

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from UT: 13 minute walk

Stand Out Menu Items: Traditional sandwich, D’Jango sandwich, Grilled cheese made with pulled pork and bacon 

Google Rating: 4.5 stars based on 244 reviews

What You Need to Get Into the University of South Carolina (so you can stuff your face with BBQ)

Acceptance Rate: 68%

Average SAT Score: 1270

Average ACT Score: 27

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): In-state: $24,398 USD a year (not including financial aid), out-of-state: $44,408 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: A love of mustard. 

If Ice Cream’s Your Jam…

Do you dream about fresh made waffle cones and creamy ice cream with cherries on top?

If so, check out these sweet universities!

University of Vermont: Burlington, Vermont

If you’re a true ice cream aficionado, you need to go to the University of Vermont because that's where Ben & Jerry’s got its start.

Well, it didn't start at the university but it did start in Vermont. 

Visit the Ben & Jerry's factory to see where the magic happens, samples included!

Factory Fast Facts

Distance from the University of Vermont: 28 minute Uber ride (it’s not that close but it’s worth it!)

Stand Out Menu Items: Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, New York Super Fudge Chunk

Tripadvisor Rating: 4 stars based on 2,840 reviews

What You Need to Get Into the University of Vermont (so you can eat all the ice cream)

Acceptance Rate: 69%

Average SAT Score: 1206

Average ACT Score: 27

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): In-state: $32,874 USD a year (not including financial aid), out-of-state: $56,920 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: A love of eating ice cream in the cold!

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State): State College, Pennsylvania

Before Ben & Jerry’s was Ben & Jerry’s they were just two regular ‘ol guys from New York named Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

When Jerry was unable to get into med school (if only he had our help!), Ben decided to drop out of college and together they ventured to Penn State, home of the Ice Cream Short Coursethe greatest seven-day college course in the history of seven-day college courses.

There, Ben and Jerry learned how to make ice cream and the rest is history!

Actually, most well known ice cream makers have come through the program at one point or another including people from Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Good Humor, Haagen-Dazs and Nestle. 

You don’t need to go to Penn State to take the course but if you do attend Penn State you may be able to score an internship or a job at the Penn State Creamery (Berkey Creamery), which is the largest university creamery in the US!

The Berkey Creamery also doubles as an ice cream lab, which hosts over 20 workshops about the science and business of ice cream.

If you’re serious about taking your passion for ice cream and churning it into a career, Penn State is the place for you!

Course Fast Facts

Distance from Penn State: On campus!

Stand Out Workshops: Hardening techniques, flavoring, froyo manufacturing 

Cost: $2,050-$2,270 USD

What You Need to Get Into Penn State (so you can eat all the ice cream)

Acceptance Rate: 51%

Average SAT Score: 1302

Average ACT Score: 29

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): In-state: $30,130-$33,130 USD a year (not including financial aid), out-of-state: $44,612-$47,612 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: You must love ice cream more than anything else!

Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): Cambridge, Massachusetts

You’ve probably heard a lot about Harvard and MIT. Together, they have produced over 125 Nobel laureates and currently employee some of the most intelligent professors in the world.

Many students know how academically prestigious these universities are but not many know that the area between Harvard and MIT is an ice cream MECCA!

Forget Nobel laureates, there are over five delicious ice cream destinations in Cambridge, including a Ben & Jerry’s, of course.

Aside from Ben & Jerry’s, Cambridge is home to J.P. Licks, Gracie's, Lizzy’s Ice CreamHoneycomb Creamery CreameryChristina’s Homemade Ice Cream, and last but not least Toscanini’s.

Each ice cream haven has its own personality and each is worth visiting, at least twice a week.

Plus, Christina’s and Toscanini’s aka Tosci’s have won more awards than Harvard and MIT combined:

  • Best of Boston 2014 winner
  • New York Times’ World’s Best Ice Cream
  • GQ’s Top Ice Cream
  • Bon Appetit Top 10 Ice Cream

And many more!

You need add ice cream to your long list of reasons to attend Harvard and MIT. 

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from MIT/Harvard: 3-25 minute walk

Stand Out Flavours: Tosci’s: b3- brown butter, brown sugar, fudge brownie

Christina’s: Banana Cinnamon

Lizzy’s: Peppermint Stick

Honeycomb: Apple Cider Donut & Caramel

J.P. Licks: Wild Turkey Bourbon

Ben & Jerry’s: Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz

Google Ratings: Tosci’s: 4.7 based on 1,185 reviews

Christina’s: 4.5 based on 234 reviews

Lizzy’s: 4.2 based on 41 reviews

Honeycomb: 4.6 based on 117 reviews

J.P. Licks: 4.4 based on 169 reviews

Ben & Jerry’s: 4.2 based on 41 reviews

What You Need to Get Into Harvard (so you can eat all the ice cream)

Acceptance Rate: 5.2%

Average SAT Score: 1530

Average ACT Score: 34

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): $69,600-$73,600 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: Must be willing to walk to MIT to get an ice cream fix when you get sick of your options on campus. Oh, and have outstanding grades, extracurricular activities and essays, just the basic requirements you need to get into any Ivy League uni.

What You Need to Get Into MIT (so you can eat the rest of the ice cream)

Acceptance Rate: 4.7%

Average SAT Score: 1535

Average ACT Score: 34

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): $67,430 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: Must be willing to walk to Harvard to get an ice cream fix when you get sick of your options on campus. Oh, and be really, really smaht.

If You’re a Health Nut…

If your favourite food is a carrot, ginger, apple smoothie and you’re also gluten free, vegan and paleo (but only on weekends), then these next unis are for you!

No surprise, they’re all in California, also known as the most accommodating food state in the US.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA): Los Angeles, California 

Situated in the heart of Los Angeles, UCLA has a speciality dining hall named Bruin Plate (B-Plate), dedicated to healthy food. 

Say goodbye to fries, pizza and ice cream and hello to roasted zucchini “chips," grain bowls with poached cage-free eggs and frozen greek yogurt. 

Don't expect to see any soda in the dining hall either, B-Plate only serves house-made infusion waters made with different fruits and veggies. 

UCLA’s got all of your healthy food needs covered. 

You won’t gain the infamous freshman-15 here! Nor will you have an allergic reaction to a grain you may or may not actually be allergic to. I’m looking at you celiac fakers!

P.S. If you're interested in learning more about UCLA's academics and less about their food options on campus, check out the video below. 

Dining Hall Fast Facts

Distance from UCLA: On campus!

Sample Dishes: Seitan with brown rice, kale, carrot and peanut bowl

Quinoa, cous cous & rocket salad

Caramelised onion, gouda & white bean flatbread

Pecan-sweet potato bread

Google Rating: 4.7 out of 41 reviews

What You Need to Get Into UCLA (so you can eat granola all day, every day)

Acceptance Rate: 18%

Average SAT Score: 1370

Average ACT Score: 32

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): In-Sstate $33,604 USD a year (not including financial aid), out-of-state: $61,618 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: Must love the sun! 

University of California, Berkeley (Cal/ UC Berkeley): Berkeley, California

There are a multitude of restaurants around Cal's campus that’ll fulfill your health needs.

Take Organic Greens, for example.

Want a turmeric, ginger, lemon cayenne shot?

Organic Greens’ got you.

Craving a hummus and pita platter?

No problem!

Lookin’ for a large salad selection?

Organic Greens has more than 10 options!

Plus, you get 10% off if you’re a member of one of the local yoga studios.

Talk about healthy!

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from Cal: 11 minute walk

Stand Out Dishes: Ocean salad with garlic tiger prawns, Paleo diet salad, zucchini noodle salad, banana ginger smoothie

Google Rating: 4.3 out of 42 reviews

What You Need to Get Into UC Berkeley (so you can eat granola all day, every day)

Acceptance Rate: 19.7%

Average SAT Score: 1385

Average ACT Score: 32

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): In-state $24,090-$38,492 USD a year (not including financial aid), out-of-state: $52,104-$66,506 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: Birkenstocks and a love for the environment. 

California Institute of Technology (Caltech): Pasadena, California 

The MIT of the West Coast combines top-notch STEM academics with healthy food galore!

There are multiple fast-casual, healthy restaurants near campus so you’ll never get bored of eating the same paleo bowl over and over again.

One of the best (and closest) restaurants to campus is Real Food Daily, which serves healthy versions of classic comfort food such as tacos made with jackfruit and avocado, lasagna made with cashew ricotta and burgers made with lentils and mushrooms. 

Caltech is what your vegan, gluten-free dreams are made of.

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from Cal: 2 minute walk

Stand Out Dishes: Gluten free nachos, nut-free/vegan BBQ, lasagna Napoletana

Google Rating: 4.5 out of 108 reviews

What You Need to Get Into Caltech (so you can eat granola all day, every day)

Acceptance Rate: 8%

Average SAT Score: 1560

Average ACT Score: 34

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): $68,901 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: You have to be really smart and very science-y. 

In Love With Tacos (or Burritos)?

Tacos, burritos and queso, oh my!

San Francisco State University (SF State): San Francisco, California 

Ever heard of a burrito?

You know, the delicious wrap comprised of tortilla stuffed with cheese, beans, meat and other goodies?

Well, some say San Francisco invented the burrito as we know it today. The city also has its own style of burritos simply referred to as “Mission burritos.”

A Mission burrito is a giant, steamed flour tortilla filled with Mexican rice, pico de gallo, grilled meat of your choice, beans (either black, pinto or refried) and a multitude of optional additions such as cheese, sliced avo (California slang for avocado), guac, lettuce and crema/sour cream.

It's also imperative that you ask for your burrito "dorado-style," which means that your lovely burrito-maker will press your huge burrito on the griddle so the outside is nice and crisp.

Finally, your burrito (which is now literally be bursting at the seams) is wrapped tightly in tin foil and handed to you.

Is your mouth watering?

Mine sure is!

Luckily, SF State is just a short Uber ride away from the Mission district where you can get your burrito fix at any one of the numerous burrito shops in the area including La Taqueria!

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from SF State: 17 minute Uber ride

Stand Out Dishes: Mission burrito, Mission burrito “a super," dorado-style mission burrito

Google Rating: 4.5 out of 1,632 reviews

What You Need to Get Into SF State (so you can stuff your face with burritos)

Acceptance Rate: 68%

Average SAT Score: 1050

Average ACT Score: 21

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): In-state $17,742-$27,474 USD a year (not including financial aid), out-of-state: $26,511-$36,347 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: A love of hills. 

University of Southern California (USC): Los Angeles, California 

LA is known for more than just its healthy food, the city also has a robust street taco scene!

You can find taco trucks and stands on almost every corner of the city and although it may seem a bit shady to eat meat out of a truck or an open grill under a highway overpass, these tacos will be some of the best you’ll ever have.

One of the sketchier taco spots happens to be right by USC!

The shop is called Tire Shop Taqueria for no reason other than it’s located in the parking lot of a tire shop.

Confused?

Well, the taco shop is actually a couple open grills, a few umbrellas and three plastic tables in a parking lot.

Not an actual store!

What Tire Shop lacks in store front, it makes up for in flavour.

There are ladies literally pressing masa into fresh tortillas for every order, men grilling meat right in front of you and loads of homemade sides and salsas.

What more could you ask for?

At $1.50 a piece, these tacos will be your go to dinner option throughout your four years at USC.

P.S. it’s also a great date place, if you want to scare your date into thinking you’re going to eat dinner at a parking lot and then surprise them with how phenomenal the food is.

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from USC: 5-9 minute Uber ride

Stand Out Dishes: Vampiros Mixtos (Carne Asada and Chorizo mix) taco with cheese, Pollo taco, Carne Asada taco

Yelp Rating: 5 out of 222 reviews

What You Need to Get Into USC (so you can stuff your face with tacos)

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Average SAT Score: 1450

Average ACT Score: 32

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): $72,273 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: An ability to try new things, like eating tacos out of a parking lot.

University of Houston: Houston Texas 

Down south, there’s a whole ‘nother type of Mexican food: Tex-Mex, the perfect fusion between American and Mexican food.

Think enchiladas, fajitas, crispy tacos and lots of cumin.

Also, nachos smothered in hot, creamy yellow cheese.

These are the flavors that make up Tex-Mex cuisine.

Shall we say, delicioso?

There’s no better place to get Tex-Mex food than in the Lone Star state itself, Texas.

And, near the University of Houston there's only one restaurant you must go to, The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation.

Located a mere 12 minute Uber ride from campus, Ninfa’s serves giant portions of all of your favorite Tex-Mex dishes that will last you until lunch the next day!

Restaurant Fast Facts

Distance from USC: 12 minute Uber ride

Stand Out Dishes: Fajitas, Enchiladas, Queso Flameado

Google Rating: 4.3 out of 1,045 reviews

What You Need to Get Into University of Houston (so you can stuff your face with Tex-Mex)

Acceptance Rate: 59%

Average SAT Score: 1220

Average ACT Score: 25

Cost of Attendance (including room, board and other fees): In-state $24,605 USD a year (not including financial aid), out-of-state: $36,797 USD a year (not including financial aid)

Other Prerequisites: Cowboy boots. 

Final Thoughts

Although picking a university based on your favorite food may seem silly, it’s just as silly as picking one based on worldwide ranking systems.

The truth is, your wants and needs are the most important part of choosing a university so make sure you take yourself into account before picking a uni simply because it's ranked number one in the world.

Harvard isn’t the right fit for everyone and that’s okay.

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