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MFA Students Sleep Their Way to Success
Sleep Pod Interior. All rights reserved.

My mother always urged me to follow my dreams. I set out to attain the holy grail for aspiring writers, the terminal degree that will catapult one into instant success, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. It was when I was applying to several MFA programs that I became disheartened and dejected at the realization that I simply could not afford the tuition. 

Thankfully, I was accepted into the University of Billings, situated conveniently near the many mountain ranges of Yellowstone National Park vicinity. The legendary beauty of Yellowstone serves as the backdrop of illegal and legal hunting, decimating a large population of earth’s majestic creatures with abandon. Targeted animals are fair game anywhere, even in parking lots. This could explain why the luxury clothing line of 2BHunted is flying off the shelves. Each piece sports the requisite 400 square inches of hunter neon patches worn by hunters to reduce friendly fire occurrences.

Bespoke Taxidermy. Photo courtesy of Horseshoe Magazine/Monica Dobson

There are plenty of employment opportunities since every couple of miles there are bespoke, full-service taxidermy salons run by poachers. With a high demand for Grizzly Bears, Pronghorns, and Stags, there is an emerging market for preserving house pets. 

I entered the University’s Taxidermy Sciences program on a full scholarship. The Sciences part of the program is just cutting up a lot of dead things, so really, any writer could make the switch. 

Taxidermy is an underrated profession and a true life skill.

Recently, while visiting home, I ran into a former classmate, Gina Beattie, who now works at my favorite local restaurant. She is pursuing her dream of becoming a writer and is enrolled in the MFA program at Beige University. She works as a bartender to help pay her way through an MFA program. At $175,000 per year, the tuition has become prohibitive for many people seeking the hallowed status of earning an MFA.

When Beattie was asked about her progress in the program, she described herself as being overworked, overtired and was concerned she was focused too much on paying for the tuition than the work itself: “I need another job to pay my tuition, but there are only so many hours in a day, and I need time to study,” Beattie said. Her challenges are not uncommon for those in MFA programs. 

To this point, recent changes to the widely available federally backed loans and the generous grants that were fully funding programs for just about anyone who applied for and met the criteria of enrollment have been criticized. The recent shifting of federal funding from the arts to thinktank approved pork projects, like the recent 4 million dollar study of “Therapy Dogs That Need Therapy,” has hit MFA applicants where it hurts most: in the wallet. 

According to the American Economic Review, there is an uptick with students in the same predicament that have been seeking out alternate resources to get the tuition paid. Donating plasma can bring in some bucks; the downside is if someone passes out, there is a probationary period until they can return, delaying the payday. 

Another resource gaining popularity to bring in some dough is the controversial Sleep Study Program. This is the highest paying study where humans are used as Guinea pigs in research to substantiate a planned roll out of 30,000 Sleep Pods across the nation’s campuses.

Students who participate are paid to sleep in pods that are designed to record brain waves and sleep quality, giving a deeper knowledge on how better to trick our brains with advertising and marketing practices. 

The study has gained steam as there have been reports of students waking up with assignments effectively done while in the Delta stage of sleep. This beneficial side effect has caused a raucous amongst students. Lee Salazar, a participant of the study, worries about the long-term effects, stating, “I don’t know if I want to trade having dreams for writing essays and completing assignments in my sleep. I think the brain should not be held back from doing what it does naturally.”

Other criticisms have been voiced citing that the study is frivolous. I caught up with Asher Duke on campus recently, he said, “Sleep is really for weak people and this whole study is an exercise in placating students who just can’t get good grades.” Duke carries a 5.7 GPA currently.

Notably, there is no set career path for the arts. For a student pursuing an MFA in creative writing, it’s fair to say the hope is to land a position that allows the student to write professionally in some capacity. There is a very good chance of this happening since the publishing industry is so accommodating and easy to navigate, especially for recent graduates with portfolios of samples and published works that date back to elementary school. 

It is acceptable to consider the past performance of a child in the role of a tree, in the Wizard of Oz in the fifth-grade play, to be included in the performer’s portfolio. Being selective about samples is outdated.

Ultimately, a good rule of thumb is to “follow the money.” When looking for opportunities to assist in bankrolling your advanced education, think tanks are a good place to start. This is where the most creative ideas are born, and grants are written to transform good intentions into realities, benefiting those with the greatest needs. These organizations are transparent and easily accessible to students looking to participate in the next study that will help them earn money needed for their pricy pedagogy.

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About the Contributor
Monica Dobson
Monica Dobson, Interpretive Editor
Monica is a senior English Major with a concentration in Writing at the University of New Haven. She is a nontraditional student who has returned to school to pursue a career change. She is the interpretive/column editor for Horseshoe Magazine. Monica is a mother with unwavering devotion to her two teenagers. Aside from her professional goals, Monica’s personal goal is to author a novel, or several. In ZOOM meetings, Monica’s “study buddies” appear without fail, walking across the keyboard, taking up the entire screen.
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