The Essentials: Food and Shelter

One thing you won’t find in a college viewbook is the truth about dining and housing. If you want to consider either one, while you make your choice, then you’ve come to the right place.


There are a lot of dining options on campus, some better than others. There are two main dining halls: Sherman and Usdan. Sherman is an all-you-can-eat dining hall. The food there varies, although there’s always a salad bar, soup, burgers, fries, pizza, cereal, ice cream, and sandwiches. There is also a kosher section, for those of you who keep kosher. Sometimes the food is awesome, sometimes it’s…. not so awesome. This dining hall is the most social–you can come early, get a big table, and sit with your friends all night. Some people even come into the dining hall on the weekends and stay there all afternoon to study.

Usdan is a food-court style dining hall. There’s the upper half of Usdan, which has wraps, mexican, and burgers, and the lower half of Usdan which has comfort food, salad bar, sandwiches, omelets, and even sushi. Usdan is my favorite dining hall.

There’s also a restaurant called The Stein. The Stein serves all kinds of typical American food. After midnight on weekends, The Stein becomes Ollies, which serves breakfast food.

There are other options, like Einstein’s Bagels, Dominic’s sandwiches, and Chum’s coffee shop. These sorts of little eateries are scattered around campus.

Lastly, there’s the campus store, which is a little convenience store where you can buy your own food to cook or for snacks.

Meal plans are kind of a nuisance, but there are a lot of different plans to choose from. All plans consist of “meals” and “points.” Points  are like dollars–one dollar equals one point. Meals are basically a certain dollar value, which can be used at breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

As a freshman, you’ll have four choices:

  • 21-meal plan: you’ll have 21 meals to use per week. That translates into one meal per meal period. If you don’t use a meal that week, they do not roll over into the next week.
  • 14-meal plan: you get 14 meals per week, and $20 in meal points per semester. Points will roll over into the next semester. This is a good plan for people who don’t eat breakfast.
  • 10-meal plan: 10 meals per week, and $525 in points. This is the plan I chose
  • Flex plan: this plan has 100 meals per semester, meaning you’ll have to figure out on your own how many to use each week. You also get $650 something points per semester.

When you’re a sophomore and above, you’ll have more options for meal plans. Meal plans are mandatory for anyone living on campus.


As a freshman, you will live in one of two freshman-only quads: Massel Quad or North Quad. You don’t have a choice of which quad. Both quads are typical dorms, with big communal bathrooms and a long hall of rooms. Freshman will be in either triple rooms or double rooms, although there are a few single rooms for those with special medical needs. Most halls are mixed-gender, meaning that there are both female and male rooms on the same floor, with a male bathroom and a female bathroom. There’s typically one dorm in each quad that has single-sex floors. I live on a single-sex floor in Massel Quad.

Massel Quad has four dorms surrounding a pond. Massel is right next to Sherman dining hall, and fairly close to the science complex. North Quad is on the opposite side of campus, and is closest to Usdan dining hall. North Quad is right next to the humanities quad.

Some of the dorms have been renovated more recently than others. I happened to live in one of the cruddiest dorms in all of Brandeis. One way to avoid this: don’t live on a single-sex floor. For whatever reason, the two dorms that are the oldest are also the two dorms that are single-sex (they’re the largest dorms).

As an upper class-men, you will choose your housing through the housing lottery. You’ll get a random number, and then select your room based on what’s left.

Sophomores are guaranteed housing, and all that housing is sophomores-only.  I happened to get a really great number, #128 out of over 900, so I get to live in a really nice dorm called The Village. The other options for sophomores are Usen Castle (yes… it’s a castle!), East quad (typical dorm-style), efficiency apartments, and Rosenthal suites. If you happen to get a bad lottery number, a friend with a better number can pull you into a neighboring room or suite. Sophomores live in double or single rooms.

As a junior or senior, you’re not guaranteed housing. There are enough beds to house about 2/3 of the juniors and seniors in the housing lottery. Many students live off campus in apartments or houses. Juniors and seniors can have cars on campus so that they’re able to commute to school if they choose.


Overall, college housing and dining takes some getting used to. It’s different than living at home… I remember the long weekend, when many kids went home, all the freshman came back raving about “how awesome it is to shower without wearing flip flops!” There are little luxuries like that which you don’t have in college. However, a lot of people wind up preferring Brandeis to their home, not because of the facilities necessarily, but because of the college-living experience. In college, you live with all your friends, you live on your own schedule, and you have a lot of freedom that you never had in high schol. It’s a trade off.

So that’s Brandeis living. Don’t forget to consider these factors in your decision!