Depending on where you go to school, you may have more or less options or a different company that runs your food service. I personally go to a small school with very few options, so my friends and I have gone through semesters of working hard to get the most out of our swipes. We’ve come up with some dining commons hacks that have changed the game.


   We always have them. They are typically great every time, but there’s a few things you can do to make them better. Add cheese. (Actually adding cheese to everything makes it better.) Switch out your typical dipping sauce of ketchup for some honey mustard. Add them to sandwiches or a salad. Yes salad, just go with it. I am pro multiple servings of potato in a meal.

Sandwich Bar

   My school has a pretty standard sandwich bar including a few sauces, breads, meats, cheeses, and veggies. This is the first true dining commons hack, don’t feel limited by your veggie options, you can always go to the salad bar and add your own.

   Go to the sandwich bar and ask for meats and cheese to put on your salad. Don’t be afraid to hop stations to make your meal. One time I took potato pancakes from the hot bar and went to the sandwich bar and got a grilled cheese on potato bread. Added my potato pancake to the sandwich. Double potatoes and cheese. Perfect. Definitely needed to go on a run after that, but worth it.

Salad Bar

   The salad bar should be your first stop when you enter the dining commons, not just for nutritional value, but for ingredient. This might just be the most important dining commons hack, but really go crazy here. You can take anything from the hot station and add vegetables to it. My salad bar sometimes has different beans, salads, and cheese. 


   There is literally always pizza and as college students we really rely on it. The day time pizza guy and the nighttime are different. Get comfortable with knowing when it’s best to grab a slice.

   This is an idea, take your mediocre pizza and add a salad on top of it. Or just dip the slice in ranch. Find something to cover up the flavors that can be less than desirable.

Flavored Oils

   Recently our dining commons got a rice cooker and a rack of various flavored oils and sauces. This alone has unlocked so many options. I will use a flavored oil and vinegar on my salads. I will put the oil on my pasta and maybe add some veggies from the salad bar, to create a pasta salad kind of deal. A recent favorite dining commons hack of mine is to get rice, add veggies, and a sweet soy sauce. Now you’ve got a stir fry. 

You've Got This

   I just wanted to encourage you; while it looks like you have no options, you can truly make something out of nothing. That is quite possibly the biggest lesson I've learned at school. It just takes trial and error to get the hang of your dining commons and what hacks you can pull off.