When talking to other freshman students on campus, there seemed to be a general consensus of confusion when it came to meal plans. Questions surrounded many different aspects of the meals plan. “Which meal plan do I actually have?” “What’s the difference between points and equivalency meals?” And of course, “Where the hell do I even get my guest passes? I do have those right?” Well, today is your lucky day. At this point if you haven’t been using equivalency meals, you’ve already lost $153.00 worth of retail if you’re on the Fourteen Meal Plan. For a Starbucks junkie like myself, this is approximately thirty-one venti iced skinny vanilla lattes. Which is clearly a waste. So, after today, not one equivalency meal should go to waste because you will know how to make the most of your plan!
At Northwestern, there are five different types of meal plan. These include the “(Non-Resident) WildCat Weekly 6 Meal Plan”, the “WildCat Block Plan”, the “Unlimited Meal Plan”, the “Weekly Thirteen Meal Plan”, and the “Weekly Fourteen Meal Plan”. If you’re unsure which meal plan you’re on, feel free to check here at ‘check your balance’. Unlike the previous years, freshmen were placed on the weekly fourteen meal plan for the 2012-2013 school year. Chances are, if you're a freshman, you're still on this meal plan.
Those things you didn’t understand
All meal plans contain WildCat points and may potentially have equivalency meals. WildCat Points are like money with no stipulations behind them. Each point is equivalent to one dollar and can be used as money to enter the dining hall (which is not recommended) or at a retail location on campus. Points can only be used during the quarter they are assigned to and are nontransferable.
Unlike points, equivalency meals work on a weekly basis, but they can be spent in the same way as points. For each week, you have a set number of equivalency meals – the unlimited meal plan only has two meals a week while the fourteen meal plan allows three equivalency meals a week. Unlike the Unlimited Plan, the Weekly Fourteen meal plan requires a trade off of three meals throughout the week in order to use equivalency meals. This means if you want to use all three equivalency meals, you will only eat eleven meals in the dining halls.
The amount of money the equivalency meal is worth is based on the time of day you redeem the meal. To make the most of your equivalency meals, you should aim to use them between 4:46 and 7:30pm. During these hours, equivalency meals are worth $8.50. If you decide to redeem your points that early in the morning, you’re only going to have $4.75 to spend. That’s $3.75 less a meal! Always aim to make the most of your meal plan by planning ahead.
Another aspect you should take advantage of is the guest pass. The Unlimited, Weekly Thirteen, and Weekly Fourteen meal plan all give students two guest meal passes per a quarter. These handy little tickets can be picked up at the Food Service Office at Seabury. Overall, the best way to take advantage of your meal plan is to redeem all the extra “gimmie-gimmies” provided.
Well if you want, you can change your plan
All students are allowed to change their meal plan once a quarter, unfortunately the fall deadline has already passed. But, if another meal plan appeals to you, deadlines to change your meal plan can be found here. You know, for next time.