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Choosing your ideal meal plan can be very difficult (btw, your deadline to do that for next year is this coming Thursday), especially if you’re a rising sophomore. You’ll be bombarded with eight different meal plans to choose from, which is obviously intimidating.
If you’re still unsure about what options are available and are trying to make a decision based on which dorm you’re hoping to get this housing selection, or if the Dining website is too confusing for you, don’t worry. Here is an easy list of all the dining meal plans that are available and which dorms they’d be good for.
CC, SEAS, GS
If you’re a rising CC, SEAS, or GS sophomore and above (or grad student), there are four different dining plans.
If you’re always too lazy to cook, Plan A, which provides the most meals and Dining Dollars, may be the best meal plan for you. You will have to choose from these three options:
- Weekly ($2,342 per term): You get 14 meals per week and 200 Dining Dollars, plus 15 floating meals (which you can use anytime during the semester) and six guest meals.
- Term ($2,342 per term): You get 210 meals (so approximately 14 per week) and 200 Dining Dollars per term. Dining Dollars can be used at different dining locations on campus—for example, Café East takes your Dining Dollars. Dining Dollars are also tax-free.
- Meal Only ($2,142 per term): You get 210 meals per term.
Which dorm it’s good for: If you’re planning on living in a hall-style dorm (like Broadway, Schapiro, McBain, Harmony, or Wien), or in dorms with tiny, incompetent kitchens (cough cough Nussbaum), this dining plan might be the one for you.
If you are on financial aid, Columbia may cover your housing cost and up to 175 meals and 200 Dining Dollars or Flex per term, which is equivalent to Plan B. So if you’re on financial aid, choosing Plan B might be your best bet.
Plan B has two options you can choose from:
- Dining Dollars ($2,163 per term): You get 175 meals per term (or about 12 per week) and 200 Dining Dollars, plus six guest meals.
- Flex ($2,163 per term): You get 175 meals and 200 Flex, plus six guest meals. Flex is basically like Dining Dollars, but more flexible because you can use them at certain stores outside of the campus—however, purchases using Flex will be taxed. Click here if you want to know where Flex dollars are accepted.
Which dorm it’s good for: If you plan to live in hall-styled dorms, like Broadway, or Schapiro, you might want to consider choosing Plan B, as there usually won’t be a nice, private kitchen to satisfy your cooking needs. If you also live far from campus, like in Harmony, and you’ll occasionally miss breakfasts served at the dining halls, this plan might be good for you.
Do you plan to live far from campus? Or maybe tired of eating at the dining halls 19 times a week? Plan C covers 100 meals per term (or about seven per week) and 125 Dining Dollars, plus 4 guest meals per term. It’s enough for you to visit the dining hall every day. It costs $1,377 per term.
Which dorm it’s good for: If you have a private kitchen, like Hogan, Claremont, EC, or Watt, and you have pretty good cooking skills, Plan C might be the perfect meal plan for you. Also good for those who live far away from campus and don’t want to make the trek to Ferris every time they get a craving—so places like Harmony or Carlton Arms.
Are you a cooking maniac, or the opposite—a take-out food addict? Is buying groceries to cook meals your go-to way of relieving stress? Well either way, if you think you’ll hardly ever go to the dining halls at Columbia to eat (maybe once every two days), you may want to consider getting Plan D as your meal plan.
Plan D, the cheapest meal plan available, covers 75 meals per term (or about five per week) and 75 Dining Dollars, plus two guest meals. You have plenty of freedom to eat anywhere you want in MoHi. It costs $1,060 per term.
Which dorm it’s good for: If you’re planning to live in a suite or in apartment-style dorms, like Woodbridge or River, or want to force yourself to become a better cook and save your money by doing so, choose Plan D!
Or keep your first-year meal plan
If you’re obsessed with Ferris, John Jay, or JJ’s Place (R.I.P.), and you’ll go there at least two times every day of the week, congrats! You can be a first-year student all over again by keeping your first-year meal plan. Choose either Plan EZ1, EZ2, or EZ3, which are equivalent to Plan 1, 2, 3, of first-year dining plans, respectively.
- Plan EZ1 ($2,710 per term): You get 19 meals and 75 Dining Dollars, plus 15 floating meals and six guest meals.
- Plan EZ2 ($2,710 per term): You get 15 meals per week and 125 Dining Dollars, plus 10 floating meals and six guest meals.
- Plan EZ3 ($2,710 per term): You get 19 meals per week, 50 Flex and 25 Dining Dollars per term, plus 15 floating meals and six guest meals.
Which dorm it’s good for: This meal plan would be great if you live close to campus, like in Wallach, Hartley, Furnald, or Schapiro, and campus dining hall foods are very accessible for you.
At Barnard there are 11 different meal plans, ranging from the Platinum Plan, which costs $3,184 and is required for first-years, to the 5 Block Plan, which cost $40. Depending on your class year and where you live, your options may be greatly limited. Here’s how that works:
If you want to keep your first-year meal plan, the Platinum Plan gives you 19 meals to use per week at Hewitt or Diana, and an additional 120 points, which you can use in any of the campus dining locations. It costs $4,184 per term.
Which dorm it’s good for: Nineteen meals is a lot of food, so people with tiny, ineffectual kitchens, like Sulz Tower and Elliott.
Quad Upperclass Plan
If you’re an upperclassman at Barnard living on floors two to eight of the Quad (Hewitt, Sulzberger, Reid, or Brooks), or you are a student in the Combined 3-2 Engineering Program living in the Quad, you must get the Quad Upperclass Plan as your default meal plan. You can get this even if you’re not living the Quad, but it’s mandatory for those who are. For $2,212 per term, it’ll give you 150 meals per term (or about 10 per week) and 430 points.
Which dorm it’s good for: Hewitt (obv), but also suites with smaller kitchens, so 620, 616, and 110.
If you are a student in the Combined 3-2 Engineering Program living in the Barnard campus housing (other than the Quad), or an upperclass student, you are required to enroll, at minimum, either in the Convenience Plan 1 or Convenience Plan 2.
- Convenience Plan 1 ($320 per term): 30 meals per term and no points.
- Convenience Plan 2 ($320 per term): 15 meals per term and 150 points.
Which dorm it’s good for: A lot of people rank campus dorms based on the kinds of kitchens they have. If you’re one of those people, you’re probably looking to cook more next semester. This meal plan is good for anyone who expects to use their suite’s kitchen more frequently than Hewitt, so those in 620, 616 (as small as it may be), 110, Plimpton, and especially 600 (which has the swankiest kitchens on the block).
If your default meal plan (the minimum required meal plan) is the Convenience Plan, you can upgrade your meal plan to one of the three Basic Plans: Plan 1, Plan 2, or Plan 3.
- Basic Plan 1 ($962 per term): 75 meals per term and 200 points
- Basic Plan 2 ($962 per term): 60 meals per term and 300 points
- Basic Plan 3 ($962 per term): 45 meals per term and 425 points
Which dorm it's good for: This plan is good for anyone who has a clear preference for meals over swipes, or vice versa. It's also a decent amount of food (about three times the amount of food the convenience plan has), meaning that it'll be good for the non-kitchen savvy or those who don't care too much about the quality of their kitchen (so Plimpton, Elliott, 620, 616, or 110).
Points Only 300 and Points Only 500
If you want additional points, but not necessarily the meals, there is a way you can add just the points to your meal plan, all of which can be used at any of Barnard’s on-campus dining locations, like Hewitt, Diana, or Liz’s.
- Points Only 300 ($320 per term): 300 points per term
- Points Only 500 ($480 per term): 500 points per term
Dorms it’s good for: Obviously you’ll be able to get more with 500 points than you will with 300, so the Points Only 500 plan will obviously be better for those who think they’ll need more from the dining halls (so potentially Elliott, Sulz Tower, Plimpton, 620, 616, or 110).
Three hundred points is still a decent amount, but it doesn’t have the wealth that the 500 plan does—better for those living in 600, or if you’re happy with your suite’s kitchen, 620, 616, 110, or Plimpton.
10 Block Plan ($75 per tem) and 5 Block Plan ($40 per term)
If you feel like you’re running out of meals as the semester goes along, there’s a way to add meals to your plan without the points. Visit the Aramark office on Hewitt Hall’s Mezzanine level to add one of these.
- 10 Block Plan ($75 per term): Adds 10 meals to your semester plan
- 5 Block Plan ($40 per term): Adds five meals to your semester plan
Note: This is not a meal plan in itself, but rather a way to add on meals to the plan you already have, so we’re not going to recommend it for any specific dorm.
Even though choosing your meals can be an overwhelming and stressful process, it won’t be bad once you take into account cooking and eating habits, as well as the kitchen facilities in your dorm. Make sure you make the right decision now, since there is an additional cost if you decide to change the plan later.
Sein An is a Spectrum trainee and a Columbia-Juilliard Exchange first-year. Even though she wrote this article, she has no idea which meal plan to get. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.