Alma Bwogger (and lowest-possible-Barnard-meal-plan-using-senior) Betsy Ladyzhets explains the delicate art of getting underclassmen to swipe you into dining halls.

Friends, seniors, anyone without a meal plan, lend me your ears. I come not to shame you for relying on JJ’s despite promising yourself you would learn to cook this year, but to help you. Because, as we all know, Columbia freshmen are given gratuitous meal plans for one reason and one reason only: swiping in their upperclassmen friends. But these freshmen are fickle. They get caught up on problem sets, they’re pulled into impromptu Carman parties, they fall asleep in the basement of Mudd even though you agreed to meet at Ferris a full hour ago.

So, how do you bend these fickle creatures, so laden with meal swipes they aren’t going to use that they forget their power, to your will? The process is easy: just remember S.W.I.P.E.

S: Swiftly secure the swipe. Don’t wait until you’re hungry to text that freshman, or wait until the end of the party to shout, “Can anyone swipe me into JJ’s?” Plan ahead, and ask for the swipe at least two hours in advance. Set a specific place and time. Make a Google Calendar event. Columbia students are horrendously busy, dangerously tenuous creatures—don’t rely on the whims of fate and be caught lingering in the John Jay lobby with no swiper in site. Lock that meal in.

W: Whip that young whippersnapper. Constantly remind your freshman friend that they will swipe you in, to the agreed-upon dining hall, at the agreed-upon time. They need to know that this swipe is not a privilege, it is a right. It is your due, as someone who has made it through several endless semesters at this hellish institution, to get free mozz sticks, and they must pay homage to you as such. Your messages should be frequent and your tone should be assertive. I recommend a liberal use of all-caps.

I: Instill wisdom in the grasshopper. Senior wisdom season may only come twice a year, but seniors can share their wisdom through less official means at any time they wish. By this I mean: don’t abandon the underclassman who swiped you in at the dining hall entrance—sit with them, and have a meaningful conversation. You probably know this person from a student group or shared academic interest, right? Share your experience from that place of commonality. Talk about the mistakes you made that any sane person should avoid. Clue the young’un into some gossip. Basically, make this kid want to actually be friends with you, rather than seeing you as a leech on their meal plan.

P: Politely thank your benefactor. You don’t need to go all out here. After all, it is your right, not your privilege, to get at least one meal a week for free. But this is a dining hall, not a frat house basement. A code of conduct exists. Say thank you.

E: Expect a repeat performance. This final step can be easily embedded in your verbal “thank you” or your next text message. Tell the underclassman you had a great time talking to them, and you’d love to get dinner again next week—and you expect them to swipe you in again, of course. If you play your cards right, you can get a regular schedule of free meals every night of the semester.

To the seniors reading this: good luck. May your omelettes be fluffy and your French fry baskets full. And to the freshmen: be patient. Your time of free food will come.