Competitive Eater Uses Earnings to Help Pay for College

The University of Wisconsin senior has raised $18,000 by downing obscene quantities of food

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Aramis Phillip Alvarez / AP
Aramis Phillip Alvarez / AP

University of Wisconsin student Eric Dahl fills up on a 13-pound bowl of Vietnamese noodles known as pho.

One student has a real appetite for learning: Eric “Silo” Dahl, who studies computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, participates in eating contests nationwide to help pay his tuition, the Associated Press and the Wisconsin State Journal report.

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Currently ranked the third best competitive eater in U.S., per All Pro Eating, he’s raised about $18,000, including $250 for devouring nine pulled-pork sandwiches in six minutes at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Minnesota, and $2,500 for devouring 20 super-sized corn dogs in eight minutes at the California State Fair. Last month, he placed second at the Bangor State Fair National Lobster Roll Eating Championship by eating 25 lobster rolls in 8 minutes, and just this past weekend, he placed fourth in a pizza-eating contest, scarfing down 8.9 slices in 10 minutes (the winner consumed 12.9), the Daily Cardinal reports.

The toughest part of the gig? “It’s really that seven- to-10-minute mark, because your stomach is screaming at you, ‘What are you doing?’ and you just have to work through that,” he told the newspaper.

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The 6-foot-3, 219-pound athlete stays fit by lifting weights twice a week, walking a few miles every day, and playing intramural soccer and hockey. He also eats 10 pounds of cabbage and broccoli at once, followed by a gallon or two of water, to stretch his stomach, the State Journal reports.

Of course, not every cash-strapped student has the stomach for this hobby. But considering that the average college student graduates with $26,000 in debt, it’s no wonder they’re desperate to defray the cost of tuition. Budding entrepreneurs have launched their own businesses — like one that cleans up dorm rooms after a party — while numerous startups help students raise money through a marathon-model of fundraising; on GradeFund, users ask people to sponsor them based on their grades — $20 per “A” on a transcript, for instance – while a website like Angeldorm helps the pre-college set raise money from friends and family before they even set foot on campus.

(MORE: College Students Clean Up After Parties)