It's yummy, brings people together, and it is essential to live. In college, you get the perk of having amazing restaurants within walking distance AND dining halls all around campus! Meal plans are the main form of payment used in the dining halls, and if you're planning on having one, (all incoming freshmen are required to buy one) it can be difficult to understand what they are, how they work, and where they can be used. Below, I've made explaining meal plans as short and sweet (but informative) as possible.
Meal plans are the system that IU uses to allow students to purchase meals.There are three different meal plans- Standard, Plus, & Max- that first year students can purchase. These turn into I-Bucks (also referred to as meal points) which are used to purchase meals. All freshman are required to buy a meal plan when coming to IU. If you do not choose a specific meal plan, you will automatically receive the Standard Plan, which equals out to 1,260 I-Bucks (equivalent to 630 per semester). According to RPS, the average student eats 11 meals/ snacks per week at dining locations and spends an average of 3.25 I-Bucks a meal. It is important to think about how much you eat and how often you will be eating at the dining facilities. I don't eat that much, so I went with the Standard plan because that was the cheapest and the smallest plan available. Also consider the fact that you don't have to eat all of your meals there. It's good to explore other restaurants in Bloomington and if you have a fridge or microwave available, you can also have things to snack on (I have a bunch of granola bars, yogurt, and applesauce) or meals to fix (bring on the Ramen noodles and mac 'n cheese)!
Meal plans are loaded onto your Student I.D. that you receive at orientation and you can begin using your points as soon as you move into IU! They are billed to your Bursar account once at the beginning of each semester and are split into two semesters (half of the money is loaded on the first semester, the second half the second semester). When making a purchase, you hand your ID to the cashier and they scan it. It's as simple as that! I make sure I check my balance (go to that link, click on I-Bucks, and login) regularly to keep tabs on how much I am spending. If you do happen to run out of meal points, you can always add more. Oh, and with your meal plan, you get 60% off all of your purchases...that is more than half off of food, drinks, and C-Store items!
They can be used anywhere on campus, besides in the basement of Wells Library and at the IMU (Indiana Memorial Union). Most dorms have some kind of eating place within their main building.
You can also use your meal points for purchases at the C-Store! Here, you can buy all sorts of drinks, microwaveable meals, lunchables, cereal, soup, and cleaning and hair supplies. I love the little to-go things of apples and caramel (not to mention their yummy Paninis that they will fix for you)! I LOVE the C-Store, but be sure to not spend all of your meal points there! Try and buy most of your groceries at an actual store so that you can save your meal points to use on food in the dining halls.
RPS offers many dining options, along with a program called eMEAL. This program allows you to go online and order food from a majority of the food courts. If you're in a hurry, you can order whatever you'd like and then when you go to pick it up, they'll have it all ready for you so you can just grab it and go!
Until next time,