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Freshman Year Survival Tip #4: Understanding Meal Plans

 Written by    September 4, 2018

First-year students on the Columbus campus living in a residence hall are required to have a meal plan; however, many students do not really understand the meal plans very well when trying to decide which is the best fit.  So, here are some insider tips on the various meal plans that Dining Services has available to freshmen:

Meal Plan #1: Scarlet 14

The Scarlet 14 meal plan allows students to use 14 “swipes” per week that can be used at any dining location on campus.  A swipe is good for one visit to a Traditions location (all-you-care-to eat dining halls), an $8.00 purchase at a retail location (such as the Berry Cafe), or a $5.00 purchase at a campus C-Store.  This plan also gives students 200 Dining Dollars (good for a 35% discount at retail locations) and $150 in BuckID Cash, which can be used for food and non-food items alike both on campus and at select off-campus locations.

Personally, I eat more than 14 times per week, so this plan was definitely not for me during my first year, but it offers a very wide variety of dining options to students and provides the greatest flexibility, so it is definitely an option to consider (especially if you prefer the convenience of eating at a retail location).  In addition, the BuckID Cash can be used for grocery shopping, laundry, and more, so this is certainly another factor to consider.

Meal Plan #2: Unlimited

The Unlimited plan allows students unlimited visits to any Traditions location throughout the semester.  Swipes cannot be exchanged at a retail location or C-Store, but 100 Dining Dollars do come with the plan.  This was the meal plan that I selected last year and I absolutely loved it. Having unlimited Traditions swipes gave me the ability to run in to a dining hall simply to have a snack or get a drink of water; this would be a wasted swipe with any other meal plan.  If you eat many meals a day or prefer light snacking throughout the day rather than a specified breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner, this meal plan is for you!

Meal Plan #3: Gray 10

This meal plan is exactly the same as the Scarlet 14 except for the fact that students receive only 10 swipes per week rather than 14.  If you do not eat much throughout the day or will utilize other dining options during the week, this option is great for you. However, if you plan to eat at least two meals per day at an on-campus location, I would recommend selecting a different meal plan, as you will quickly deplete your swipes with the Gray 10 by eating multiple meals per day.


I hope these tips helped you figure out more about your meal plan selection!  If you start the semester and realize your current plan is a poor personal fit, you can change it through the second Friday after classes start each semester.  For more information, including meal plan pricing, check out https://dining.osu.edu/dining-plans/columbus-campus-dining-plans/.  

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