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Congratulations on getting into Barnumbia! Now that many of you are beginning to make more definite decisions about where you’ll go to school, Required Reading’s going to start getting into the nitty gritty details about life in MoHi. Subscribe to never miss a beat.

Can’t wait to check out Ferris or John Jay? Before you start feasting at Columbia’s dining halls, you must learn all about the meal plan. It may seem a bit complicated at first, but that’s why Required Reading is here.


As first-years, your meal plan will be composed of swipes and points.

Unlike at Columbia, first-year Barnardigans don’t really get a say on what their meal plan will look like. All first-years are put on the largest meal plan offered by Barnard, which will give you 19 swipes per week and 140 points per semester. This ends up being three swipes for every day of the week and two swipes for every day of the weekend.


As first-years, your meal plan will be a combination of swipes, Dining Dollars, floating meals, or Flex (depending on which plan you opt for).

First-years in CC and SEAS have a choice of three slightly different meal plans:

  • Plan 1: 19 swipes per week and 75 Dining Dollars per semester, plus 15 floating (or extra) meals.
  • Plan 2: 15 swipes per week and 125 Dining Dollars, plus 10 floating meals.
  • Plan 3: 19 swipes per week, $50 in Flex, and 25 Dining Dollars, plus 15 floating meals.

What are swipes and where can I use them?

Swipes can be used at all of the dining halls on campus, no matter what school you’re in. So Barnard students can eat at Ferris, and Columbia students can dine in Hewitt.

Generally, one swipe gives you an all-you-can-eat meal. (So you go to John Jay at lunch and they swipe your card—for that meal, you can eat as much or as little as you want.) There are some exceptions to this though—for instance, certain meals of the day at specific dining halls might only take points and not swipes (like lunch at Diana). You generally have a set amount of swipes per week.

What are Barnard points and where can I use them?

Barnard points are equivalent to dollars and can be used at any of the cafes (aka Liz’s Place), Diana Center dining hall, and vending machines on Barnard’s campus.

It’s important to note that Barnard points cannot be used at any of the Columbia cafes or eateries. Also, points are not renewed each week like swipes—you have a set amount per semester, so it’s up to you to make sure you’re not overspending.

What are Dining Dollars and where can I use them?

Dining Dollars are the Columbia-equivalent to Barnard’s points, and they can be used at pretty much any cafe on campus (and there are a lot of them).

What are Floating Meals and where can I use them?

Floating meals are treated like swipes, and they’re pretty much just extra meals in case you ever go over your weekly amount. They’re like an emergency meal fund.

What is Flex and where can I use it?

Flex is kind of like a gift card, but contained within your student ID. You put a set amount of money on your CUID, which you can use to pay for meals in dining halls, vending machines, the campus bookstore, or even several off-campus locations, like Sweetgreen, Dig Inn, Milano Market, and many more.

You can continue to add to Flex throughout the year—here are the few different ways you can.

Note that Barnard does not have Flex, so you must use real moolah to purchase your Sweetgreen.

Once I register for a meal plan, can I change it?

You can change your meal plan at the beginning of the semester. (Generally, you’ll be allowed to change it through the first week of classes.) Here’s where you can do it, but you won’t see anything now (as the date to change a spring 2017 meal plan has passed).

Can I add more meals to my dining plan throughout the semester?

Columbia Dining doesn’t say anything about adding swipes, but you can definitely continue to add Dining Dollars or Flex to your account throughout the semester, which will allow you to eat at any dining hall or cafe you want.

This is too much food. Can I get rid of some of these meals?

No, unfortunately. Treat a friend to a nutritious, wholesome meal in John Jay every now and again.

If you feel like your first-year meal plan is a little bit confining, don’t worry—you’ll have more of a say over what you’ll eat sophomore year and on.

Excited for dining hall grub? Let us know on our Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Isabella Monaco is Spectrum’s associate editor and Barnard first-year. She survives on Hewitt’s bagels and Ferris’ pasta. Reach her at

meal plans first year dining halls john jay jjs place jjs ferris diana hewitt
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