The Best College Perks of 2011

What Universities Offer Besides an Education

More than anything, students should choose a college based on the courses and teaching staff it offers, but looking at the extra perks available at different schools may just prove to be a tie breaker. Virtually all universities provide some value-adds to students even if it’s something as simple as complimentary visits to a museum or discounts for local restaurants and stores. But MainStreet looked for universities around the country that offer fun and valuable perks that may just make you feel a little better about the amount you spent on tuition. Photo Credit: Earlham College


Olympic Pools

One of the great perks of college in general is having access to a complimentary gym – and especially a pool - so you can work out your body as well as your mind and release some of the stress that comes from schoolwork. Of course, some schools have much better pools than others. Take the Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, which was ranked as having the best athletic facilities this year by Princeton Review thanks in part to the fact that it boasts an Olympic-size pool that was actually used during the 1996 Summer Olympics. The school offers swim classes and even lets students reserve time for pool parties. Did we mention there is also a water slide? So if you don’t go to Georgia Tech, you should befriend someone who does so you can at least be invited to the pool parties. Other schools like the University of Miami and Louisiana State University also have Olympic-size pools, but if the thought of having to swim 50 meters (164 feet) seems daunting, consider Boston University, which also offers an indoor lazy river so students can either practice swimming against the current, or you know, just float along and relax. Photo Credit: crc.gatech.edu


Rock Climbing Courses

For those who prefer to stay as far away from the water as possible, consider one of the many colleges that give students access to free rock climbing courses. Princeton has a huge rock climbing wall that is 32 feet high and 66 feet across and the college provides experienced instructors to show you how proper technique throughout the school year. Boise State University, the University of Houston, Texas A&M and many others provide rock climbing areas of their own too. Photo Credit: Princeton.edu


Bike Sharing Programs

Dozens of universities have launched bike sharing programs in recent years that allow students to pick up and drop off bikes at multiple places on campus so they don’t have to fork over the cash to buy their own. Several colleges like Amherst and the University of Cininnati let students rent bikes free of charge while others charge a small fee. Photo Credit: uc.edu


Free Housekeeping

Given how much time you’ll likely spend studying and/or socializing at college, chances are you may forget to clean your room every week, but some colleges will take care of that for you. At the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana, housekeepers and janitors regularly change the bedsheets in students’ dorms and keep the campus housing areas looking clean. Likewise, at Greenwich Hotel, a residence hall and functioning hotel at New York University*, housekeepers regularly tidy up students’ bathrooms and kitchen areas. Saint Vincent College in Pennsylvania on the other hand may not have housekeepers, but it does have the wonderful tradition of having a group of upperclassmen serve as bellhops for incoming students, helping to carry all their bags and boxes during move-in weekend. [*Disclaimer: I went to New York University and lived in this dorm for a semester and yes, I loved it.] Photo Credit: Jesse Bikman


Gourmet Dining Halls

It’s a long-held stereotype that college students subsist on ramen, pizza and whatever starchy foods are served at their school cafeterias, but some colleges provide meals and a cafeteria feel that look more like a five-star restaurant than a university. Virginia Tech and Bowdoin ranked near the top of the Princeton Review list of best campus food and it’s not hard to see why. Virginia Tech is renowned for its West End Market, a collection of seven campus restaurants that serve everything from gourmet pizzas and milkshakes to steak and lobster dishes from J.P.’s Chop House. Likewise, Bowdoin’s menu features meals like massaman beef curry, pumpkin crumb cake and yes, since the school is in Maine, it also boasts fresh seafood like shrimp and lobster. Photo Credit: bowdoin.edu


Free iPads

In the past few years, several universities have offered incoming students gadgets like Kindles, iPods and tablets as a kind of welcoming gift to get them excited for the four years ahead, and more plan to do so this year.  Nearly 200 first-year students will receive complimentary iPads from the University of Kentucky this year and all students who enrolled in the fall semester at the Illinois Institute of Technology will receive one as well. Photo Credit: mikecough


Free Concerts

As we said in the beginning of this article, many schools offer discounts for museums and other special events, but not every school goes so far as to host major entertainers at the school free of charge for students. The University of California at San Diego has ramped up its concerts in recent years, hosting major bands like the Pixies and Queens of the Stone Age, not to mention the annual Sun God Festival that features musicians, comedians and dance acts. Likewise, New York University holds many concerts each year featuring musicians like Regina Spektor and Animal Collective, and Princeton University is known for its many great classical concerts, available to students for as little as $5. Photo Credit: marfis75


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