How My Food Allergies Affected My College Decision

I am about to deliver a statement that might surprise some people: a school’s dining services DID NOT affect my college decision. From the beginning of my college search, I decided that I would not let my food allergies restrict me in this way. I knew I wanted to choose a college that made me happy, and for me, that means a school with an accredited architecture program, a sense of community on campus, and a value placed on community service; I wanted a place to call home – not just my school. Therefore, I decided to not place any value on the dining services, because I knew that no matter where I choose to attend, I would be able to find something to eat.

When it came down to it, something that did affect my decision because of my allergies was the distance. By mid-April, I had narrowed it down to two schools: The Catholic University of America in Washington DC and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend Indiana. These two schools both have an outstanding architecture program, an amazing sense of community, and great opportunities for community service. In the end, the largest difference for me between the two is the distance – by car, CUA is 4 hours away and ND is 10 hours away. My mom kept reiterating to me that if I ever have an allergic reaction and am hospitalized, it would be a lot easier for them to travel 4 hours than 10, and we both loved that all the family I have in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area would be able to help me if I ever need it. At Notre Dame, I would be isolated and alone in any emergency situation, without any family nearby.

Although location was not the only factor in my final decision, it was enough that it made an impact. College is a completely new experience, and I will have to learn how to live with my food allergies in a completely different environment. This means that there is a larger chance that I might make mistakes, and I know its worth having access to family that I know and trust if I ever need it. I know CUA was the right choice.

~Alli

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My College Decision and Their Dining Services

I am excited to announce that I will be attending The Catholic University of America as a member of the Class of 2020! I look forward to studying architecture in the School of Architecture and Planning and am already counting down the days until I move in. Although it’s well past May 1st (National College Decision Day), I’ve waited until today to share this with you because I just spoke with the Resident District Manager from CUA’s Dining Services a few days ago- which is what I really want to share.

When I visited Catholic University for an accepted students day, I did not have the opportunity to speak with dining services on campus (they were just too busy with so many visitors), but I was impressed with the lunch they served us; they had different “lunch boxes” that came with an apple, chips, cookies, and your choice of sandwich – ham, turkey, grilled chicken, or PB&J. They hung a sign near these boxes, though, that said “If you would like a nut, dairy, and gluten free option, please ask a staff member,” and upon my request, they brought out a different box. But instead of a sandwich, it contained a grilled chicken salad, and instead of the chocolate chip cookies, it had a package of Lucy’s Sugar Cookies (a brand that is known for being allergy friendly and all natural). Although it was a simple gesture, I was very impressed.

The conversation I had today with the manager of Catholic’s dining services only further impressed me. When I first emailed him with a run down of my food allergies and a request for a phone call, he was quick to respond. My mom and I had the opportunity to ask him plenty of questions, and he gave us a break down of how the dining hall worked. Here’s the gist of what he told me:

  • He will set up a meeting with the staff members when I first get on campus so I can personally introduce myself and inform them about my allergies
    • He said it’s important that I’m vocal and not shy so the staff members will start to recognize me over the first few weeks (I told him this would definitely not be a problem)
  • They have a four week cycle without any repetition within those four weeks, so although the first cycle will be the hardest as I’m learning what I can and can’t eat, it will get easier with time
    • Once they have the menu for this cycle in August, they will send it out to me so I have a general idea of what I will and won’t be able to eat
  • They have stations that are “Made to Order” so I can watch the staff member make my food in a separate allergen-free area of the station.
  • Most importantly, he said that he and the dining staff are willing to help in every way possible to keep me safe. They take pride in their food services and are trained to handle allergens and have done so in the past, and love to hear feedback if there’s ever anything I feel they could do better.

Although I was confident about my decision to attend Catholic before, I now have even more faith in my decision. I look forward to sharing my future endeavors at CUA and how I got to this point in the college process.

Only 105 days until move in… go Cardinals!

~Alli