All Photos Taken By Liliann Zou

Whether you’re a current freshman or a recent graduate, the Penn dining hall experience is a rite of passage for all students. For incoming and current freshmen who will have to be on the dining plan,  I’ve compiled a short list of 5 tips to help you make the most of your swipes and dining dollars.

  1. Go for the dining plan with the most dining dollars

There are two dining plans available for incoming freshmen, and three plans available for rising sophomores. The general consensus is to pick the dining plan with the most amount of dining dollars, not dining swipes. Dining hall swipes are used at large dining halls such as Hill, 1920 Commons, McClelland, and Lauder. Dining hall dollars are used at the grocery and Starbucks in 1920s Commons, and Houston Hall, which has 7 different stores. One swipe equals one entry into the larger dining hall, where you can then pick different sides, entrees and dessert. Dining dollars are used to buy specific meals at Houston Hall that have a corresponding dining dollar value. My personal favorites include the sushi bowls at Bento, the mongolian beef at IvyLeaf and the shrimp and crab fries at HM Grill. Therefore, it’s a lot more likely that you will run out of dining dollars before you run out of dining swipes. Each swipe is equivalent to around $15-17 dollars, but the conversion rate between swipes and dollars is pretty low ($4.87 per swipe to be exact). Since the two freshman year dining plans are the same price, you get more bang for your buck if you choose the plan with the most dining hall dollars. 

  1. Remember to check out your dining hall reservation 

In order to make a dining hall reservation, students need to download the Penn Eats app and log in. From there, students can make reservations at certain times for entry into a large dining hall, or order ahead for food at Houston Hall. One of the biggest mistakes students make is not checking out their dining hall reservation. After picking your desired time, remember to click the name of the reservation, and “add to cart”. Then, you will be able to check out. 

  1. Download the Penn Mobile app to look at the daily menu

Curious about what’s on the menu? Trying to decide which dining hall to go to? Make sure to download the Penn Mobile app to look at the daily menu for each dining hall. You can also use the app to keep track of your swipes and dining dollars. 

  1. Try dining halls outside your dorm  

Even though it might be easier to always go to the dining hall located closest to you, I highly recommend trying each dining hall at least once. The food and overall atmosphere of each dining hall is very different. As someone who lives in Hill, it was super convenient for me to just go to the dining hall in my dorm, but I definitely would’ve missed out on the super good food at Falk and Houston Hall. So my recommendation is to try that dining hall halfway across the campus — you might just find your new favorite place to eat! 

  1. For more specific recommendations, try out the Global Fusion station at Hill, Late Night Lauder, and Falk

My personal favorite station at Hill is definitely the Global Fusion station. Everyday, this station serves food from a different culture. Some past selections include the chicken black bean burrito bowl or the teriyaki chicken with rice.

Falk is another great alternative that serves kosher food in huge portions. Although they have a $2.50 Kosher surcharge, reservations go quick, and Falk isn’t open until as late as the other dining halls, so make sure to book your reservation ASAP. 

Late Night Lauder is perfect for your late night cravings. You can order à la carte dishes such as beef brisket sandwiches, chicken tenders and more. Just make sure that they’re open! 

This short list of tips is just to help you get started. Everyone will find that they have different opinions about each dining hall, so my final recommendation is to try all that Penn dining has to offer! 

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