The E-News site has been inactive since February 2011 and may contain outdated information and/or broken links. For current and up-to-date Tufts news and information, please visit Tufts Now at
Tufts University e-news

Search  GO >

this site people
Tufts University Logo Bottom Search Bottom  
left side photo

What is 'College Jeopardy!'?

What is 'College Jeopardy!'?Answer: This Tufts senior will participate in the 2008 "College Jeopardy!" tournament. Who is Katie Winter?

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.24.08] Clue: This is the best way to test the knowledge that a student has gained in college. If you responded "what is 'College Jeopardy!'" you get extra points for remembering to answer in the form of a question.

An offshoot of the popular original, "College Jeopardy!" invites students from around the country to compete in a week-long trivia tournament. This year, a Tufts student will get her chance at the podium. Senior English and American Studies major Katie Winter (A'08) recently spent a weekend filming the show, which will air from May 5-16. She took the time to speak with E-News about her experience under the bright lights with Alex Trebek.

What made you decide to try out for "College Jeopardy!" and what was the application process like?

For the past few years, I've told people that my goal was to make it to "College Jeopardy!" I was half-joking and half-serious. On a whim, I took the online contestant test, which consisted of 50 questions, in the fall of my junior year.Last October, I took the online test again, knowing that it was my last year to qualify for the tournament, and I
received notification in December that I had been selected to advance to the in-person audition. The following month, I traveled to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City for a two-hour audition. This St. Patrick's Day, I received a phone call from Maggie Speak, a contestant executive, informing me that I was one of the 15 students selected for "College Jeopardy!"

How did you prepare for the competition?

I did not spend a lot of time preparing for the competition. As a college senior, time is a luxury of which I do not have enough! I had to finish writing my 150-page senior honors thesis and keep submitting job applications. Still, I recorded "Jeopardy!" twice a day and practiced my buzzer timing with a ballpoint pen. Of course, I had to visit the Tufts bookstore and stock up on some new sweatshirts for my national TV debut!

What area of trivia would you say is your strongest? What's your weakest?

I think that my strengths are popular culture, United States literature and art and history.
Just hope I don't draw categories in Harry Potter, Roman numerals or the Bible! However, at the end of the day, "Jeopardy!" is really a game of hand-eye coordination, strategy and pure luck. The key to the game lies in operating the buzzer. It's so much more than just knowing arcane and academic trivia. Whatever the outcome of the tournament, I'm happy just to have been selected. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.If I make some money and answer some questions correctly, all the more power to me.

When did you start watching Jeopardy?

I have watched "Jeopardy!" on and off ever since I was in elementary school. When I entered college, I began entertaining the thought of auditioning for "College Jeopardy!"During my school breaks, I came home to Hershey, Penn. and watched the program every night with my dad.

Were you more nervous going into the taping, or now, waiting for the
show to air?

The taping itself. According to one of the "Jeopardy!" employees, 90 percent of the time, two out of the three contestants knows the correct answer to a given question. It's simply a matter of who is able to buzz in a fraction of a second earlier. When you're onstage, you cannot allow the presence of a live audience of 4000 people distract you. Simultaneously, you have to coordinate in your mind what camera to look at, when to hit the buzzer, when to smile, what to say and how much you want to wager. Playing the game is a constant, synchronized physical and mental drain.

What's Alex Trebek like in person?

In person, Alex Trebek behaves exactly as you might imagine him: he is articulate, witty, soft-spoken and a consummate professional. Throughout the course of the weekend, he displayed his humorous side to the audience. To me, he came across as a normal person-that is, a normal person who just happens to be an American icon by virtue of his profession.

Did you feel a little extra pressure, being the first Tufts student to
appear on the show?

It was an honor to represent the school that I love on national television. I will graduate from Tufts a few days after the tournament airs, so "College Jeopardy!" is a fitting way to cap off my collegiate experience.

I know you probably can't tell me anything, but any hints as to how
well you did?

Sorry, I'm not allowed to divulge the results of the tournament. Really, you can't complain about appearing on national TV, being selected to participate in an elite tournament, and walking away with a minimum of $5,000. I will have nothing but the fondest memories of my "College Jeopardy!" experience.

Interview by Hayden Reich (A'09)

UPDATE: Many E-News readers responded to this story noting that another Jumbo, 1995 graduate Jael McHenry Maack, has participated in the College Jeopardy! tournament. Jael wrote in and said, "I was a semi-finalist on the show as a Tufts senior in 1995. I got a wild-card spot in the first week and came back in the second. I didn't win, but I made a killing in consolation prizes." 

Related Stories
Related Links
Featured Profile


For More Information

Web Communications
T: 617.627.4282
F: 617.627.3549

Media Inquiries

Kim Thurler
T: 617.627.3175
F: 617.627.4907

Alexander Reid
T: 617.627.4173
F: 617.627.4907

Suzanne McInroy
T: 617.627.4703
F: 617.627.4907