What's the best strategy for picking a dining plan on campus (i.e. between dining dollars and swipes, which is more important, from your experience)? Also, personally, I'd like to eat healthily in general, so are there a lot of healthy/wholesome meal options (i.e. not just Dunkin- or Starbucks-like food) that are covered by dining dollars besides those options in the dining halls/covered by swipes? Reason I'm asking is, the availability of really healthy food options outside the dining halls would be important to me in picking a dining plan.
I was never a big fan of the food in the dining halls, and so I ended up getting the plan with the least swipes and that was the best option for me.
I'm also someone who likes to eat healthy, but I have a bit of a sweet tooth. With that being said, I didn't find the junk food / non-healthy food in the dining halls to be super good. My philosophy was that if I were to eat some junk food and wreck my body, I'd at least like it to be the best-tasting junk food possible, not something out of convenience. This approach kept me mostly stuck to salads and omelettes since those were the things whose lower bounds on quality were highest least lol. The food in Houston Hall, Pret, and more is worth having more dining dollars. These non-dining hall options are really what you make of it; there are some healthy options and some not-so-healthy options. It's up to you.
A couple weeks before the end of the semester, you can actually convert several of your swipes to dining dollars, so even if you have a bunch of stocked up swipes left to use, you can still cash them out for some dining $$$$$.
Not to self-plug, but Penn Mobile has an upcoming feature which will help you choose the best plan for you based on your spending habits. At the start of each semester, you have a grace period lasting a couple weeks where you can change your dining plan, so once you get a feel for your trajectory for the semester the app can recommend the best plan based on your habits! Feature is coming out before next semester; you can check out the article in the DP here: http://www.thedp.com/article/2020/01/penn-mobile-labs-dining-calculator-estimated-date
Hope this has been helpful in some way :)
Zesty Zebra, 4/5/20 11:49 PM