Lazy rivers, mountain climbing, and all-you-can-eat meal plans: 11 colleges with enticing perks

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  • Schools offer enticing perks to try and separate themselves from a crowded field of colleges and universities. 
  • INSIDER found schools with outrageous rec rooms, unlimited food, personalized birthday cakes, and private ski slopes. 
  • Continue scrolling below to see ten schools with the best perks. 

What makes a college great? The answer to that question will certainly mean something different for almost everyone. Some may opt for the absolute best education while others may prefer a sense of community. Others still may prioritize affordability. With over 4,000 degree granting universities spread out across the US, there’s no shortage of options, and the schools know they have stiff competition. More and more, colleges and universities are offering up enticing perks and benefits in the hopes of luring in the best students. 

When viewed in isolation, these extra perks might not seem like much, but for students in the final stages of choosing between otherwise similar schools, special activities or options may be the deciding factor on where they make their home for the next four years. Whether you’re interested in free food, over the top recreational facilities, or sweet deals at museums, one of the schools listed below will have something for you. Keep scrolling below to see eleven schools with some of the best perks. 

Kenyon College has truly all-you-can-eat dining halls.

While most schools rely on a card swipe or point system to purchase food, Kenyon College has an actual unlimited dining hall. Meal plans are included in every student’s room and board. With that initial payment, students can eat as much as they want of anything they want. 

Kenyon says it rotates out its menu throughout the year to accommodate the changing climate and to adapt to local food availability. According to the university, “forty percent of the food in the dining hall comes from local producers.” 

Based on photos from their Instagram page, the food doesn’t look half bad either. 

 

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Location: Gambier, Ohio 

Enrollment: 1,730

Tuition: $55,930

Room and board: $12,510 

SAT scores required for admission: 640-730 reading, 640-740 math. 

Apply Here: 

Source: Kenyon College, National Center for Education Statistics 

The University of Central Florida is in the theme park capital of the world.

Orlando truly is the theme park capital of the world with Universal Studios, Disney Land, and Sea World all calling the city home. If spending a weekend meeting Mickey Mouse and hurling through the air in a roller coaster sounds like your idea of fun, the University of Central Florida will help you get there with discounted ticket prices. UCF students can save $20 on a pass to Disney Land and $126 on a two day Universal Studios pass. 

And if a trip down Splash Mountain manages to spark a deeper fascination with theme parks, UCF has you covered. This year, the school announced a new masters program in “themed experiences”  geared towards training the next visionaries in zoos, aquariums, theme parks, and virtual worlds.

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Location: Orlando, Florida 

Enrollment: 68,475

Tuition: $22,467

Room and board: $10,010

SAT scores required for admission: 590-670 reading, 570-670 math. 

Apply Here:  

Source: University of Central FloridaCosmoolitan, National Center for Education Statistics 

High Point University has a luxury steakhouse on campus.

The gut biomes of many college age students around the country are typically forced to adapt to subsist solely off of ramen noodles, Taco Bell, beer, and lots of coffee. That’s not quite the case at High Point University, where students can treat themselves weekly to a three course meal at an on campus steakhouse called Prime 1924. The best part? The steakhouse is included in their meal plan. 

The steakhouse isn’t just about the food though. High Point calls the restaurant, “an immersive learning lab,” that lets students develop, “business and social etiquette skills and an understanding of global cultures and cuisine.” Every month, Prime 1924 highlights cuisines from diverse regions around the globe. 

 

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Location: High Point, North Carolina 

Enrollment: 5,137

Tuition: $35,118

Room and board: $14,130

SAT scores required for admission: 550-630 reading, 540-620 math. 

Source: High Point University, National Center for Education Statistics 

 

Ohio University offers every student personalized $20 birthday cakes.

The first few birthdays away from home can be tough. Without your childhood friends or family there to watch you blow out the candles, birthdays at college can trigger a profound sense of homesickness and melancholy. Ohio University tries to reduce that burden through its Birthday Club program, where parents or friends can send a loved one a $20 personalized birthday cake.

Gift givers can choose between a nine-inch double layer round cake or a chocolate chip mega cookie cake to send to the birthday boy or girl. When the anticipated day finally comes around, the recipient receives a surprise email from the school telling them where they can go pick up their cake. All the cakes are made on site at a Ohio State’s in-house bakery 

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Location: Athens, Ohio 

Enrollment: 28,480

Tuition: $21,656

Room and board: $12,966

SAT scores required for admittance: 540-650 reading, 530-630 math. 

Apply Here: 

Source: Ohio University,  National Center for Education Statistics 

University of Missouri has one of the best recreational centers in the country.

Most schools have some sort of recreational facility, but few can compare to the activities behemoth atThe University of Missouri. The school’s rec center comes equipt with a weight room, basketball and volleyball courts, pool, and even an indoor track. But that’s not all. 

The University of Missouri sets itself above and beyond its competition though with its racketball courts, steam showers, saunas, and even a flowing indoor lazy river. 

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Location: Columbia, Missouri

Enrollment: 29,843

Tuition: $27,042

Room and board: $10,786

SAT scores required for admission: 560-640 reading, 530-650 math. 

Apply Here:

Sources: The Columbia Missourian, The University of Missouri, National Center for Education Statistics 

The University of Minnesota has underground tunnels that’ll keep you warm and dry in cold Minnesota winters.

No matter how many cheap umbrellas you stock up on, they never seem to make it out the door when it’s actually raining. The threat of drenched new boots or ruined hair means little to University of Minnesota students though, thanks to a collection of underground tunnels connecting its campus. 

The tunnels (and skyways) are collectively called, “The Gopher Way,”  after the school’s furry mascot. But be warned, the weaving underground world takes some getting used to. The University of Minnesota website recommends going on at least one test run before relying on the system to get to class. 

Location: Minneapolis. Minnesota 

Enrollment: 50,734

Tuition: $30,438

Room and board: $9,910

SAT scores required for admission: 620-710 reading, 650-770 math. 

Apply Here

Source: University of Minnesota, National Center for Education Statistics 

 

Western Washington University will bring out the inner outdoors adventurer in you.

If you’re one of the people who grew up watching Bear Grylls try to escape from remote mountains and dense jungles and thought, “I could do that,” Western Washington University might be the place for you. Located close to the Canadian border and near a snow-capped volcano called Mount Baker, Western Washington University is the perfect backdrop for your next adventure. 

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The school makes it easy to get away with mountain bike rentals, $10 rentable boots, mountaineering gear, and guided campus excursions. Whether you’re in the mood for off the trail mountain biking, adrenaline inducing rock climbing or just good old fashioned camping out, the university’s outdoor center makes it easy.

Just look below at what some of these Western Washington University students have gotten up to. 

 

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Location: Bellingham, Washington 

Enrollment: 16,121

Tuition: $23,540

Room and board: $11,466  

SAT scores required for admissions: 550-650 reading,  530-630 math. 

Apply Here: 

Source: Western Washington University

 

Michigan Technological University has its own ski slope.

What would you do if you had your own snowy mountain just outside your dorm room? Well, for students at Michigan Technological University, many of them choose to ski. The mountain, called Mont Ripley, is one of the oldest ski areas in Michigan, and is frequented by students and locals alike. For $180 students can rent out equipment for a season and hit the slopes as much as they want. 

Skiers and snowboarders get to pick from 24 different trails and 33 different terrain parks.

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Location: Houghton, Michigan  

Enrollment: 7,172

Tuition: $33,726

Room and board: $10,756

SAT scores required for admission: 580-670 reading, 590-690 math. 

Apply Here: 

Sources: Michigan Technological Institute, National Center for Education Statistics

South Dakota State University has an expansive dairy bar with ice cream sourced from cows on campus.

If you have a sweet spot for ice cream, South Dakota State University is the school for you.  In a process the school calls “cow to cone,” the school uses milk from cows living on the school’s campus and then has SDSU students prepare the dessert.

The dairy bar serves 16 different ice cream flavors daily along with butter, cheeses, and other dairy snacks. Over the course of a school year the dairy bar will rotate out 60 unique ice cream flavors. 

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Location: Brookings, South Carolina 

Enrollment: 12,104

Tuition: $12,128

Room and board: $8,563

SAT scores required for admission: 490-620 reading, 520-640 math. 

Apply Here

Source: South Dakota State University,  National Center for Education Statistics

New York University students get free and discounted access to some of the world’s most prestigious museums.

New York University stands apart from many of the other schools on this list because it is located squarely in the middle of one of the world’s busiest cities. This ultra urban setting means students likely have to forgo the typical communal college campus feel. In exchange, however, students have access to some of the best cultural centers on Earth, many of them totally free of charge. 

Through the school’s Museum Gateway program, students can gain free entry to 12 top top-tier  New York museums including The New Museum, The Frick Collection, and the Museum of Modern Art, all with just a flash of their school ID card.

Location: New York, New York 

Enrollment: 51,847

Tuition: $51,828  

Room and board: $18,156

SAT scores required for admission: 650-720 reading, 660-790 math. 

Apply Here 

Source: New York University, National Center for Education Statistics

Rice University will do your laundry for you.

At Rice University students can have all their laundry picked up, washed, dried, and folded all without leaving the comfort of their dorm rooms. The system, called Owl Laundry, lets students pick annual or semester plans of 10, 20, or 30 pounds of laundry per week. Students receive two large bacterial-resistant bags with attached barcodes that lets them track their laundry along its path to cleanliness by using a phone app. 

On their website, Rice says the main reason for the laundry service is to save students much needed time. By their estimates students typically spend around 96 hours per year waiting on laundry. 

Location: Houston, Texas

Enrollment: 7,124

Tuition: $47,350

Room and board: $14,000

SAT scores required for admission: 700-760 reading.750-800 math or 700-760 reading.

Apply Here

Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, Rice University