Freshman 101: Navigating the Dining Hall

There’s a huge chance that your campus has at least one dining hall, meaning there’s another huge chance that you’re REQUIRED to get a meal plan if you’re a freshman.

Depending on the day, having a meal plan can be good or bad. The dining hall is close, fast and has a wide selection of food. However, you always see the same people there, and the “wide selection” of food is the same every day. Here are some tips on how you can master the dining hall and make the most of your meal plan.

Take your Tupperware: If your dining hall is all-you-can-eat, then you should eat whatever you want when you go, but also stock up for later. Take cereal, cookies, fruit and vegetables.  There are going to be some mornings you don’t want to go to the dining hall because you’re just too hungover, and you’ll just want to eat cereal in bed. Or maybe you’ll be up all night cramming for an exam and need a few sweet, chocolate chip cookies to get you through the night.

Go Alone Some Days: If you go with friends, chances are you are going to sit and talk for an hour or so while you eat. That was okay for Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, but they never went to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Sitting among all of that food for two hours can be dangerous. You may tend to keep nibbling on food not realizing how much you’re eating, and then ten slices of pizza later, you’ll be sick. If you go alone, you can limit yourself to one plate and leave whenever you want to.

Explore other Dining Halls on Campus: Your campus probably has at least one dining hall, and if your campus is big, it probably has more. I know it’s convenient to go to the one closest to your dorm when you’re walking home from class, but it’s good to check out the other ones. They may have different food options or hotter guys than your dining hall.

Keep an Eye Out for Events: Some dining halls will have certain “theme nights”, which would be a fun change of pace. Instead of choosing between pizza, burgers or chicken and rice, you may get to choose between tacos, quesadillas or burritos for “Mexican Fiesta Night.” You’ll almost feel like you’re off campus at a real restaurant.

Sit with Someone you Don’t Know: It may seem weird at first, but you’ll make friends. All of the freshmen at the dining hall are in the same boat as you: they have no friends, and they’ve eaten the same food for the past week. Being a freshman is all about meeting new people so use the dining hall to your advantage and make a few friends.

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  1. Mike Wilson says:

    Very good advice, I did all of these as a freshman. For the picky people out there most dining halls have an online menu or multiple options so you can check what is for dinner before you go.

  2. Rosie says:

    Rotate where you sit; even in the same dining hall, you can meet new people by just avoiding having a 'table' or 'spot' that you always go to.

    Also, learn how to re-use dining hall meals! Chances are the over cheezey mac and cheese will loose its zest when you take it out at midnight. If you learn how to re make these meals the 2nd time around, you can save hundreds of dollars in late night pizza runs and salt-laden Chinese food. Idea: hot sauce packets make the world taste better! Also, covering any food you reheat in the floor's common microwave with a moist napkin serves 2 purposes; protects your food from any dripping goop in your nasty common microwave, and stops your food from drying out.

  3. Alana says:

    Taking food out of the dining hall may not be a good idea at some schools. I know at mine, it's fine to take out fruit, but one of my friends was yelled at for filling a plastic bag up with cereal. So just be careful!

  4. Rosie says:

    Stealth is the name of the game… take Ziplock containers in your backpack, fill up multiple plates or go up many times to get many plates, and do your stashing at your table. I've never been to a dining hall that allowed people to take food away, and I've never been to a dining hall where people didn't take a LOT away.

  5. Jessica says:

    I would make sure to check with your dining hall on to go boxes before you start filling your backpack. Some places frown upon this because they have a "to go" plan.

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