I would like to inform all you first years about something very essential and beneficial. It is about James Madison University dining plan. Most of you guys come here with little to no knowledge about what dining plan you should get and basically get ripped off. Please do not regret it later and get the best option for you by reading this article.

Let me tell you some basic knowledge about JMU dining.

You have to know, depending on your plan, you get different amount of punches and dining dollars per semester. Now, what is a meal plan ‘punch’? Each punch is equal to $5. You can use a punch to purchase your meal or get into all-you-can-eat dining halls such as D-hall and E-hall. Dining dollars is just like money on your debit card. You can use it to buy food from dining halls that do not let you use punches.

There are a lot of dining halls at JMU and the food is remarkable compared to other colleges. But the way they charge students is obscure. For all-you-can-eat dining halls, it costs a punch to get in. For other none all-you-can-eat dining halls, there are this thing called ‘Duke Deal’. Those things only cost a punch as well. However, there are only limited amount of ‘Duke Deal’. Some of the food that are not part of the ‘Duke Deal’, you have to use both of your punch and dining dollars.  So for example, let’s say a meal costs $7.50. You can pay $5 with your punch and you can pay the rest with your dining dollars. A couple of my friends and I always complain about this because it would be so much easier and not as confusing if they made all meals cost only a punch.

My first advice to you all is, never ever get a 19-plus plan. Do you want to know why? Because you will get ripped off the most and you will regret it immediately. First, for this plan, daily punches are limited. You can use three punches a day during the week and two punches a day during the weekend. It may sounds like it would be a great plan to have for someone who eats a lot, like me, but the answer is absolutely not. The thing is, you will not make it to breakfast the most of the time so you basically have three punches to use for your lunch and dinner. However, there is this ridiculous rule that you can only use two punches max per meal. Therefore, if you do not use your three punches, the rest of them just disappear. So if you do not use all three meals, then they go to waste.

In my opinion, the 14-plus-plan is more affordable and reasonable because you can use as many punches a day. I think the maximum number of punches you can use per day is five. Also, you can use 14 punches whenever throughout the week and weekend so the punches never go away. I don’t understand JMU can’t make the 19-plus-plan similar to the 14-plus-plan.

The thing this irritate me the most is that you are not allowed to use your punches in certain restaurants. For example, the most popular restaurant that students like is Chick Fil-A. However, you can only use your dining. It is so inconvenient  that we are not allowed to use a punch there. There are other restaurants like Chick Fil-A around the campus where you cannot pay with your punch.

I think what JMU should do is adopt a similar dining program from Virginia Tech. VT is also in top five for best campus food, barely beating JMU. The system that they practice is simple and understandable. What they have is basically all dining. The half amount of money that students pay for their meal plans goes towards to making meals. The other half, students get to keep and pay for their meals. Also, students get a 50 percent discount at à la carte facilities and at least a 67 percent discount in their all-you-care-to-eat dining center.

James Madison University has great food and great dining halls and it would be perfect if they did something different with their dining plan. Most students feel like they are getting ripped off because the plans are so controlling. So all first years, please consider carefully what meal plan you want to choose and do some research before you come to school. You might save some bucks and not regret it when you come here. Here is a video clip of some people being interviewed about the JMU dining plan.