Navigating the Meal-Plan-Maze


Find out what meal plan is best for you with our user friendly guide to all things dining.

This is it- this is college. We’re in the four (or five, or six, or…) best years of our lives, and we know it. College is said to be a little like high school with a whole lot more. More fun, more work, more responsibility, and a few other things we definitely didn’t want more of (walking, anyone?). But what about more food?

Navigating the meal-plan-maze is a stressful endeavor for parents and students alike. The final choice is usually made in defeat and resignation as you struggle to understand the subtle differences between food and… other food. Unfortunately, the part you didn’t get is often the most important. You might be looking to save money wherever possible or hoping to splurge on every cookie you come across. Or, like most of us, you might just be trying to get by with enough to power you through the next 10 chapters of the textbook. Whatever your goal is, we can achieve it- just read on and find what’s right for you.


The First Year Low-Down

As far as First Years go, there are only two basic plans to choose from. The All Access 7 Annual Plan and the Ultimate Access Annual Plan both have their pros and cons.

If You’re a More-Frugal-First-Year

The plan for you:  All Access 7 Annual Plan

Cost: $2475 per semester


  •  Unlimited meals
  • $150 Plus Dollars
  • 2 Meal Exchange swipes a day
  • 10 guest meals

N.B. This plan is also open to upperclassmen and graduate students

The lower Plus Dollar allowance provides fewer opportunities for take-home-treats, but if you don’t often eat in your dorm or if you make use of To-Go meal boxes, you’ll be just fine.

If You Love a Late-Night Snack

The plan for you: Ultimate Access Annual Plan

Cost: $2595 per semester


  • Unlimited meals
  • $300 Plus Dollars
  • 3 Meal Exchange swipes a day
  • 15 guest meals

N.B. This plan is also open to graduate students and upperclassmen

With double the plus dollars and an extra exchange a day, this plan helps you to stock up on as many meals you might want. If your parents plan on visiting often, the 15 guest passes will come in handy.


Moving On Up 

While First Years are required to select a meal plan, upperclassmen and graduate students have the option to choose from the two plans above, two semester based programs, or they may opt out of a dining plan entirely.

If Money Matters

The plan for you:  Semester 80 Annual Plan

Cost: $1175 per semester


  • 80 meal swipes
  • $350 Plus Dollars
  • 2 Meal Exchange swipes per day

If you eat 3 meals a day this won’t work very well, leaving you with only 27 full days of food. However, using the $350 plus dollars for cereal or breakfast bars at Crossroads can help you keep your swipes down to 2 a day, giving you 40 days of dining hall access. Based on my experience with groceries and my analysis of Crossroads pricing, $350 can get a single student about 5 weeks’ worth of pantry items.

*BONUS*: Crossroads has an allergy friendly section featuring gluten free and vegan treats, but the majority of these are more like desserts and less like dinner.

If You Eat All Day

The plan for you: Semester 160 Annual Plan

Cost: $1960 per semester


  • 160 swipes
  • $400 Plus Dollars
  • 2 meal exchanges per day

This plan allows you to eat more meals in a day, ending with around 80 days of access. The extra $50 in plus dollars can go a long way in Crossroads, and it should keep a single student comfortable for about 6 weeks. Take note of the price change, though. Semester 160 costs $785 dollars more than Semester 80.

In Conclusion Food Lovers…

Hopefully you’re able to find the plan that works best for you, maximizing or minimizing your meals. As long as you’re fed there’s only one thing left to remember: college is a time for way more than balancing budgets and deliberating over donuts. Get out there and enjoy it.

** FAQs **

1) What are Plus Dollars?

a) Plus Dollars are loaded directly onto your Student ID card and can be used for purchase of most items in the shop below O-Hill called Crossroads and in a few other dining areas/local restaurants.

2) What is a Meal Exchange?

a) Meal Exchange swipes are used in order to trade a restaurant or fast food entree for a dining hall swipe. These can be used at Chick-fil-A, Five Guys, Subway, Burrito Theory and a few other places on Grounds.

3) Can students who live in a residential college access these plans?

a) No. Students in Hereford, Brown College, Language Houses and members of varsity athletic teams have their own selection of dining plans to choose from. For more information visit

For questions concerning nutrition and allergen information, contact Paula Caravati, Ph. D., R.D.N. at or by phone at 434-982-5117.



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