MIT dining isn’t the best. I occasionally joke on my tours that food quality is proportional to the distance from the center of campus. Although, that is a fact: Next dining and Simmons dining are better than Maseeh dining and Baker dining. This also applies to restaurants. As someone who lives in a dining dorm, I had to buy a meal plan — by simply living in the dorm. The dining plan is all you can eat, which means it’s expensive. Fortunately, I had a way to burn my calories, and the meal plan saved me a lot of time cooking and cleaning. But for others, it is a high price to pay for a small daily meal ($18 for dinner if you do a simple cost analysis).
My dining experience
When I was a freshman, I could choose between an ANY 14 or ANY 19 meal plan. At the beginning of each week, my account would refresh with 14 or 19 meal swipes. If I didn’t use it by the end of the week, the remaining swipes would expire. Freshman fall, I was pretty good at using up all my swipes and not wasting money. I meticulously planned my schedule and how many ‘non-dining’ meals I would eat to minimize cost waste.
But as freshman spring came around, it became harder to use my swipes when I found out that Boston had a great selection of restaurants. It’s also funny because if you bought each meal separately (even if you only bought dinners — which are the most expensive), the meal plan was still more costly.
In my sophomore year, MIT implemented a ‘block’ plan where I could pre-buy a certain amount of meals at the beginning of the semester. As an upperclassman, I purchased the 125 meal plan (approximately eight swipes a week). I soon found that first-year students had to choose options of at least 200+ swipes. Even with 125 swipes, I still had extra swipes at the end of the semester. I invited my off-campus friends to multiple dinners haha. There would also be freshmen running around with 100+ swipes a few weeks before finals, telling everyone else that they could swipe people into dining.
One funny thing is that the food quality is always delicious during parents weekend. My parents wanted to take me out because of all the bad food I was complaining about. However, that weekend, there was smoked salmon and other amazing dishes. Sad. The moment the weekend is over, the food quality returns back to normal…
Although as an upperclassman not living in a dorm, it’s an excellent way to get some free meals. :)
Convenience and staff
One extremely beneficial aspect of dining halls is their convenience. Sure, Uber Eats is good; however, it jacks the prices up to 2x. Making food or walking to buy from a restaurant takes up a lot of time, which can add up. In a way, dining halls give you the convenience of eating and then walking away without worrying about cleaning up all the plates and dishes.
The staff are also friendly and are great people who even remember your orders! However, the price and quality of food need to improve for me to be content with MIT’s meal system. I’m fine if there were fewer food options available at the end of dining if it means that we could save a few extra bucks a semester instead of dumping food into the trash.
What meal plan should you choose?
Buy the minimum amount of meals possible. The fact is, you’ll be able to find friends who have extra swipes at the end of the semester and let them swipe you in. If you aren’t in a dining dorm, make friends with those who are… You’ll get to meet new people and get a few free meals in as well!