Hey guys! Katie here with another “How To” of Saint Martin’s University…
One of the first questions we get from incoming students (and incoming parents) to the SMU family, is which meal plan to choose. There are a lot of options, but hopefully with some seasoned help (no pun intended), we’ll get you folks up and running with the right meal plan for you.
First, let’s look at what each meal plan has to offer…
Flex Cash, Saints Cash, and Meal Credits:
Each meal plan is broken up into two systems of credit: flex cash, and meal credits.
Flex cash uses real money values that are preloaded into you account to pay for your meals. Basically, if I want to buy a slice of pizza for lunch that costs $3.00, I pay $3.00 out of my flex cash. In addition, flex cash can be used on other spots around campus, such as the Monk’s Bean café, or the Parson’s C-Store to buy coffee, smoothies, and the all-important Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for a late-night snack. So, flex cash is sort of like a debit card. It’s actual amounts of money being paid for by your meal plan.
A meal credit is a credit only to be used for AYCE (all you can eat) meals. This includes dinner every night and brunch on weekends and holidays. You pay one meal credit for each meal you purchase during these times, and you can go back for seconds or thirds to the infinities at no extra charge. For example, at another time, a burger with add-ons of fries and grilled vegetables might cost about $5.00 (and note that I’m totally making these numbers up). If you were go back for a salad later, this would likely bring your total up to $8.00. With flex cash, you would pay the $8.00. With a meal credit, you would be paying one meal credit instead.
Saints cash is NOT paid for by your meal plan. Saints cash, unlike everything else on this list, is money that you load onto your SMU ID to be used in much the same way as flex cash, except it is NOT included in your meal plan. This is money to be used on the SMU campus that comes out of your pocket.
Before we get into plans and how to choose, I want to explain a few things…
- Each meal plan is paid for per semester and is due at the same time as tuition.
- Each meal plan is divided two ways: meal credits and flex cash. So, you pay by semester for the plan that you want, and with it, you have a set amount of both flex cash and meal credits to spend.
- Your meal credits and flex cash will roll over from the fall semester to the spring semester. Say you only use 50 of your 100 meal credits for fall, well, that means that you’ll have 150 meal credits to use during the spring semester. However, the commuter plan does NOT roll over.
- With each academic year, however, whatever you do not use of your meal plan expires. So out of those 150 meal credits, if you only spend 50 during spring, you have 100 left that you will not be allowed to use once the school year has ended.
(Amounts based on 2017-2018 School Year)
The gold meal plan is generally a go-to for incoming freshmen. You pay $2,880 for each semester, and this money is divided into 100 meal credits and $725 in flex cash.
This is the meal plan that I have, and I will admit that it is very hard to run out of 100 meal credits, even after eating most meals in the cafeteria. However, flex cash is used for the bulk of your purchasing, so for people who tend to do more shopping outside of AYCE meals, this may not be the plan for you…
The silver meal plan is a good balance to strike, costing $2,725 per semester. Students receive 75 meal credits and $925 in flex cash.
This plan is good for people who tend to use the coffee shops more often, as well as those who enjoy a good browse at the Parson’s Store. To use up all of the meal credits, one would have to attend most of the AYCE meals during the week, and in the event that you do run out of meal credits, you have more flex cash to pay for the remainder of your meals. The silver meal plan is my own recommendation for incoming freshmen. Since it allows you more flexibility to eat and shop to your own discretion, students may figure out their own needs without worrying about running out of either flex cash or meal credits.
The bronze meal plan, costing $2,575 per semester, is divided between 50 meal credits and $1,050 in flex cash.
This plan is wonderful if you do not intend to go to many AYCE meals and gives you a cushion of flex cash to be used for any meal, along with the Parson’s Store and the Monk’s Bean cafe. Students who live near campus, frequent off-campus dinning, or go home for the weekends and holidays, are very happy with this plan.
The commuter plan is divided between 30 meal credits and $325 in flex cash and costs $950 per semester.
If you are a campus apartment resident, or a commuting student, you are eligible for this plan. If you don’t eat much on campus, or if you cook a lot of your own food, then this may be the plan for you.
A Few Things to Consider While Choosing:
- What are your normal eating habits? For example, you don’t want to stop eating breakfast if you suddenly run out of flex cash, and you don’t want to waste meal credits if you don’t intend to use them.
- Where do you live? Will you be going home frequently? If you spend the bulk of your weekends away from campus, you probably will not use up as many meal credits as this Maui girl.
- Will you use your microwave? Guys, each room at SMU comes with a minifridge and a microwave combo. Are you going to stock up on microwave meals for most of your eating, or are you going to rely on leftovers while you study all night long like me?
- What are your classes like? This may sound like a weird one, but trust me, if you have an 8 a.m. class, you’re going to want breakfast. If you have a lab from 5-8 p.m., you’ll miss dinner. Plan for this and chose a meal plan that you can make the most of.
- What’s your social life like? If you plan on eating out for most of your meals, you won’t need the same meal plan as someone who stays in more often.
A Last Word of Advice:
Parents, guardians: I know sending your kiddos off to college is scary, and one of your main concerns is making sure that they always have options for eating. Let me assure you, I have never gone hungry at Saint Martin’s University. There’s always something open, and college students are scavengers by nature. Any one of these meal plans is a great choice, it all depends on how and when your child plans on using it.
Students: try it out! See what meal plan works best for you. It will take a while to get the hang of it, and each semester your eating habits will change, but you will be better at juggling your meal plan with your stomach’s insistent demands. When ordering from the cafeteria, always get something fresh, always take something back with you if you can, and if you ever get hungry, come find me! I always keep snacks!
And one last thing, if any of you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to put them in the comments! They are always reviewed, and if there’s anything I can do to help, I’ll do my very best!